Alleged Terror Backers|Sullied by Hamas

     BROOKLYN (CN) – Several Palestinian groups accused of funding suicide attacks in the West Bank during the Second Intifada focused on charitable efforts like helping orphans and supporting literacy programs for women before their ultimate “Hamasification,” a Hamas expert testified Wednesday.
     She described one such group’s headquarters as an “oasis of calm and peace amidst the conflict, chaos and destruction,” and said others worked to “give aid without discrimination to victims of the violence that was taking place.”
     It was second day Hamas expert and professor Beverly Milton-Edwards from Belfast’s Queens University testified on behalf of Arab Bank as it defends itself against a class action filed a decade ago on behalf of families of 300 victims killed or injured during 24 suicide attacks in the West Bank.
     The families’ attorneys said during open arguments that the bank turned a “blind eye” and bankrolled the terrorist attacks by paying out families of suicide attackers and keeping accounts for known Hamas leaders.
     Milton-Edwards testified that she toured several of the charitable groups’ headquarters in her research over the years, and said she had never seen any kind of Hamas propaganda in any of them between 2000 and 2004, adding that the only kind of “paraphernalia of martyrdom” she spotted was from a poster made by the Palestinian Authority in honor of soldiers who had been killed.
     Another organization, she said, focused on building children’s libraries, while another provided literacy programs for women, helped women manage their household budget and taught courses on hygiene.
     And although they might have been later taken over by members of Hamas, she said such organizations “continue to run the same kinds of services” to address the “undiminishing needs of the poor and needy, the orphaned, health and education and support through the Gaza Strip.”
     The bank has maintained that it did not know who it was paying out when it handed out the American cash given to it by the Saudi Committee and provided it to families of suicide attackers. The bank also said it never knowingly paid a suicide attacker’s family, and that it had a policy of running customers’ names through a database to determine if they might be linked to terrorism.
     Bank officials said that if there was a hint in the so-called “OFAC” system, it would not have made the transaction. But since the names of the terrorists families weren’t in the list, it had no way of knowing who it was paying or why.
     Arab Bank’s chairman Sabih al-Masri on Monday testified that his bank did not provide funds to Hamas, and that his bank was “clean.”
     The bank was sued in 2004 in Brooklyn Federal Court, and the lawsuit survived several challenges over the decade. It’s thought to be the first civil lawsuit to reach trial in the United States accusing a financial institution of bankrolling terrorism.
     The families sued for violations of the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, a law signed by President Bill Clinton that allows American victims of terror attacks to seek damages.
     Hamas was named a terrorist organization by the United States in 1997.

%d bloggers like this: