From Scott McConnell:
A Dallas judge has meted out heavy sentences to five Arab American men, associated with the Holy Land Foundation, for funneling $12 million to Hamas, designated by the US government as a terror organization. The defendants maintained that their fundraising was devoted exclusively to humanitarian ends, to alleviate Palestinian suffering, –and denied it had anything to do with Hamas. Prosecutors did not dispute that the money went solely to humanitarian projects, but convinced a jury of the Hamas links. If they serve their sentenced terms, most of the men will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
From a distance, I assume the defendants did know that the funds they collected would go to Hamas. Hamas has indisputably fomented terrorism against Israeli civilians—a tactic not only morally disreputable but one which has done great harm to the Palestinian national cause. It is also now the principal group representing the political aspirations of the Palestinian people—at least that is what most Palestinian voters say. Under President Obama, US diplomats are beginning a delicate dance, resembling America’s off again on again efforts to begin talks with the PLO in the 1970’s and 80’s. They are seeking a formula to deal with a Palestinian government which includes Hamas representatives.
Despite George Washington’s warning against foreign attachments, it is more or less inevitable that a fair number of Americans will try to aid foreign national causes. Lots of Irish-American money went to the IRA, a terrorist organization (among many other things). Lots of Jewish-American money has gone to Israeli groups that have used terror against the British, UN diplomats, and Palestinian Arabs. Jewish charities still fund aggressive Israeli settlement practice-illegal under international law. Indeed, some of these charities receive tax deductions.
Hamas is a fraught subject, because of its official designation as a terror organization. I once heard a prominent and prolific Mid East history professor say that he never wrote about the group for fear of being prosecuted. The fear strikes me as far-fetched, but I don’t dismiss it.
Let me venture a prediction—that though Holy Land Foundation head Shukri Abu Baker and several of his associates have received what amounts to life sentences, they won’t spend their lives in prison. The United States will, eventually, deal with Hamas—it will have to if it wants to engage seriously with the Israel-Palestine issue, and there is every indication that Obama feels that commitment. When that day comes, life imprisonment for Hamas supporters in America will no longer seem appropriate, Noor Elashim, Zaira Abu Baker, and Eman Eal Mazain will see their fathers again, outside the prison walls.