Joe Kaufman is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the Chairman of the Joe Kaufman Security Initiative. He was the 2014, 2016 and 2018 Republican Nominee for U.S. House of Representatives (Florida-CD23).
Hatem Fariz is a convicted member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a terrorist group financed by Iran that targets Israeli civilians with death, and the Director of a PIJ-linked mosque. So why is he being allowed into Israel? It is a question that this author asked last year, following Fariz’s trip to the Holy Land in February 2020, when he took surveillance-type video of the majority of Israel, at a time when PIJ was firing rockets into Israeli neighborhoods. This past month, Fariz has taken another trip to the Jewish state. It didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t make sense now. Fariz should be banned from the country, if not arrested by Israeli authorities.
Hatem Naji Fariz was born to Palestinian parents in Puerto Rico and raised in America. He is currently the Managing Director of the al-Qassam Mosque a.k.a. Islamic Community of Tampa (ICT). The mosque was named after Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, the man who was the inspiration for the founding of PIJ. The individual responsible for the mosque, former Fariz colleague Sami al-Arian, was a PIJ co-founder who used the Tampa, Florida-area to create a terrorist network for the group. The network included a children’s school, American Youth Academy (AYA), formerly Islamic Academy of Florida (IAF), that is also still in existence and located next to the mosque.
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, 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.” Among other things, the indictment discusses how Fariz laughed and made light of a June 2002 PIJ suicide bombing that had just taken place in northern Israel, which ended the lives of 17 people and which his PIJ colleague described to him as being “successful.”
Fariz is as well the group leader of what appears to be his mosque’s travel agency, the Adam Travel Tampa Hajj Group. Apparently, he uses this cover to roam around the Middle East unchallenged.
On November 19th, Fariz placed on his Facebook page photos of himself smiling with Jerusalem’s sacred structures in the background. Less than an hour later, he showed up at the al-Aqsa mosque. Fariz was in Israel. In the coming days, he would go back and forth between Jerusalem and Ramallah. He would continue this, into the beginning of this month, December.
Attending mosque services with Fariz, at al-Aqsa, was Clifton, New Jersey resident Farhan Diab. Clifton is a former home to Fariz. In June 2020, Diab took to social media to mourn the death of former Secretary-General of PIJ, Ramadan Shallah, who had just died of a long illness and who Fariz had previously been affiliated and in contact with. Diab posted, “Ramadan has passed away. We have lost and Palestine has lost one of the top leaders of the resistance.”
During this trip, Fariz spent time with a number of other like-minded people, mostly friends and family from Chicago, Illinois, another previous residence of Fariz.
On November 12th, Fariz was at an olive oil factory in the West Bank village of Tarmasia, one of the more affluent areas controlled by Palestinians. With him was Mohamad Zaglol, a photographer who dined with Fariz, five years earlier, at a Chicago Denny’s. In June 2015, Zaglol wrote about his “honor of meeting” senior West Bank PIJ leader and spokesman Khader Adnan and posted a pic of the two together. Another individual with Fariz at the factory was Magdi Ibrahim, who, in April 2012, wrote on Facebook, next to a series of photos of a bloodied boy distraught over a woman who appears to be dying, “Allah, take revenge on the Jews.”
The next day, Fariz joined his brothers at an olive grove. One brother, Hazem, in July 2014, posted on Facebook a picture of masked PIJ militants praying en masse; he referred to them as “Gaza heroes.” A second brother, Ahmad (a.k.a. Philly Ahmad), who made a video about Hatem while he was in prison, posted a graphic, in August 2014, of dead Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin shaking hands with dead PLO leader Yasser Arafat hovering over explosions in the background with the caption, “Gaza unites us.” Two days later, with photos from the aftermath of the 2014 war, Ahmad issued the following threat, “Gaza shall overcome. And someone will pay for this.”
On November 30th, Fariz was in Jenin, a known hotbed of terrorism, with Montesar Naji Salama. In November 2018, Salama posted on his social media a video of the Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, reciting a prayer in front of the mosque congregation with the caption, “And may Allah help those who help Him” (meaning to help Hamas and its leadership).
Fariz’s prior ‘tour’ of Israel, in February 2020, had him brazenly surveying all major areas of Israel and sharing video online of most everywhere he went. What is most chilling, though, is that the time he went offline coincided with PIJ firing over 100 rockets into Israel. Was he scouting locations for the group? Given his history, it is an extremely legitimate concern.
In truth, following his imprisonment, Fariz has been coming to Israel since late 2017. His brother Ahmad made note of that in a social media post, where he actually referred to Hatem as his PIJ alias (as shown in the indictment against him), writing in Arabic, “After an absence of 14 years, the beloved brother Abu Obaidah returns to the homeland.”
On December 2nd, upon saying “goodbye” to this most recent nearly month-long trip, Fariz made sure to leave with impressive video of all structures and edifices surrounding al-Aqsa.
Hatem Fariz, a convicted member of a terrorist organization, and those he is closely associated with have nothing but contempt for Israel and are tangible threats to the Jewish state. The very fact that Fariz, an unrepentant terrorist, repeatedly gains entry into Israel is, no doubt, troubling and raises serious questions about the efficacy of Israel’s security protocol. Such a serious security lapse must never be allowed to occur again.
Fariz’s background and his associates’ aggressive statements calling for revenge against Israel and Jews should render all of them dangers to Israel and, as a result, they must be permanently barred from entering the country. Any effort at reentry should be considered a hostile act with ill intent and should be met with arrest and interrogation.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.