The Gaza Strip may not be quite so squalid and impoverished as one would guess from its portrayal in the media, yet there is no doubt that the territory is quite poor. Nonetheless, its rulers live in luxury, often with fortunes totaling millions or billions of dollars. Deborah Danan explains:
According to Moshe Elad, a Middle East expert from the Western Galilee Academic College, most of the founders of Hamas were refugees or direct descendants of refugees. . . . The money, Elad told the Israeli financial newspaper Globes, came from several directions. “Donations by the families of people who died, charity money, called zakala in Arabic, and donations from various countries. [These donations first came from the governments of] Syria and Saudi Arabia; then Iran, one of the main sponsors; and ended with Qatar, which has today taken Iran’s place.”
There were also campaigns to raise money in the U.S. “Mousa Abu Marzook,” [currently the group’s deputy chairman], Elad says, “started raising funds among the rich Muslims in America and also established several bank funds.” Over time he built a conglomerate of ten financial operations “that give loans and conduct investments. He’s an amazing financier.”
Today, Abu Marzook is one of the major billionaires in Hamas. “Arab estimates peg his fortune at 2 to 3 billion dollars,” Elad says. Another senior-official-turned-terror-tycoon is Khaled Mashal, head of Hamas’s political wing. “Global estimates say Mashal is worth $2.6 billion,” but Arab commentators, with other sources, say he is worth between 2 and 5 billion, “invested in Egyptian banks and Gulf countries, some in real-estate projects.” Next on the list is Ismail Haniyeh, [the organization’s current chairman].
Most of their money comes from misused donations to the Gaza Strip, since every dollar passes through Hamas’s pipeline. Elad assesses that smuggling of goods through tunnels generates hundreds of millions a year and those who control the siphon became wealthy along the way. There are several hundred millionaires in Gaza and there would be hundreds more if smuggling would continue unabated.
Hamas also apparently published fictitious names of employees to sponsors abroad and then scooped up their salaries and distributed them among a few senior members.