Hamas’s Leaders Used “Charity” and Extortion to Get Rich

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.

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinians

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood