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, a convicted member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) who runs a Tampa, Florida-based PIJ-linked mosque, was traveling around Israel this month. He had just been there in November. Of course, this is troubling. A member of one of the most brutal terrorist organizations in the world, which regularly targets Israelis with death, is taking trips to the Jewish state. Two simple questions come to mind: 1. Why is Fariz being allowed in? and 2. What are his intentions? This article will attempt to answer both.
On the morning of February 20, 2003, University of South Florida (USF) professor Sami Amin al-Arian, Hatem Naji Fariz, Sameeh Taha Hammoudeh, and Ghassan Zayed Ballut were arrested and charged by the FBI with racketeering, conspiracy to kill and maim persons abroad, and conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists, amongst other things. A long, drawn-out trial ensued, the end of which resulted in guilty pleas from both al-Arian and Fariz. Al-Arian was deported to Turkey, where he is today, and Fariz served out a 37-month prison sentence.
Soon after his incarceration, Fariz became the Managing Director of the Islamic Community of Tampa (ICT), a.k.a. Masjid Al-Qassam. The mosque had been founded by al-Arian, in 1985, and was named for Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, a Palestinian religious and jihadist icon and a main inspiration for PIJ.
On March 11th, Fariz showed up in Jerusalem, filming inside and outside Al-Aqsa Mosque. It was less than four months since he had been there last. This time, he visited the Golan Heights, including the far north of the Golan, Mount Hermon (Mount El-Sheikh), videotaping the drive and taking what appears to be surveillance-type video of the mountainous terrain. He, too, went into Lebanon and passed through Jordan, on his way to Saudi Arabia for umrah pilgrimage to Mecca.
On March 19th, Fariz met with three individuals for drinks, at the Lazaward restaurant in Ramallah. He called it “the best evening with my dear ones.” One of these “dear ones” was Hindi Issam. In July 2014, Issam posted a graphic on his social media depicting five interlocking hands, each hand bearing the logo of a different Palestinian terrorist organization, including PIJ, Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), all surrounding a map of the state of Israel draped in a Palestinian flag. The post contained a message written by Issam about the benefit of remaining unified, an ominous gesture of violence toward Israel.
Attending the meeting, as well, was Louisiana resident Abo Rajaie. In May 2021, Rajaie posted video footage of Israeli soldiers being blown up by an IED, following an ambush, with a note from Rajaie, stating “Allah, grant victory to your religion, and let us cut out their throats.” In July 2014, he put up footage of a destroyed Israeli home, celebrating that it “was hit directly by a missile by the Palestinian resistance in the ‘Yehud’ [Jewish] area of Tel Aviv.” Also in July 2014, Rajaie wrote of the Palestinian terrorist collective, stating “Glory Gaza, O Allah, reward them… and grant them a speedy victory over the Jews and their agents from the Arabs and the West.”
During his previous trip to Israel, Fariz spent time with a number of other pro-Palestinian terror radicals. One was Farhan Diab, who mourned the death of former Secretary-General of PIJ and ex-colleague of Fariz, Ramadan Shallah. Another was Mohamad Zaglol, who wrote of his “honor of meeting” senior West Bank PIJ leader and spokesman Khader Adnan. Another was Fariz’ brother Hazem, who referred to masked PIJ militants as “Gaza heroes.” And yet another was Magdi Ibrahim, who wrote on Facebook, “Allah, take revenge on the Jews.” All four come from Fariz’ former hometowns, Clifton, New Jersey and Chicago, Illinois.
Fariz is the group leader of a travel agency linked to his mosque, the Adam Travel Tampa Hajj Group. While Israel is known for being thorough, when it comes to understanding the backgrounds of those wishing to enter the country – Israel regularly turns away those for far less infractions than being a convicted member of a terrorist organization which routinely targets her civilians – apparently, Fariz has been using his tour company as cover to roam around Israel and the Middle East unhindered. And as demonstrated by this author, it looks as if he is taking his like-minded friends and family with him.
Part of these excursions have been to visit PIJ landmarks. During a February 2020 trip to Israel, Fariz visited the shrine of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam and sat by the gravesite of Fariz’s deceased alleged PIJ co-conspirator, Sameeh Hammoudeh. These took place respectively two and three days after PIJ reportedly attacked Israel with over 100 rockets, and they are evidence of malicious intent on the part of Fariz, who is obviously still beholden to and actively pursuing his PIJ past.
Given his history and given his recent movements proving his continued attachment to PIJ, Fariz and his associates’ travel to Israel is clearly a threat to the Jewish state and her citizens. Fariz and individuals and groups connected to him should be banned from entering Israel and arrested and interrogated for any future attempts to do so. No one linked to Islamic Jihad or holding the extreme views that Fariz’ friends and family harbor toward Israelis and Jews should come close to stepping on Israeli soil. Israel must make sure that these trips never take place again. Failure to do so is nothing short of criminal negligence.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.