The US Treasury Department announces its freeze of the
assets of the Islamic National Bank and Al-Aqsa TV
(Treasury Department website http://www.ustreas.gov/press/releases/tg594.htm ) .
1. On March 18 the United States Treasury Department announced it was designating two important institutions which belonged to Hamas in the Gaza Strip: Al-Aqsa TV and the Islamic National Bank, as terrorist entities. The actions were taken pursuant to Executive Order 13224, freezing the institutions’ assets held under US jurisdiction and prohibiting American citizens from engaging in transactions with them.
2. Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said that the Treasury Department would "continue to expose Hamas’s efforts to create institutions with the trappings of legitimacy that are in fact controlled by and used to support a terrorist organization.” He added that the Department would not distinguish between "a business financed and controlled by a terrorist group, such as Al-Aqsa Television, and the terrorist group itself” (ITIC emphasis) (Treasury Department website, March 18, 2010).
3. The entire Hamas movement, including both its political and military-terrorist wings, are designated by American law as terrorist and therefore its activity on American soil is illegal. Since the Patriot Act was enacted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, American law enforcement agencies have been making strenuous efforts to stop Hamas-affiliated activities. The American administration does not distinguish between Hamas’ political and military-terrorist wings and regards Hamas as a terrorist organization detrimental to the development of a Palestinian state and as undermining the peace process. Hamas appears as No. 13 on the State Department’s list of designated terrorist organizations and entities, while Iran, a staunch sponsor of terrorism in general and Hamas in particular, is No. 1. The European Union also makes no distinction between Hamas’ wings and the entire organization was been outlawed (although in effect European countries such as Britain allow Hamas-affiliated activities to continue.)1
4. This is not the first time the American administration has designated one of the central media belonging to a terrorist organization. On March 23, 2006, the Treasury Department used the Executive Order to outlaw Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV, Radio Nur and the Lebanese Media Group, the Lebanese company which operates them. According to the Department, Al-Manar TV and Radio Nur were media branches of Hezbollah and thus supported the organization’s terrorist activities.
The heading of the US Treasury Department announcement outlawing Al-Manar TV.
5. Senior Hamas figures in the Gaza Strip strongly denounced the American administration’s position. They even organized a mass protest demonstration on March 22. Hamas regards the American action an attack on its efforts to represent itself to the West as more pragmatic and to shed its continuing image as a terrorist organization.
Al-Aqsa TV as a Tool for Incitement and Propaganda
The Al-Aqsa TV logo
6. Al-Aqsa TV is one of Hamas’ most important media, and is funded and controlled by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, playing an important role in the movement’s battle for hearts and minds. It was founded shortly after the January 2006 elections, won by Hamas. The Hamas leadership provided the initial funding, about half a million dollars, and its activists managed the station. According to the American Treasury Department, at the end of 2009 Hamas headquarters in Damascus allotted the station hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Hamas heads continued to control its activities. For reasons it subsequently provided, the Treasury department reported that Al-Aqsa TV often broadcast children’s programs laced with incitement and propaganda, programs which were intended to recruit children as future armed operatives and suicide bombers.
7. Examples of children’s programs broadcast in recent years are:
A. On May 31, 2007, Al-Aqsa TV broadcast the 29th graduation party of kindergartens belonging to Al-Mujamaa al-Islami, a network belonging to Hamas’ social infrastructure (da’wah). The children put on a program wearing camouflage uniforms and headbands bearing the inscription "There is no God but Allah,” carrying plastic rifles and waving flags bearing the insignia of the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas’ parent organization).2
A kindergarten graduation party (Al-Aqsa TV, May 31, 2007).
B. In the second half of May 2007 Al-Aqsa TV’s program "Pioneers of Tomorrow” introduced a Mickey Mouse figure called Farfour. It was used to inculcate children with hatred for Israel and to brainwash them with Hamas ideology, which includes the Islamic takeover of the world, the continuation of violence and terrorism against Israel [the so-called "resistance”], the destruction of the State of Israel, the "liberation” of Al-Aqsa mosque, and the "liberation” of Iraq and other Muslim countries "invaded by murderers.” After the criticism voiced in the West of using Mickey Mouse for incitement, the figure of Farfour was retired in a program which featured it as "killed by Israelis.”
Broadcasts featuring anti-Israeli incitement and propaganda from the mouth of Farfour on a show called "Pioneers of Tomorrow” (Al-Aqsa TV, May 10, 2007, pictures courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch).
