Author’s Note: This week, capitulating to Islamic-supremacist agitation led by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Brandeis University reneged on its announced plan to present an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the heroic human-rights activist. In my 2010 book, The Grand Jihad, I devoted a chapter to the origins and purposes of CAIR, its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamas-support network, and its aim to silence critics of Islamic supremacism. In light of the continuing success of this campaign – despite a federal terrorism-financing prosecution that exposed CAIR’s unsavory background – it is worth revisiting that history. What follows is an adapted excerpt from that chapter.
In January 1993, a new, left-leaning U.S. administration, inclined to be more sympathetic to the Islamist clause, came to power. But before he could bat an eye, President Bill Clinton was confronted by the murder and depraved mutilation of American soldiers in Somalia. A few weeks later, on February 26, jihadists bombed the World Trade Center. The public was angry and appeasing Islamists would have to wait.
Yasser Arafat, however, sensed opportunity. The terrorist intifada launched at the end of 1987 had been a successful gambit for the Palestine Liberation Organization chief. Within a year, even as the body count mounted, the weak-kneed “international community” was granting the PLO the right to participate (though not to vote) in U.N. General Assembly sessions. And when Arafat made the usual show of “renouncing” terrorism – even as he was orchestrating terrorist attacks in conjunction with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other Islamist factions – the United States recognized him as the Palestinians’ legitimate leader, just as the Europeans had done. Arafat blundered in 1991, throwing in his lot with Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War, and that seemed to bury him with the Bush 41 administration. But Clinton’s election was a new lease on life.
Anxious to chase the holy grail of Middle East peace and suddenly in need of demonstrating toughness against jihadist terror, the new “progressive” president was made to order for the wily Marxist terror master. If Arafat could resell his “I renounce terrorism” carpet yet again, chances were he could cash in. And so he did, purporting to commit the Palestinians to the 1993 Oslo Accords – an empty promise of peaceful coexistence exchanged for hundreds of millions in aid (much of which he pocketed), an open invitation to the Clinton White House (where he became a regular visitor), international recognition (as a statesman, no less!), and a ludicrous Nobel Peace Prize (forever degrading a once prestigious honor into a punch line).
The Muslim Brotherhood, for one, was not amused. Islamists had murdered Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981 for striking a peace pact with Israel. Sure, they knew Arafat and understood what chicanery he was up to. But acceptance of the Zionist entity’s right to exist was utterly unacceptable, even if done as a ploy.
Israel, the Brotherhood also realized, would not be the only thing squeezed by Clinton at Arafat’s urging. After a shaky start, the new president was winning global plaudits for his Orwellian “peace process.” Clinton must have known that Arafat was stringing him along, but with the theater of negotiation and ostensible progress drawing rave reviews, that was a problem for another day. The immediate concern was that Hamas jihadists could spoil the show with their implacable jihad, their blunt insistence that nothing less than Israel’s obliteration would satisfy them. That gave the fledgling administration a powerful incentive to crack down on them. Arafat would be the beneficiary as the Americans squeezed his rivals for power.
A ‘Media Twinkle’ in Philadelphia
Though the United States had been a cash cow for Hamas, it was thus a perilous time for the organization when 25 of its members and supporters gathered at a Marriott Hotel in Philadelphia on October 27, 1993. They were unaware that the FBI was monitoring their deliberations. The confab was a brainstorming exercise: How best to back Hamas and derail Oslo while concealing these activities from the American government?
A little more background to the Philadelphia meeting: For nearly two decades until his extradition in 1997, Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook was the most consequential Muslim Brotherhood operative in the United States. Now living in Egypt, he remains to this day deputy chairman of Hamas’s political bureau. In the early Nineties, he actually ran the terrorist organization from his home in Virginia.
During his time in the U.S., Marzook formed several organizations to promote the Palestinian jihad against Israel. In 1981, for public-relations purposes, he established the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) in conjunction with two other jihadists: future Hamas chief Khalid al-Mishal and Sami al-Arian (the latter was eventually convicted of conspiring to support Palestinian Islamic Jihad).
In December 1987, the intifada was launched and Hamas was born. Marzook immediately formed the “Palestine Committee” to serve as an umbrella organization, directing the various pro-Hamas initiatives that were developing. He brought under its wing both the IAP (which concentrated on “the political and media fronts”) and a fundraising entity he had established. That entity would eventually be called the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) – though it was then known as the “Occupied Land Committee.” The reorganization would better enable the Palestine Committee to comply with the Muslim Brotherhood’s instructions to “increase the financial and the moral support for Hamas,” to “fight surrendering solutions” (like Oslo), and to publicize “the savagery of the Jews.”
It was under the auspices of the Palestine Committee that the 1993 Philadelphia meeting was convened. It was clear even then that Marzook’s Hamas network was anticipating the birth of yet another organization. The Palestine Committee’s amended by-laws declared that an as-yet-unnamed entity was already in the larval stage, “operat[ing] through” the IAP, and soon to “become an official organization for political work, and its headquarters will be in Washington, insha Allah.”
In the United States, the “political work” was crucial. The overarching mission, of course, was quite clear. As the IAP had explained in a December 1988 edition of its Arabic magazine, Ila Filastin, “The call for jihad in the name of Allah is the only path for liberation of Palestine and all the Muslim lands. We promise Allah, continuing the jihad way and the martyrdom’s way.” But while blatant summonses to jihad might stir the faithful in Islamic countries openly hostile to Jews, they were not going to fly in America – and even less so in an America whose financial heart had just been shaken by the jihadist bombing of the World Trade Center. The Brotherhood’s approach in the U.S. would have to be more subtle.
That was where the new organization would come in, as those gathered in Philadelphia – including Marzook’s brother-in-law and HLF co-founder Ghassan Elashi – explained. Although the Brotherhood had ideological depth and impressive fundraising mechanisms, Marzook had long been concerned that his network lacked the media and political savvy needed to advance an agenda in modern America. Now more than ever, they needed what HLF’s Shukri Abu Baker called “a media twinkle.”
In the U.S., Hamas was now perceived as the principal enemy of the popular “peace process.” After all, its charter explicitly called (and continues to call) for Israel’s annihilation by violent jihad. Therefore, its known supporters – the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestine Committee, the IAP, and the others – were tainted in the American mind as terror-abettors, hostile to U.S. interests. As one attendee urged in Philadelphia, “We must form a new organization for activism which will be neutral, because we are placed in a corner. . . . It is known who we are. We are marked.” The new entity, by contrast, would have a clean slate. Maybe it could steal a page out of Arafat’s “hear what I say, don’t watch what I do” playbook. The new entity’s Islamism and Hamas promotion would have to be less “conspicuous.” It would need to couch its rhetoric in sweet nothings like “social justice,” “due process,” and “resistance.” If it did those things, though, it might be more attractive . . . and effective. A Muslim organization posing as a civil-rights activist while soft-pedaling its jihadist sympathies might be able to snow the American political class, the courts, the media, and the academy. It might make real inroads with the transnational progressives who dominated the Clinton administration.
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