While supporters continue to argue that the five men convicted of financing Hamas with more than $12 million through the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) did nothing more than give aid the needy, the Dallas Morning News argues that U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis handed down appropriate sentences Wednesday.
Former HLF Chief Executive Shukri Abu Baker and co-founder Ghassan Elashi will serve 65 year prison terms. Three other defendants received sentences of 15 and 20 years each. The sentences were heavy, but appropriate, the Morning News said in an editorial.
"[A]nyone who helps fund groups that make bombs to blow people up deserves stiff punishment."
The newspaper also took note of the defendants' seeming defiance in court, with none acknowledging any wrongdoing. Before Judge Solis cut him off, Abu Baker spent nearly 20 minutes addressing the court, talking about his family history and the emotional challenges caring for a chronically ill daughter. That, the Morning News said, reflected on the "twisted thinking" of the defense:
"His daughter's cystic fibrosis had absolutely nothing to do with Palestinian grievances against Israel. His statement was an appalling attempt to distract the public from the true effect of his crime: to collect money that helped Hamas kill, maim and fulfill its goal of wiping Israel off the face of the earth."
The newspaper is in a position to know. Its reporters, led by Steve McGonigle, spent years uncovering connections between HLF and Hamas only to see the group file a libel suit and wage pickets claiming the newspaper was on a crusade against them. Here is a transcript from a 1996 interview reporter Gayle Reaves conducted with Baker in which he denies any Hamas connection.
"We were never associated with Hamas to start with to distance ourselves later on. We never associated with Hamas anyway."
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Solis repeatedly said that the evidence proved this wasn't true. "The purpose of creating the Holy Land Foundation was as a fundraising arm for Hamas," he said.
Evidence showed part of their effort was devoted to derailing U.S.-led peace initiatives during the early 1990s. Hamas, the Morning News said, has offered Palestinians nothing in the alternative but "wanton, deliberate carnage ...ruling over a kingdom of rubble, starvation and misery."
You can see some of the newspaper's original stories here.