Testimony of Israeli agent continues (August 16, 2007)

The mostly-attentive jury continued to listen to a witness with no name on Thursday, August 16, 2007. The Israeli official — who went by the pseudonym of “Avi” — repeatedly smiled as he attempted to make one point clear: “Khamas,” or Hamas, indoctrinated Palestinian children through zakat (charity) committees. For the Israeli agent’s protection, the courthouse was surrounded by several police cars, the courtroom doors were locked and a few bodyguards were present. The media and the rest of the public listened to the testimony in an overflow room on another floor.

Prosecutor Elisabeth Shapiro continued the direct examination of Avi, an Israeli Security Agency advisor. Shapiro began the day by attempting to make a link between Hamas and several Palestinian zakat committees where the HLF used to send humanitarian assistance.

Tulkarim Zakat Committee: Among the many things seized from this zakat committee are a poster of a suicide bomber, a picture of Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook in front of the Dome of the Rock and a flyer showing a Hamas military commander. To Avi, these items proved that this committee is a Hamas group.

Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron: This committee, which Avi described as the biggest Hamas society in the West Bank, is led by Hamas officials, he said. Shapiro displayed items seized at the committee including a poster of a man holding two guns and another of a Hamas military martyr. She then showed the jury a picture of a suicide bomber and an image of a Hamas symbol encircled by more than a dozen Hamas activists. This was enough proof for Avi to conclude that this charity is Hamas-controlled.

Avi discussed documents seized at several other charities such as the Islamic Science and Culture Committee and Qalqilia Zakat Committee. He also said Jamil Hamami never left Hamas and remains a Hamas activist until today.

[In reality: Hamami is no longer a Hamas member. In fact, the American government invited Hamami to the U.S. in the late 1990s to speak about Islam in several cities across the nation.]

The zakat committees do provide humanitarian aid to Palestinian children, Avi admitted during his testimony. But what’s the point if their ultimate goal is to teach students how to be suicide bombers. This is not acceptable, he said, after which he glanced at the defense table. Then he continued his tirade, Zakat committees are not dealing with charity anymore. They’re way past that. They’ve become part of Hamas.

Shaprio then played several videos. One showed a kid holding a fake shoulder missile during a skit in one of the zakat committees. Avi began shaking his head furiously as the government played a clip showing young Palestinian girls on a stage listing out about three large “Zionist massacres” of the Palestinian people. The witness was satisfied when Shapiro played another video of young Palestinian boys listing a few suicide bombings. A clip of another performance showed young Palestinian students dressed as Israeli soldiers kicking Palestinian children and beating them with sticks.

Avi concluded his direct examination by saying, The Holy Land Foundation gave money to all the zakat committees discussed. The HLF was a major “source for financing Hamas.”

John Cline, defendant Ghassan Elashi’s attorney, then began cross-examining Avi. He listed out the charities mentioned during direct examination including Jenin Zakat Committee, Nablus Zakat Committee, Ramallah Zakat Committee, Tulkarim Zakat Committee, Qalqilia Zakat Committee, the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron and the Islamic Science and Culture Committee.

For each committee, he asked Avi to do the following:

  • Name the dominant members of each committee’s board, which he said is selected by the Palestinian Authority.
  • Identify at least one instance where it was publicly disclosed that the board members or the committees were affiliated with Hamas.
  • Specify the changes in size or composition of each committee’s board during the late 1990s.
  • Look at the U.S. Department of Treasury’s 2006 list of Specially Designated Terrorists and determine whether each committee or its board members are on the list.

The Israeli witness named a few board members for most of the committees. He mostly couldn’t point out specific instances where the charities or their members were publicly affiliated with Hamas. I read so many articles that I can’t point out one, he would say. For the Tulkarim charity, however, he recalled an Iranian radio station announcing Tulkarim’s affiliation to Hamas. Avi couldn’t point out changes in the size or composition of the committees’ boards. Avi concluded by stating that none of the charities or its board members were on the designation list. They’re technically not on the list. But Hamas is, he quipped.

Defendant Mohammad El-Mezain’s attorney, Josh Dratel, was next in line to cross-examine the witness. To discredit the witness, Dratel made several points clear. Avi has never taken a course on Hamas. He has never taken counter-terrorism classes outside the Israeli government. He did, however, read books about Hamas, most of which were based on hearsay. He never wrote or published anything about Hamas or terror financing. He is not an accountant. He was not involved in the seizure of any of the items taken from the zakat committees. He never read books about any of the zakat committees. He didn’t know for what purpose the videos were used. Avi also admit that he never entered a zakat committee while it was functioning. Neither has he ever interviewed people who received humanitarian aid from the committees.

Avi concluded that the items — including posters, key chains and videos — belonged to the zakat committees. Dratel then asked Avi if he checked on whether the items belonged to the employees. No, he replied. If the items are in the committee, then they belong to the committee. Dratel then asked Avi if he had a photo of his family in his office. It’s on the wall, Avi said. Who owns it? Dratel asked. Me, Avi replied, proving himself wrong. His employer, the Israeli Security Agency, does not own it.

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