Over the last few years, Hatem Fariz has been spending time in Israel – a lot of time. He did not always have that opportunity. Following his 2003 arrest and, later, his conviction for material support of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Fariz spent several years in jail, unable to travel, let alone overseas to Israel, the nation he and his co-conspirators allegedly sought to destroy. But Israel, it seems, has a serious gap in her security, and because of this, Fariz and his associates have been permitted to roam the countryside, including at times when Israel faces serious threats from PIJ. Last month was one of those times, as Fariz toured Israel’s Golan Heights.
Fariz had been part of a PIJ network run out of the Tampa Bay area of Florida, in the city of Temple Terrace. The ringleader of the network, fellow terror convict Sami al-Arian, was involved in PIJ’s establishment overseas and looked to install a PIJ hub within America. He did so by founding a mosque, a children’s school, a think tank, and a charity, all linked to PIJ. That mosque, Masjid Al-Qassam, a.k.a. the Islamic Community of Tampa (ICT), would be led by Fariz, following Fariz’s release from prison, and he continues to direct it.
Via Al-Qassam, Fariz manages a travel company, the Adam Travel Tampa Hajj Group, which he uses to bring others to the Middle East. While Adam Travel advertises that its trips are for visiting religious-oriented sites in Saudi Arabia, Fariz’s time is overwhelmingly spent trekking through various locations within Israel.
Many of the people Fariz takes with him on these trips have like feelings towards Israel and Jews in general. They post videos on social media of Israelis being blown up during ambushes and videos of successful rocket attacks on Israeli civilian structures. They post memorials for their favorite dead leaders from Hamas and PIJ. They call on “Allah” to “take revenge on the Jews.”
On February 7th, Fariz posted a live video on social media of him at the Dome of the Rock, in the Al-Aqsa Compound, in Jerusalem, with the message, “Fajr prayer from the blessed Aqsa.” This was merely a day after Palestinian Islamic Jihad threatened retaliation against Israel for killing seven Palestinian terror fighters in Jericho City, that morning. It was not the first time Fariz was touring Israel, while Israel was under threat from PIJ.
During a February 2020 trip to Israel, two days after PIJ reportedly fired over 100 rockets meant for Israeli civilian neighborhoods, Fariz posted on Facebook that he was at the shrine of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, a Palestinian militant who was one of the main inspirations for PIJ’s founding. The following day, Fariz sat by the gravesite of his deceased alleged Tampa PIJ co-conspirator, Sameeh Hammoudeh.
For this most recent outing, which lasted at least two weeks, Fariz spent time in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Tiberias and the Golan Heights. He also visited Marjeyoun, a village in Lebanon that Hezbollah has allegedly used to dig terror tunnels reaching into Israel.
Accompanying Fariz on his Israel trip, once again, was fellow ex-convict Ahmad Hindi. The two can be seen in photos by the Sea of Galilee, a.k.a. Lake Kinneret, in Tiberias, and the snow-laden slopes of Mount Hermon, in the Golan Heights.
Hindi is a New Orleans, Louisiana resident connected to family-run New Orleans convenience stores. In October 2001, Hindi along with his older siblings and others received prison sentences for underreporting massive amounts of income from the stores and shipping the missing income to family in Ramallah in the form of checks made to cash. Fariz, himself, pled guilty to money laundering, in June 2006, after he was caught scamming the Department of Agriculture food stamp program out of $1.4 million, while he owned a grocery store in Chicago, Illinois, where he lived prior to moving to Florida.
It is a huge security risk for Israel to allow Fariz to roam about its country and border regions. The Golan Heights is not just an attractive part of the Jewish state. It also acts as a strategic buffer zone between Israel and her terror sponsoring neighbors. The Golan on the Israeli side towers above that of Syria, and its northernmost point (on the Israeli side) is Mount Hermon. For Fariz to be able to surveil it, along with photos and video, which he filmed during this trip and others, is dangerous and should be taken seriously.
And for Fariz to be traveling back and forth into Israel through Hezbollah-occupied Lebanon is equally serious, if not more so. Why would Israel let him back in? Why would he be let in, in the first place?
In numerous photos from Fariz’s trips to Israel – this one included – he is depicted with a big smile on his face, as if he is laughing at Israeli bureaucrats, military and law enforcement for allowing someone like him into their country. And not only has Israel allowed him in, but they have allowed him to travel wherever he chooses. Back and forth to Jerusalem from Ramallah, back and forth to Israel from Lebanon, to the Golan Heights and elsewhere, and with people who support terrorists and have nothing but enmity for Jews.
It is a charade (and travesty) that has gone on for long enough! It is time for Israel to end this charade for good – for her security, as a counter-terrorism measure, and for good.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.