First Witness (July 25, 2007)

His black hair was combed and his dark suit was pressed. Through his round glasses, he glanced at the government lawyers, then the jury. Matthew Levitt was ready for his testimony on Wednesday, July 25, 2007. It was no surprise that Levitt — the author of Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of the Jihad — was the United States government’s first witness in the Holy Land Foundation trial.

In an almost 5-hour attempt to make Levitt credible, prosecutor Barry Jonas asked him about his background, which included his book, his college degrees, his methods of research and his 3-year work at the Federal Bureau of Investigation as an anti-terrorism analyst. When asked about the Hamas structure, he said it has a political, a social and a military wing. He said Hamas was established by the Palestinian sector of the Muslim Brotherhood, a peaceful Islamic group that’s committed to teaching Islam through social work. The testimony was then interrupted by what prosecutors called “a technical difficulty.” The computer screens would not display the government’s evidence, so the judge said it was time to take a mid-morning break. For some, this seemed like a strong sign.

After the break, Jonas asked Levitt to describe the Zionists’ beliefs. That’s anyone who supports the state of Israel, Levitt said.

[In reality: Zionists, are strong supporters of the occupation of Palestine who crave for an all-Jewish state].

He also said that Hamas goes through an awakening process, in which they spread their ideals through youth, media, articles and conferences. Levitt was then asked to read the Hamas charter, which includes statements such as this one: The role of Palestinian women is to raise future fighters. Jonas then listed the names of at least 15 Hamas leaders and displayed most of their photos — at not very flattering moments — to the jury.

They then spent nearly another hour discussing suicide bombings. Levitt talked about the recruiters, which typically include women, teens and the elderly. They also normally dress like westerners or Jewish rabbis, he said. Levitt then read aloud a list of Hamas attacks.

[In reality: Since September 2000, about 120 Israeli children have died, while almost 950 Palestinian children have died. Currently, only about a couple Israelis are being held as political prisoners, while about 10, 800 Palestinians are being detained in Israeli jails. You do the math.]

Hamas also runs elementary, middle and high schools. The reason: To spot potential radical individuals for possible recruitment, Levitt said. He mentioned that they provide discounted education, backpacks, key chains and post cards. Jonas then played a video of young children impersonating Hamas and Hizbullah officials. The video showed one young kid giving a speech dressed like Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah with a black beard and a dark robe. Another child was dressed like Nasrallah’s “European-looking” bodyguard with a black suit and shades. And yet another child was dressed with a “mock suicide bombing vest.” Toward the end of the video, a “mini” Hamas leader — whose clothes and beard were white — slowly pushed his wheel chair toward the microphone. He was dressed like Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, who was struck and killed by an Israeli rocket in 2004.

The overall goal of the government was to intimidate the jury, but none of what Levitt said proves that the HLF was a supporter of violence.

Then it was time for cross-examination. Nancy Hollander, Shukri Abu-Baker’s lawyer, went first. She began by making it clear that he was not an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood, Islam, Quran and Arabic idioms. She also asked if he knew about the Palestinians’ high unemployment rate and the large population below the poverty line. In addition, she mentioned if he knew about the settlements, checkpoints, curfews and other hardships that Palestinians experience due to the Israeli occupation. Levitt stuttered and began blinking furiously when he was asked about these truths on the Palestinians. He admit that he was not aware of some instances that portrayed the Palestinian suffering. For instance, with all his extensive research on Palestinians and Israelis, he did not know about the numerous Palestinian infant deaths that have occurred because Israelis did not quickly allow some mothers through some checkpoints. Hollander also helped uncover another truth: Some Israelis think the entire area — including the West Bank and Gaza — should be Israeli land. She ended her cross-examination by asking Levitt about Baruch Goldstein’s massacre, where a Jewish-American doctor entered the Ibrahimi mosque in the West Bank town of Hebron and shot and killed 29 praying Palestinians in 1994.

Levitt’s testimony will continue Thursday, July 26, 2007.

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