Bush Freezes Assets of Charity Tied to Hamas
The action was a response to the suicide bombings in Israel over the weekend that killed 25 people, President Bush said. Hamas, which is already on the State Department terrorist list, took responsibility for the attacks.
The freeze applies to the assets of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development based in Richardson, Texas. The foundation, which is listed as a charity with the IRS, raised $13 million last year.
Far from being a charity, the president said, the Holy Land Foundation builds schools to “indoctrinate children to grow up into suicide bombers” and supports the bombers’ families after deadly suicide missions.
Treasury Secretary O’Neill said the foundation is run by “scam artists” who prey on the benevolence of well-meaning and unsuspecting donors.
The Holy Land Foundation denied connections to Hamas and said it does not provide assistance specifically to the families of suicide bombers.
“Our foundation helps people in need,” said Dalal Mohammed, a spokeswoman for the organization. “We don’t do a test on whether families are in a criminal situation.”
According to government documents, Washington has been investigating the Holy Land Foundation since 1996. In August 2000, the State Department asked the Agency for International Development to withdraw its support of the foundation, saying it had ties to Hamas.
The U.S. also froze the assets of two other groups: Al Aqsa International Bank, based in the Palestinian-controlled region; and the Beit El-Mal Holdings Company, an investment group in the West Bank and Gaza. It is not known whether either organization have assets in the United States.
This announcement is the third of its type since October. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the administration seized assets related to Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaida network, Hamas, Hezbollah and 20 other groups. But few if any of those on the list had assets in the United States.
Pro-Israeli lobbyists have been pressing President Bush to broaden the definition of terrorism used to target assets, while Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have urged the administration to concentrate narrowly on bin Laden’s financial support.
President Bush made clear that this was not the last time the U.S. will target the web of money that enables terrorist groups to operate.
“It’s not the final step,” Mr. Bush said.