C. In July 2007 Al-Aqsa TV introduced Nahool, "the little bee,” which was represented as Farfour’s "cousin.” Nahool was also used for purposes of encouraging terrorism, anti-Semitic incitement and inculcating the desire to carry out suicide bombing attacks.
Nahool calls for children to follow in the footsteps of the suicide bombers and expresses the desire to take "revenge” on "the enemies of Islam, the murderers of the prophets” (a Muslim anti-Semitic epithet for the Jews] "the murderers of innocent children” (Al-Aqsa TV, July 13, 2007, pictures courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch).
D. On December 30, 2007, two days after the Annapolis conference, Al-Aqsa TV instituted a cartoon corner to broadcast vicious anti-Israeli hate propaganda and discourage negotiations with it. The cartoons are the work of Hamas-affiliated Omaya Joha and enjoy immense popularity in the Arab world.3
A cartoon which appeared on the program. An Israeli soldier represented as a stereotyped Jew shoots Palestinians, mainly women and children. Their blood forms a map of "Palestine.”
E. On September 22, 2009, Al-Aqsa TV broadcast a "Pioneers of Tomorrow” episode featuring a bear called Nasur ("winner”) which specifically called for the slaughter of the Jews to expel them from "Palestinian lands.”4
Nasur: "We want to slaughter them [the Jews] to make them leave our land, right?”
(From Al-Aqsa TV, September 22, 2009, courtesy of the Palestinian Media Watch).
8. Al-Aqsa TV broadcasts via the Arabsat 2B and Bader 4 satellites. (Arabsat is registered in Saudi Arabia and belongs to members of the Arab League.) It also broadcasts via Atlantic Bird 4A, part of a European corporation. Its broadcasts are received in the Arab and north African countries, as well as Europe, where they are watched by the Arab-Muslim communities. Al-Aqsa TV also has a land channel whose broadcasts are received mainly in the Gaza Strip and possibly in Judea and Samaria.
Hamas’ Islamic National Bank
The logo of the Islamic National Bank in Gaza City
(http://www.alquds.com/node/243806, March 19, 2010).
9. The Islamic National Bank opened in the Gaza Strip in March 2009, after Operation Cast Lead, after more than two years of planning. In December 2006, during a visit to Qatar, Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration, spoke about opening a bank in the Gaza Strip with an initial capital investment of $50 million (Hamas website, December 3, 2006). When it bank opened its directors announced that it would operate according Islamic principles. It received the support of Islamic clerics in the Gaza Strip who encouraged Gazans to open accounts with the new bank (BBC, March 23, 2009).
10. For Hamas the bank is an important financial institution. It is under Hamas control and meets a number of its political and economic needs:
A. It helps Hamas tighten its control over the Gaza Strip.
B. It is part of the Islamization of the Gaza Strip by offering a financial institution which operates according to Islamic law.
C. It makes it possible to smuggle funds into the Gaza Strip where they can easily be transferred to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
D. It provides a solution to the difficulties experienced by the de facto Hamas administration in with working with Palestinian Authority and foreign banks.
11. Rafiq al-Makki, Gaza City mayor, said it was important to have a bank which would serve Palestinian national interests (Agence France-Presse, April 21, 2009). When the Islamic National Bank opened, the de facto Hamas administration called on its employees to transfer their accounts to it. At the end of April 2009 Hamas employees began receiving their salaries though the bank instead of at the post office (Felesteen, April 14, 2009).
The exterior of the Islamic National Bank in Gaza City (Al-Ayam, April 22, 2009).
The interior of the Islamic National Bank in Gaza City (Ma’an News Agency, March 18, 2010).
12. In May 2009 the finance ministry of the de facto Hamas administration transferred €1.1 million to the bank to pay the salaries of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives. Hamas also opened thousands of accounts for its members into which their salaries are paid (according to the US. Treasury Department announcement, March 18, 2010).
13. The bank operates outside the lawful Palestinian banking system and without coordinating its activities with the banks in the Palestinian Authority or according to its insurance laws. The PA responded to the establishment of the bank by calling on Palestinians to cooperate only with banks authorized by the Palestinian monetary fund and not to patronize the Islamic National Bank, which operated without supervision. Riad Abu Shahade, director of the unit of bank supervision in the PA, stated that no formal request had been made to operate the bank (BBC, March 23, 2009). The PA also issued a formal statement warning Palestinians against dealing with the Islamic National Bank or buying stocks in it.
