One of the more salient facts to come out of the trial against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) was the participation of several of the defendants at the 1993 meeting of Hamas activists and supporters in Philadelphia.
Defendants Shukri Abu Baker and Ghassan Elashi, along with Omar Ahmad and Nihad Awad, future principals of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, met with other Islamists to plan a strategy aimed at undermining the recently signed Oslo Peace Accords between the Israelis and Palestinians.
At the conference, Baker announced that "war is deception," and proceeded to provide a real time example in clandestine behavior, informing attendees that they should refer to Hamas as "SAMAH" (Hamas spelled backwards), to avoid detection.
Ahmad, for his part, announced his maximalist intentions, stating, "We've always demanded the 1948 territories," code for the destruction of Israel and its replacement with an Islamist state, but signaled his unwillingness to go public with his views for fear of damaging his movement's position, stating, "No, we didn't say that to the Americans."
Despite the less than optimal outcome of the HLF trial, and while the defendants await a decision by the prosecutors regarding a retrial, another opportunity has presented itself to compare the mindset of the HLF defendants with those of Hamas.
Later this month, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are planning to meet in Annapolis, Maryland for a conference designed to push the Middle East peace process forward. Not to be dissuaded, and very much in the mold of the 1993 Philadelphia meeting, Hamas is planning a "rejectionist" conference in Damascus, inviting all Palestinian hard-liners and terrorist groups, to coincide with the official Annapolis event.
Current Hamas Deputy Political Bureau Chief Mousa Abu Marzook, himself very much a part of the HLF trial, said the reasoning behind the conference was, "to send a clear message to the international community and the United States that Abu Mazen (Abbas) does not represent the Palestinian people in these negotiations," an unsurprising position for a top Hamas official. But Hamas' positions are hardly limited to determining who is allowed to speak for Palestinians. The Hamas Charter states, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it" and, according to the Charter, Hamas:
[B]elieves that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day.
Were Marzook or Hamas allowed to officially represent the Palestinian people, there would be no negotiations at all between Israelis and Palestinians, and no hope for peace, just as Omar Ahmad stated 14 years ago in Philadelphia.
While HLF was ostensibly set up as a charity, and much of its legal defense was packaged in the notion that the sole purpose of the organization was to supply food and materials to people in need, it is very much worth remembering the underlying mindset and goal behind providing such assistance: both galvanizing and supporting a constituency behind the notion that Palestinians must demand all of the "1948 territories." Add in the promotion of jihad and the glorification of martyrdom, both HLF traits, and it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to view HLF through the prism of merely a "charitable organization." And just as Hamas is unwilling to live with a country on the map called Israel, the same can be said of the founders of HLF and CAIR.