"Holy Land Foundation Trial"
by Steven Emerson
July 18, 2007
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ALAN COLMES: Welcome to "Hannity & Colmes." I'm Alan Colmes.
We get right to our top story tonight. A trial is underway in Texas this week with potentially huge implications on Muslim-American relations. A group called the Holy Land Foundation is accused of funneling money to overseas terrorist groups, including HAMAS. Other Muslim groups here in America have also been named as unindicted co-conspirators in the case, including the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR.
Joining us now is terrorism expert Steve Emerson and the host of "At Large," our own Geraldo Rivera. We welcome you both back to "Hannity & Colmes."
Steve, let me start with you, as you're making the case here. The Holy Land is saying the money went to Palestinian charities, but not to HAMAS and not to terrorism. They're going to have to prove that the money was sent by the defendants knowing it would be used by HAMAS. That's going to be hard to prove.
STEVEN EMERSON: I don't think so. I think the government's case is very strong. I mean, the money that started the Holy Land Foundation was provided by Mousa Abu Marzook, the head of the political bureau of HAMAS. And there's financial connections and transactions and wiretaps that show that the HLF, the Holy Land Foundation, deliberately provided monies to zakats or charities in the West Bank and Gaza that were blowing up Israeli civilians.
And so I think the evidence is overwhelming about the direct ties between HAMAS and the Holy Land Foundation. I take exception to your statement that this should have an effect on Muslim-American relations. I mean, these are terrorists, and they shouldn't be representative of all Muslims.
COLMES: But who are you calling terrorists? I mean, who are you referring to? Everybody in these groups? I mean, for example, if any person in a charity is deemed suspicious, the whole charity is treated as though it's a terrorist group? That's how the prosecutors in some cases have acted. Who are you calling terrorists?
EMERSON: Alan, terrorist groups are not divisible. There's no good HAMAS and a bad HAMAS. There's no good David Duke and a bad David Duke. It's one group, OK? And the fact is that you try to compartmentalize it, like the terrorist defenders will do, that's going to be their defense. But the reality is that they cloak their activities under the mask of being a charitable wing, deliberately in order to disguise their funding to terrorist organizations.
COLMES: Well, I'm talking about these charitable groups, and money often goes, Geraldo, they go to hospitals, they go to the poor, they go to help a lot of people. And is Steve Emerson correct that there is a strong case here for the prosecution?
GERALDO RIVERA: I think this case is very problematic. I think the federal government will be extremely lucky to get a conviction, and I'm just talking as a criminal defense attorney. I think to make the connection between HAMAS -- everybody hates HAMAS. HAMAS is a terrorist organization. HAMAS victimizes civilians, all the rest of it. Having established that, to prove that these guys were giving money that they know would be used by HAMAS or at least substituted by HAMAS for other terrorist funds and be used in that illegal way I think is extremely problematic.
The federal government has a very, very uneven, at best, success rate in these prosecutions. I would say the government -- well, let me even be bolder about it. I think the government will be very lucky to get convictions in this case, and that is strictly on the evidence.
COLMES: Steve, aren't we playing a game of guilt by association? For example, if you give to a Catholic charity in Northern Ireland that helped the poor, does that mean you're an IRA sympathizer, an accomplice to terrorism? This is a very broad brush with which they're painting, they're going to have a very hard time making this case.
EMERSON: Alan, there's no broad brush. It's guilt by guilt; it's not guilt by association. The fact is, that Holy Land Foundation was giving disproportionately to the families of suicide bombers in order to encourage suicide bombers to take their lives in order to provide funding for their extended families after they were killed.
The fact is that these are groups, the Holy Land Foundation is directly tied to HAMAS. In fact, in 1993, Alan, there was a meeting in Philadelphia that the FBI secretly wiretapped in which these same people that were involved -- that have been indicted discussed how to actually raise money for Hamas in the United States. They were so paranoid, they said they were going to refer to themselves as SAMAH, which is HAMAS spelled backwards. These were directly...
RIVERA: The fact of the matter is, this prosecution has been delayed for years. There are real problems in terms of proving this case. You can't prove, because someone is giving money to Palestinian causes that they are terrorists. You can't make...
RIVERA: I really do believe that, as in Chicago, as in the Sami -- the buddy over here in Florida case...
RIVERA: ... Al-Arian, these prosecutions will fail. Why? Because they are not proven or not provable beyond a reasonable doubt.
