WHEN THE government, after the Sept. 11 attacks, froze the assets of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development -- the country's largest Muslim charity -- as a financial front for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, American Muslim groups cried foul. The organization had been charged with no crime, they complained, yet its donors' charitable efforts were being stymied without the government's evidence against the group being put to the test.
This week, the Justice Department obtained a broad indictment against the Texas-based organization and seven of its top officers, two of whom have left the country. "The Holy Land Foundation For Relief and Development was created . . . to provide financial and material support to HAMAS," it alleges. And its effectiveness in doing so, if one believes the government, was staggering. Between 1992 and 2001, the organization took in more than $57 million and gave more than $36 million of that sum "to individuals associated with, and organizations controlled by, HAMAS," the government says. Since 1995, when fundraising for Hamas became illegal in this country, Holy Land has sent $12.4 million to elements of the terrorist group's social service network in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and has specifically sought out the families of suicide bombers and other Hamas operatives in distributing its money.
The organization and its leaders are innocent until proven guilty; their lawyers, after the indictment, vigorously denied the charges. They have also alleged improprieties on the part of the FBI. That said, the indictment brings welcome clarity to the discussion of terrorist financing in the United States. No longer is there any doubt about what the government thinks it can prove about this prominent Muslim charitable institution. If Holy Land was, indeed, a front for terrorist fundraising, its many well-intentioned donors should not be left to labor under the illusion that it was the victim of an anti-Muslim witch hunt.