During the 2007 and 2008 federal trials against the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), a Muslim charity that raised millions of dollars for Hamas, CAIR was named by the US Justice Department an “unindicted co-conspirator” for both trials. The label and stigma has followed CAIR, ever since, and has caused the group to have to frequently account for it. Over a decade after, Hassan Shibly, the Executive Director of CAIR’s Florida chapter, is calling the charges brought against the HLF defendants – charges that led to the convictions of all of them – “false.” But given his own terrorist-supporting and fact-distorting history, Shibly’s pronouncements must be viewed as patently false, themselves.
The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, originally the Occupied Land Fund, was created in 1987, the same year as Hamas. It was established as part of the American Palestine Committee, a terrorist umbrella organization then-headed by soon-to-be-global Hamas leader Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which currently is designated a terrorist entity by the United Arab Emirates, would later be added to the committee as its fourth and final member group, following CAIR’s founding in June 1994.
In December 2001, the US government designated HLF a terrorist organization, seized HLF’s assets, and shut the group down. After two long trials, in November 2008, the US government obtained guilty verdicts on all counts against HLF and all five of the individual defendants: Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mohammad el-Mezain.
As a result of CAIR being named to the government’s “unindicted co-conspirator” list, a designation which CAIR unsuccessfully fought legally to have removed, CAIR experienced much ridicule and the FBI broke off communications with the group. CAIR officials would parrot the line that, because they were “unindicted,” they had not been charged with any crime. Yet, the fact that the group was “unindicted” did not change the reality of the group being a co-conspirator to the crime. Indeed, CAIR, following the 9/11 attacks, did openly solicit funds for HLF on CAIR’s official website. CAIR insidiously masked the donations as ones going to a “NY/DC Emergency Relief Fund.”
Now, over a decade since the verdicts, CAIR-Florida representative Hassan Shibly wants to downplay and whitewash the crimes – together with CAIR’s and the defendants’ involvement in it – and turn the case into a cause celebre. On November 26th, Shibly tweeted, “Eleven years ago on this week, five Palestinian-Americans were convicted on false charges of ‘providing material support for terrorism.’” He then called the defendants “pillars of their communities” and posted a graphic containing smiling cartoon faces of them with the headline, “WE DEMAND FREEDOM FOR THE HOLY LAND 5.”
Given Shibly’s extensive history of extreme hatred of Israel and support for those who terrorize the Jewish state, Shibly is neither a credible nor unbiased information source regarding anything to do with Palestinian terrorism or its financing.
In November 2006, after the 2006 Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah, Shibly told his university’s publication that Hezbollah was “basically a resistance movement” and “absolutely not a terrorist organization.” In August 2014, Shibly tweeted that “Israel and its supporters are enemies of God.” In November 2016, Shibly retweeted a story put out by the Palestinian Information Center, the media arm of Hamas, which publishes Hamas communiques, gruesome anti-Semitic cartoons, and praise for murders of Israelis. In April 2017, Shibly promoted a video on social media lauding convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti as a “hero.”
This past May, Shibly met at his Tampa CAIR headquarters with convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operative Hatem Naji Fariz and helped Fariz with fundraising for his PIJ-linked mosque, the Islamic Community of Tampa (ICT), a.k.a. al-Qassam. In July 2006, Fariz pled guilty in federal court to providing services to associates of PIJ and received a 37-month prison sentence. According to the indictment against him and five others, Fariz “was a PIJ member” and did “conspire… to commit offenses against the United States… by making and receiving contributions of funds, goods, and services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
On top of all this, Shibly, himself, has spent years on the US government’s terrorist watch list. According to reports, Shibly has admitted to having been “searched dozens of times” because of his watch list status and “was once handcuffed” at a border crossing in Detroit, Michigan.
CAIR’s Hassan Shibly, who represents a UAE-designated terror group that has been shunned by the FBI, is the last person who should be proclaiming the innocence of Hamas-related terror operatives. His outrageous attempt to overturn the reality exposed in the Hamas/Holy Land terror case, in which CAIR was implicated, is an exercise in duplicity and allows his group to play the victim card, its standard MO.
In the end, though, CAIR will always be, at least according to the US government, co-conspirators in terror, despite Shibly and his cohorts’ efforts to claim otherwise.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.