In testimony Tuesday, FBI Agent Lara Burns reported before the jury in the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trial that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was listed as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee, right alongside HLF, the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), and the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR). Agent Burns further testified that CAIR received money from HLF - a claim that Nihad Awad blatantly denied in a congressional testimony in September of 2003.
Burns also said that both Omar Ahmed and Nihad Awad, CAIR co-founders who today serve as CAIR’s chairman emeritus and executive director, respectively, were also listed as individual members the Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee in America.
Awad and Ahmed are further connected to the Palestine Committee based on their positions as president and public relations director of the IAP, a Hamas front group that was responsible for the dissemination of propaganda, and has since been closed down as a result of a multi-million dollar civil judgment in a trial involving the murder of an American teenager by HAMAS terrorists.
CAIR, which touts itself as America’s premier Muslim civil rights organization, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial. Burns’ testimony so far has placed both Ahmed and Awad at a 1993 Philadelphia meeting where the HAMAS members and supporters discussed a strategy to kill the Oslo Peace Accords, which threatened to marginalize HAMAS. The group also discussed ways to improve HAMAS fundraising in America.
Government testimony regarding the role of CAIR reflects the prosecution’s attempt to prove that the HAMAS network in America was established through the Palestine Committee, or what the indictment called “a sub-group of active Muslim Brotherhood members of Palestinian origin.” The leader of this Committee was Musa Abu Marzook, a Specially Designated Terrorist since 1995, and Hamas’ current Deputy Political Bureau Chief. Through this committee, a number of organizations were established to promote HAMAS politically and financially, including HLF, IAP and UASR.
What is the Palestine Committee
In 1988, the head of the Palestine Section (a.k.a. the Palestine Body) of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Levant came to America, where he met with fellow Muslim Brothers and established the Palestine Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. This is revealed in a 1991 letter seized from the home of unindicted co-conspirator Ismail Elbarasse.
An October 1992 internal memo (also seized from Elbarrasse’s home) explains: Palestine is the one for which Muslim Brotherhood prepared armies – made up from the children of Islam in the Arab and Islamic nations to liberate its land from the abomination and the defilement of the children of the Jews and they watered its pure soil with their honorable blood which sprouted into a jihad that is continuing until the Day of Resurrection and provided a zeal without relenting making the slogan of its children “it is a Jihad for victory or martyrdom."
The Palestine Section of this memo explains the founding of the Section and notes that Palestine Committees were being established all over the world:At the end of the seventies, the Shamm [Levant] Countries Movement opened a new section which was called “The Palestine Section” to oversee the affairs of the Ikhwan inside the Occupied Territories. It was considered the liaison between the followers of the Movement inside and outside.
In the beginning of the eighties, the Islamic action for Palestine experienced distinguished leaps. At the inside level, groups and apparatuses were formed to confront the Zionist enemy and they carried different names then such as “The Palestinian Mujahedeen” and other names. At the outside level, a number of associations, Islamic youths and students unions were formed to ally [sic] the masses in order to render the Palestinian cause victorious.
The memo calls on the Palestine Committees, to work to “increase the financial and the moral support for Hamas" to "fight surrendering solutions," and to publicize and focus on “the savagery of the Jews.”
The amended bylaws attached to the 1991 letter explains that the Palestine Committee in America will be composed of the heads of the following organizations and committees:
1) Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP)
2) Occupied Land Fund (OLF, which later changed its name to the HLF)
3) United Association for Studies and Research (UASR)
4) Rehabilitation and Coordination Committee
5) Political Work and Foreign Relations Committee
6) Money and Investments Committee
CAIR was not created until 1994 which explains why it is not listed here.
The remarks at the end of the bylaws note that the International Shura Council (leadership council) directed them to achieve eight goals. Among them were:
-“Collecting of donations for the Islamic Resistance Movement from the Ikhwan and others.”
-“Bringing to the media light the case of [HAMAS founder] Sheik Ahmad Yasin and his ailing condition.”
-“Making use of what relationships the Ikhwan have in all fields and gatherings to serve the cause.”
Additionally, the internal memo notes that the president of IAP was a member of a section affiliated with the executive council. This establishes that these organizations, including IAP, were members of the Palestine Committee established by the Muslim Brotherhood, and that their leaders sat on the Committee.
In another development yesterday, prosecutors introduced a wiretap conversation between defendants Shukri Abu Bakr and Ghassan Elashi, in which they discussed IPT Executive Director Steven Emerson. Emerson first uncovered the ties between HLF and HAMAS in his 1994 PBS documentary, Jihad in America.
In the Aug. 2, 1995 call, Abu Bakr and Elashi discuss a Dallas Morning News editorial concerning U.S. plans to extradite Hamas political leader Musa Abu Marzook, who had been arrested while entering the country at John F. Kennedy airport in New York on an Israeli request that he face murder charges there.
Elashi reads from the editorial, which called for Marzook to be deported, but not to Israel. To release him, the editorial said, would send a message that America offers refuge to terrorists. According to a government transcript of the call, Elashi invokes Emerson's name after the editorial: "Sadly, Arab and Islamic organizations in America are perceiving the action against Mr. Marzook as 'anti-Islam' and 'anti-Arab.'"
"He says 'sadly,'" Elashi repeats. "Doesn't that bring you to Steven Emerson?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah," Abu Bakr responds. "Don't be surprised if Steven Emerson is the one who wrote it."
Elashi also expresses concern that the Morning News "is referring to us in a way or another" when it mentions the FBI has noted terrorist cells were operating in North Texas.
The trial continues Wednesday with the cross examination of Agent Burns by defendant Abdulrahman Odeh's lawyer.