[Pnews] The Unjust Prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation Five

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Aug 6 11:14:54 EDT 2018


  The Unjust Prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation Five

Charles Glass - August 5, 2018

_“For the law_ holds, that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, 
than that one innocent suffer,” wrote Sir William Blackstone in 1765, 
expressing a fundamental principle of Anglo-Saxon justice. Miko Peled, 
in “Injustice: The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five 
<http://justworldbooks.com/books/injustice/>,” his exhaustive study of 
the U.S. government’s case against five defendants from a friendless 
minority, demonstrates how American justice has deviated so far from 
Blackstone that the courts can convict a hundred innocents for one who 
is guilty. “Injustice” portrays a modern version of Franz Kafka’s 
“Trial” in which five Palestinian-Americans confront the character 
Joseph K.’s dilemma <http://www.kafka-online.info/the-trial-page3.html>: 
“K. was living in a free country, after all, everywhere was at peace, 
all laws were decent and were upheld, who was it who dared accost him in 
his own home?”

The FBI, the Treasury Department, and other assorted police forces in 
Texas and California accosted them with raids on most of their family 
houses early in the morning on July 26, 2004. The criminal trial against 
the Holy Land Foundation Five — or HLF 5, as the five Arab-Americans 
became known, a reference to the Islamic charity they founded in 1990 — 
opened exactly three years later. It culminated in a hung jury. The 
retrial in Dallas federal court began in September 2008, and included 
unprecedented testimony from “Avi,” the pseudonym assumed by an Israeli 
intelligence agent whose qualifications the defense was unable to probe. 
Judge Jorge Solis, although he instructed 
<https://www.fjc.gov/sites/default/files/2014/TRTXN002.pdf> jurors that 
they were allowed to weigh the agent’s credibility in light of his 
anonymity, nonetheless brushed aside the defendants’ right under the 
Sixth Amendment “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” 
Nothing in the U.S. Constitution until then permitted conviction by 
anonymous accusations, but the court convicted all five men.

Peled’s book is a fascinating account of immigrants making good in their 
new country, starting families and businesses and creating a charity to 
help those they left behind. Through Peled, Shukri Abu Baker, Mohammad 
El-Mezain, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, and Abdulrahman Odeh emerge 
as decent human beings motivated by the desire to relieve suffering, in 
line with their religious convictions. They remind the reader of the 
many Jewish Americans that were persecuted during the McCarthy era for 
their support of humanitarian causes espoused by organizations that J. 
Edgar Hoover’s FBI declared “communist front organizations.”

Peled, the son of a famous Israeli general and a passionate 
anti-Zionist, was living near San Diego when he heard about the case in 
2011. “I felt there was something seriously wrong here,” he writes. 
Going to work with the same determination that made him a martial arts 
master in Japan, Peled visited the federal prisons, dispersed throughout 
the penitential gulag, where the men are lodged, as well as their 
families in the houses where government agents seized their fathers and 
husbands. And he visited the men’s birthplaces in the West Bank. 
Hovering over his investigation is the memory of a Palestinian suicide 
bombing in Jerusalem on September 4, 1997, that killed his 13-year-old 
niece, Smadar Elhanan. Peled shares with Smadar’s parents — his sister 
Nurit Peled-Elhanan  and her husband Rami — the belief that Israel’s 
treatment of Palestinians, rather than charity, caused the suicide 
bombings, killed his niece, and is causing the deaths of more Israelis 
and Palestinians. Peled’s moving account is likely to outrage Israel’s 
defenders, to whom it may read like hostile propaganda, as well as its 
critics, reinforcing their view of Israeli influence over America’s 
judiciary, legislature, executive branch, and media.

The charges stemmed from the men’s involvement with the Holy Land 
Foundation, then America’s largest Muslim charity, that sent aid to 
Palestinians throughout the Middle East, as well as to refugees and war 
victims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Turkey, and Africa. The men 
consulted the U.S. Treasury Department to assure compliance with all 
laws governing nonprofit organizations. In Israel, the HLF was 
affiliated with a legal Israeli-Palestinian charity and worked with the 
U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. Aid to Palestinians, many of them children 
orphaned in the conflict between occupier and occupied in the West Bank 
and Gaza, prompted Israel to investigate the charity and the U.S. to 
follow suit. While unable to prove a direct link between the HLF and 
Hamas, which President Bill Clinton declared a Foreign Terrorist 
Organization in 1995, prosecutors alleged that civilian aid to 
Palestinians meant more resources for Hamas to attack Israel.

“The government also presented evidence,” noted a statement from the 
Justice Department 
“that several HLF defendants have family members who are Hamas leaders, 
including Hamas’s political chief, Mousa Abu Marzook, who is married to 
a cousin of Ghassan Elashi, HLF’s former chairman of the board.” Married 
to a cousin? No comment.

One accusation in the 108-count indictment stated that the Holy Land 
Foundation encouraged suicide bombings by providing welfare to the 
bombers’ children. Having pored over trial briefs and transcripts, Peled 
doubted the government’s logic: “The defense demonstrated clearly that 
of the lists of orphans, none of their fathers were involved in what 
could be described as terrorism. Furthermore, out of roughly 200 suicide 
bombers that operated in Palestine at the time, none had children.” In 
fact, the HLF sent money to the children of men that Hamas had 
assassinated for collaborating with Israel.

The verdict in United States of America v. Holy Land Foundation for 
Relief and Development was either “the largest victory against terrorist 
finance in the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks,” as the FBI 
claimed, or a political decision in which five innocent men are serving 
between 15 and 65 years in federal penitentiaries — meaning, for most of 
them, the rest of their lives. Either way, the closure of the HLF 
charity and the incarceration of its sponsors, in Peled’s view, had 
little effect beyond the suffering of the defendants and their families: 
“As I write, it has been fifteen years since the HLF office was closed, 
and Hamas is doing fine.”

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
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