While US officials were dropping charges against former Senator Ted Stevens because of prosecutorial misconduct and against AIPAC operatives Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, Dallas US District Judge Jorge Solis handed Holy Land Foundation executive chairman Shukri Abu Baker a 65-year sentence, founding chairman Mohammad El-Mezain 15 years, former chairman Ghassan Elashi 65 years, former volunteer fundraiser Mufid Abdulqader 20 years, and former New Jersey representative Abdulrahman Odeh 15 years.
In an interview with Amy Goodman shortly after sentencing, Nancy Holder, attorney for HLF CEO Abu Baker, has pointed out: “There was never any allegation that any money went anywhere other than to charity. The government’s position was that these particular charities were associated with or controlled by Hamas. And it’s important to understand that the United States government, through USAID, continued to give money to the same charities for years after Holy Land was closed. But that’s what the allegation was all the way along. Although the government spent a great deal of time in the trial talking about and showing the jury horrific pictures of violent acts that Hamas did, our clients were not accused of nor convicted of one single act of violence.”
The first HLF prosecution ended in mistrial. The retrial conviction depended upon questionable translations and an anonymous Israeli Shin Bet agent, who provided evidence almost certainly obtained by torture. The case was noteworthy for vacuousness of charges, relentlessness of prosecution, and various levels of involvement of Bush administration officials, including Islamophobic propagandist Daniel Pipes, Defence Department adviser Rachel Ehrenfeld, Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Matthew Levitt, and Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey, whose continued service under Obama betrays the absence of any genuine difference between Bush and Obama administrations in attitude toward Muslims.
These four form the inner circle of a complex but deadly serious conspiracy to destroy Islamic finance and charities as well as to dominate the flow of information about the Middle East.
Ehrenfeld, who has a noticeable Israeli accent, had the bad luck to start her book writing career by publishing a text focused on Soviet narco-terrorism involvement just before the Soviet Union collapsed, but she quickly found her literary niche in 1992 by attacking Islamic banking and Islam. Her unsophisticated book, Evil Money, crassly defames Islam while she publicly equates Islamic finance with “stoning a women or cutting off a head.”
Levitt generates more sophisticated propaganda than Ehrenfeld. Educated at the Brookline Maimonides Academy, an exceptionally fanatic high school yeshiva, he was a key witness during the HLF retrial. His book, Hamas, Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad, whose foreword was written by Dennis Ross, Obama’s US State Department Special Adviser for the Middle East and Southwest Asia, describes the prosecutorial logic: essentially, the HLF aided Hamas by providing rice and cooking oil to Palestinian civilians because Hamas might then shift money from social welfare into resistance. “In the absence of any serious examination of Israel’s occupation, Levitt’s portrayal of the rise of Hamas is completely detached from the context within which it was produced and shaped,” notes Harvard professor Sara Roy.
Levey slavishly follows Levitt’s analysis in designating groups and individuals as terrorism supporters. While receiving many accolades from the American Jewish Committee, Levey has predictably neither designated the IDF a terrorist organisation nor forced either closure of charities like Friends of the IDF or arrest of individuals like Irwin Moskowitz, who gives directly to IDF soldiers.
Since the late 1980s, Pipes has propagated the myth of a “worldwide Muslim conspiracy” in which Iran provides the fist of direct Islamic confrontation in coordination with “Saudi stealth subversion of the USA” via charitable and scholarly giving.
He claims that the major internal threat to America comes from “stealth or legal Islamists”: ordinary American Muslim citizens who respect and practise Shariah.
The infection of the US government with this pseudo analytical framework created and elaborated by this closely-knit conspiratorial team represents “the triumph of the Israeli mentality in American culture and politics”, according to Sephardic Heritage Center director David Shasha.
Because such thinking still permeates the highest US government levels, the FBI and Justice Department continue railroading Muslims into prison through paranoid prosecutions based on entrapment or ex-post facto applied laws.
While American Muslim, Asian or Arab defence organisations and individuals like Saudi businessman Khaled bin Mahfouz, who was libeled by Ehrenfeld, have occasionally resisted individual projects of Pipes or Ehrenfeld, they have yet to develop strategies to force Levey out of the US government or to counteract the hegemonic discourse that he is solidifying from his US Treasury office.
Unless Muslims and Asian and Arab Americans get their act together, their status in the United States will only decline while more Muslim populations suffer military assaults around the world.
Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article