Records Show Terrorist Ties of Khalil Shikaki, Self-Proclaimed "Moderate"
by Steven Emerson
February 2, 2006
The following is a two-page summary of an extensive report on Khalil Shikaki's links to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. For a complete background file on the documents, tapes, declassified wiretaps, financial transactions and court records relating to Shikaki, please click here.
A U.S.-based Palestinian scholar who insists that he is a political moderate and rejects violence has run afoul of evidence showing extensive ties with extremists and terrorist groups, including multiple financial dealings. Although he has claimed that he has no connection with or knowledge of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist group, documents, video, financial records, government exhibits, declassified wiretaps and audiotapes show that Khalil Shikaki served as a pivotal intermediary in the operation of the PIJ in the United States and the West Bank and Gaza from 1989 through 1994. No one is claiming that Shikaki is himself a terrorist today, but rather he has not owned up to his extensive connections with known members of the PIJ and role as a intermediary in the operations of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization and its front groups in the United States. There is no evidence that Shikaki has been involved with or connected with any radical Islamic group since 1995.
Shikaki's name came up during the Tampa trial late last year of Sami al-Arian, a former professor at the University of South Florida, on terrorism-related charges. Al-Arian was acquitted on eight of the charges, while the jury deadlocked on nine others. He remains in custody. Wiretapped conversations introduced in the Al-Arian federal prosecution suggest that Shikaki agreed to distribute funds for the terrorist PIJ, under the guise of aiding Palestinian charities.
In one such 1995 conversation, Mazen Al-Najjar, Al-Arian's brother-in-law -- who later was deported by the United States for terrorist connections -- tells a colleague of problems with "the Orphan Sponsorship Project." He notes "we cannot find someone to receive the money and distribute it," though "in the past we were depositing it in Khalil's (Shikaki's) account here." In the Al-Arian case, the government alleged that "orphans" was a code word for the terrorist organization, PIJ, an organization once led by Shikaki's brother, Fathi.
But Shikaki recently told interviewers that the money was destined for an orphanage in Nablus run by his in-laws, and that he acted to fund the project out of "a personal desire to help people." In the end, he said, "there was no transfer of funds."
Records cited by the government in the Al-Arian trial show multiple money transfers among Shikaki and other figures involved in the case. For example, they show that in March 1993 Al-Arian wrote a $12,040 check drawn on the Muslim Womens' Society, a subsidiary of the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), and payable to Sameeh Hammoudah. Hammoudah then passed on the same amount in a check to Shikaki's personal bank account.
Shikaki, in turn, reportedly wrote three checks totaling to the same $12,040 amount; two were cashed days later at Bank Hapoalim in Tel Aviv, the other by FIBI Bank in Switzerland.
Moreover, government documents show that the self-described moderate Shikaki worked closely with both ICP and the World and Islamic Studies Enterprise (WISE), of which he was a former director -- both groups that the government has described as PIJ fronts.
Shikaki repeatedly has denied not only any connection to his brother's terrorist operation and any connection between WISE and ICP on the one hand and PIJ on the other, but also any knowledge that associates including Hammoudeh and Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, the current PIJ leader, were in any way associated with the terrorist group.
But, in fact, Shikaki has attended, and often spoken, at meetings where the militant bent of his fellow participants was clear.
At the second annual ICP convention held in Chicago in December 1989, for example, he appeared on a panel alongside Rashid Ghanoushi, the exiled leader of the militant Islamic An-Nahdah party in Tunisia, and al-Hashemi al-Hamdi, also a party member. Audiocassettes of that event show that al-Hamdi exhorted those attending to engage in a violent jihad against Israel and secular movements, calling on "all our Muslim brothers" to "die as the martyrs died in Afghanistan."
Shikaki made a return appearance at the ICP's third annual convention, again in Chicago, a year later. This time he sat on a panel with Muhammad al-Asi, as al-Asi urged military attacks on American forces in the Persian Gulf. And he appeared on another panel with Shallah, currently operating out of Damascus, who glorified the use of "martyrdom" operations against Israel and urged that "the rifle which has been fighting throughout the years of jihad and struggle in Palestine must not be silenced, rather, it must re-fire." In Shallah's opening comments he noted that "Brother Khalil" -- Shikaki -- in his own presentation had preempted many of the points that Shallah had planned to make.
Though Shikaki was later to profess ignorance of Sami Al-Arian's militant perspective, a videotape of a closed ICP session that also was held in 1990 shows that he was present as Al-Arian complained about a weak Islamic position against America and the West and called for "true armed jihad" against Israel.
Shikaki spoke yet again at the fourth annual ICP conference in 1991 -- a meeting at which other speakers included Sheikh Abdel Aziz Odeh, spiritual leader of the PIJ; Sulayman Odeh, one of the PIJ's founders; Shallah; Kamal Helbawi, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood movement, and Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, who currently is serving a life sentence for his role in the conspiracy to blow up the United Nations building and other New York landmarks.
Shikaki's work with WISE also brought him into long and close contact with colleagues identified by the government as militants: Al-Arian was one of the group's founding directors and its registered agent when it was incorporated in 1991; Bashir Nafi was also a WISE founder and editor of the group's journal, Qira'at Siyasiyyah, from its first publication in 1991. Nafi was deported in 1996 for violating his temporary work visa immigration status.