Another Israeli agent testifies (August 15, 2007)

Some jurors glimpsed down at their nails, while others took frequent peeks at the clock. The jury seemed unimpressed by yet another anonymous witness with the Israeli government on Wednesday, August 15, 2007. As prosecutor Elisabeth Shapiro began the direct examination of an advisor with the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) who used the pseudonym of “Avi,” the pair attempted to prove that the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) was part of a wacked-out conspiracy to fund Hamas.

It took defense attorneys a couple of minutes to finish re-crossing FBI agent Laura Burns, thus ending her 11-day testimony. Then everyone in the courtroom who was not an FBI agent or a family member of the defendants was asked to leave. The doors were locked and in came Avi, his lawyer, a few bodyguards and an interpreter.

Avi, who spoke English with a Hebrew accent, began by discussing his credentials. He has worked with the Israeli Defense Forces and received a degree from Tel Aviv University. His main goal at the ISA has been to obtain information to prevent terrorist attacks. His expertise: the social wing of Hamas. What makes him an expert? He said he has read books, examined websites, studied articles and watched videos about Hamas. Hamas has three wings — political, military and social. But there are no clear boundaries between the wings, Avi said. The social wing helps Hamas “win the hearts and minds” of the Palestinian people, he said.

Hamas charity organizations, which are part of the social wing, have formed an international network in countries including the United States, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, Avi said. They spread the Palestinian cause through ceremonies, mosques, conferences, charities and speakers from the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. The HLF was “born by design” as part of the global network, he said.

Shapiro then displayed a letter from Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin to the chairman of Al-Aqsa Foundation, a Palestinian charity that is said to have worldwide offices in Germany, Denmark, Sweden and other nations. In the letter, Yassin asks for money to build a school in Palestine for orphans and the children of the needy, martyrs and detainees. Avi then said, Investing in education is part of the process to “win the hearts and minds” of Palestinians.

Shapiro then showed the jury a Palestinian school program seized at Al-Aqsa Fund in Germany that included this phrase: jihad with your money. Avi said this phrase was used plenty of times by suicide bombers and Hamas leader Khalid Mishal. Avi then discussed an Israeli document that showed Israel’s designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization in 1989.

Avi then listed out the criteria to determine weather a zakat (chairy) committee is a Hamas supporter. Who are the leaders? Are they affiliated with Hamas?, Avi said. He then continued, Do the zakat committees have links to other Hamas committees? Are they funded or supported by outside networks? Do they support Hamas-related activities? Do their documents include violent language (jihad or resistance)? Do the items found in the zakat committees — such as posters, key chains and postcards — identify with Hamas?

Shapiro then displayed more than a dozen items seized by Israeli officials from zakat committees — the same committees listed in the indictment that the HLF utilized to provide Palestinians with humanitarian aid. She began by playing a video that aired on a Palestinian satellite channel in May 2007 — nearly six years after the U.S. government shut down the HLF. The clip showed some children in a school performance in Gaza army crawling and others holding Hamas flags while stomping their feet in a military-like fashion.

Jenin Zakat Committee: The jury saw a video recorded in 2004 of a youth camp in Jenin. In the footage, a young girl performing a skit declares, You’re afraid of my youth. You’re afraid of my innocence. You’re afraid of my books. How can I give you my land? Shapiro then displayed other items taken from the committee such as a child-drawn image showing a Hamas leader and postcards with pictures of Ahmad Yassin and Hamas leader Abdul Aziz Rantisi. After reviewing such items, Avi concluded that the Jenin Zakat Committee is a Hamas organization.

Nablus Zakat Committee: A poster of a Hamas leader assassinated by Israelis. A postcard showing the biographies of two suicide bombers. Key chains illustrating the faces of Ahmad Yassin and Palestinian bomb-maker Yahya Ayyash. And a video of a suicide bomber with a white hood saying a message in Arabic. These were a few of the items seized from the Nablus Zakat Committee that Shapiro displayed to the jury that proved to Avi that the committee is Hamas-controlled.

Ramallah Zakat Committee: It’s dominant figures are Hamas activists, therefore, it is a Hamas committee, Avi said.

Many — including those present in a packed overflow room on the 16th floor — expressed frustration over Avi’s obvious bias rant, which was much like a web impossible to untangle. Judge A. Joe Fish easily aloud this ranting, which was summarized so eloquently in a blog by Southern Methodist University professor Harold Knight:

“[Avi’s] careful analysis of newspaper articles and pamphlets and government-controlled documents proves that Hamas controls zakat charities in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza; therefore, any contributions the Holy Land Foundation made to these charities are made in support of Hamas, which means they support ‘terrorism.’ ”

If you’re confused, you’re not alone.

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