The chairman of a House subcommittee on terrorism is urging that the Justice Department, the IRS and the Secretary of State investigate whether the U.S.-arm of a British based Palestinian aid group is raising money for Hamas.
In separate letters sent Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) cited comments British parliamentarian George Galloway made in March during the first Viva Palestina aid convoy to Gaza. In a defiant gesture against an international embargo of the Hamas government, Galloway handed officials a bag of cash and said:
"This is not charity. This is politics. The government of Palestine is the best people to decide where this money is needed. We are giving this money now to the government of Palestine. And, if I could, I would give them 10 times, 100 times more." (click here to see the video)
In his letters, Sherman notes that Viva Palestina has no corporate status in the U.S. and seems to be using a separate 501(c)(3) charity called the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization/Pastors for Peace (IFCO) as a conduit for donations. In a letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, Sherman said Galloway's statement offered "compelling evidence that the major purpose of Viva Palestina is to provide material support to Hamas. Please takes steps to confirm whether IFCO has (or has not) acted as fundraising conduit for Viva Palestina. If so, IFCO's status as a 501(c)(3) entity must be revoked. The taxpayers of the United States should not and cannot support the activities of recognized terror organizations. [Emphasis original].
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Sherman urged an investigation to determine whether Galloway or VP broke any American laws. He asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to find out whether Galloway and his associates "should have any outstanding visas revoked and future admittance into the United States barred."
Finally, Sherman wrote to Michael Drake, chancellor at the University of California-Irvine, who already has announced an investigation into a VP fundraiser on campus featuring Galloway and organized by the school's Muslim Students Union. The students have a right to express their views, but Sherman wrote, that doesn't extend to soliciting for a terrorist organization:
"I believe your investigation will confirm that the UCI MSU has solicited funds for a terrorist organization (or knowingly aided and abetted such solicitation). After you confirm these facts, I believe you will, at a minimum, prevent the MSU from operating on campus unless and until its leadership is purged of those responsible."
Sherman's requests come as VP officials in England and the U.S. gear up for their third convoy to Gaza. The Investigative Project on Terrorism produced a detailed report of Viva Palestina's financial arrangements and other statements in support of Hamas made at U.S. fundraisers. It can be seen here.