SEAN HANNITY: Steve, I want to bring up a couple points here that I think will back up your point. First of all, Charles Schumer said, "We know CAIR has ties to terrorism." Even Dick Durbin -- I don't often quote these Democrats. I'm not very fond of them. But he once said, "CAIR is unusual in its extreme rhetoric." Did not Nihad Awad, the executive director, once say, "I am in support of the HAMAS movement"? Hang on. Wait a minute.
RIVERA: The crime is giving funding to a terrorist organization. The crime isn't who you're friends with, what you think in your politics.
HANNITY: Can I finish?
RIVERA: This is a criminal matter.
HANNITY: How many people do you know say they're in support of HAMAS, a terrorist organization?
RIVERA: ... Black Panthers. That doesn't make them criminals.
EMERSON: Listen, let's talk reality here. It's like proving that David Duke was the head of a racist organization. It's not difficult. And the fact is...
RIVERA: That's not the crime. That's not the crime. What's the crime?
EMERSON: Geraldo, please let me talk. There's a law against providing support, material support for terrorist groups.
RIVERA: Yes, that is the law. Restate that, Steve.
HANNITY: Hang on. Let me bring up a couple of other points here, back to our corners here.
HANNITY: Now, Joe Kaufman writing on Frontpagemag.com -- Steve, I'll ask you first. We'll let Geraldo respond -- talks about, after September 11th, immediately following the attacks, that there was -- CAIR placed on its Web site, under a picture of the World Trade Center in flames, a plea for donations. It read, "Donate to the NY D.C. Emergency Relief fund."
Quote, he writes, "When people click on the site, it didn't take them to the emergency relief fund. It took them straight to the Web site of the Holy Land Foundation." Isn't that the group we're talking about, Steve?
EMERSON: That's absolutely correct. CAIR misrepresented where the money was going to, and CAIR officials have been directly implicated in support of HAMAS.
RIVERA: They have not been charged.
EMERSON: You want to shout over -- that 's the way you 're going to get an acquittal, you 're going to shout over everybody? Look, face the music, Geraldo. You and I have been friends a long time. And the issue here is direct support for terrorist organizations. That 's what the Holy Land Foundation is.
HANNITY: Let me ask Geraldo a question.
EMERSON: They were Hamas. There were the equivalent of HAMAS. And I think the videos and the audiotapes that the government is going to introduce is going to be quite shocking, and I think you ought to take back your prognosis that there's going to be an acquittal.
RIVERA: I will not, Steve, but let me go a step further back and support what you said about our being friends. And we've been at this for a long time. But friends can reasonably disagree about the strength of a prosecution in a criminal case. I restrict my sentiments and my opinion to a criminal defense attorney who usually picks these things right. And I will bet you, before the millions of happy viewers of "Hannity & Colmes," that this case will result in an acquittal. I'm shocked that they're even at the jury selection phase. I'm shocked that they even got this case to trial.
EMERSON: Why are you so shocked?
RIVERA: Because the proof is not there.
RIVERA: You can't convict somebody...
RIVERA: ... charity that helps Palestinians. That's not enough. That's not a crime.
HANNITY: Geraldo, you're very emotional about this.
RIVERA: I'm not emotional!
HANNITY: No, you are.
RIVERA: I am not emotional! Why are you saying that?
HANNITY: But let me ask you, does certain associations bother you? Why are you -- let me get this out -- why are you excusing the way the former executive director of the one group, saying, "I am in support of the HAMAS movement"? Why, when CAIR's Hooper is at an event where a guy says, "We're all supporters of HAMAS," why, when they're unindicted co-conspirators, you just want to dismiss this as, "Oh, this is nothing"? It's a terror group.
RIVERA: Don't put words in my mouth, my dear friend, because that is not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is you have a federal criminal prosecution that has to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt based on a certain fact pattern. That is what this is about. It's not about the 300 unindicted co-conspirators or about people not liking Israel or people being in favor of HAMAS.
RIVERA: ... whether or not, beyond a reasonable doubt...
COLMES: Geraldo, we've got to go.
RIVERA: ... these people funded terrorist organizations.
COLMES: We've got to run. But, look, thanks for not shouting. You should be nice and quiet like Steve Emerson.
COLMES: ... Steve Emerson is nice and quiet.
RIVERA: Alan's been wanting to do that...
EMERSON: Stop supporting HAMAS, OK?
COLMES: Thank you both very much.