14. Dr. Alaa al-Rafati, director of the Islamic National Bank, a Hamas member and lecturer at the Islamic University in Gaza, strongly denied any connection between the bank and Hamas, and said that in his assessment the American sanctions imposed on the bank would not influence its activities. He said that the bank had no investments in the United States and claimed that instructions from the [Palestinian Authority] monetary fund not to patronize the INB had had no effect. He added that the only connection between the bank and the Gaza government was that the bank had received its authorization to operate and that the government paid the salaries of its workers through the bank. He claimed it was an independent public investment company which had no connection to any Palestinian organization (Al-Ayam, April 22, 2009).
15. The Hamas movement attacked American administration, especially for designating Al-Aqsa TV as a terrorist entity, which they claimed served Israeli interests and violated freedom of speech:
A. Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus mentioned the issue in a speech he gave for "Rage Day” in Jerusalem. He said that neither the Congress nor any other body could sabotage the channel’s activity (Al-Aqsa TV, March 20, 2010).
B. Ismail Radwan, senior Hamas activist, said that the decision was a "service provided for free” by the United States to Israel. He said that the decision exposed the truth about the American administration, which did not respect free media and directed them according to its own agenda. He added that the administration was impeding freedom of speech, trying to hide the "truth” and providing a cover for Israel’s so-called "crimes” against the Palestinian people and the holy places [of Islam]. He also said that as far as he was concerned the American decision would have no practical impact on the stations because it did not have assets beyond the borders of the Gaza Strip (Al-Bayan Center website, March 18, 2010).
C. Al-Aqsa TV announced that the "Solidarity with Al-Aqsa TV Committee” invited the public in the Gaza Strip to a mass demonstration to protest the American sanctions. It would take place, according to the announcement, on March 22, 2010. The sanctions, according to the announcement, had been imposed following pressure from Israel, because Al-Aqsa TV had "exposed the Israel crimes” (http://www.aqsatv.ps/arabic/news.php?action=view&id=5389).
The American Treasury Department Announcement
March 18, 2010
Treasury Designates Gaza-Based Business, Television Station for Hamas Ties
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated the Islamic National Bank (INB) of Gaza for being controlled by Hamas, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and for providing financial services to Hamas members and employees, including members of the organization's military wing. Treasury also today designated Al-Aqsa Television, a television station in Gaza financed and controlled by Hamas. Today's actions, taken pursuant to Executive Order 13224, freeze any assets INB or Al-Aqsa Television hold under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions with these parties. Executive Order 13224 targets terrorists, terrorist organizations, persons owned or controlled by or acting for or on behalf of designated terrorists or terrorist organizations, and those providing financial, material, or technological support to designated terrorists or terrorist organizations, or for acts of terrorism.
"Consistent with our commitment to a well-regulated and transparent financial system in the Palestinian territories, Treasury will continue to expose Hamas's efforts to create institutions with the trappings of legitimacy that are in fact controlled by and used to support a terrorist organization," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.
Hamas opened INB in Gaza City in April 2009 after more than two years of planning. Lacking a legal license from the Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA), Hamas officials "authorized" the opening of the institution and provided $20 million of the initial capital. The INB operates outside the legitimate financial system and is not in compliance with Palestinian Authority (PA) banking or securities regulations. The PA, the PMA and the Palestinian Capital Market Authority have publicly declared the business illegal and have issued public warnings to citizens against doing business with INB or buying its shares.
While posing as a legitimate financial institution, INB is providing Hamas with a means to receive and store large amounts of smuggled cash to use at the organization's discretion. In May 2009, Hamas's finance office in Gaza moved 1.1 million Euros to INB, with which it then paid the salaries of members of Hamas's military wing who held accounts there. Hamas has also opened thousands of accounts for its members at INB through which it pays salaries.
The INB's board of directors and its senior management consist of high-ranking and prominent Hamas activists, including the chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer, both of whom were appointed to their positions because of their connections with Hamas.
Also designated today is Al-Aqsa Television, a television station financed and controlled by Hamas. Al-Aqsa is a primary Hamas media outlet and airs programs and music videos designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood.
"Treasury will not distinguish between a business financed and controlled by a terrorist group, such as Al-Aqsa Television, and the terrorist group itself," Levey said.
Hamas leadership raised the initial capital for the station shortly after the January 2006 Palestinian elections. At that time, donors contributed half a million dollars for the channel, which was to be headed by members of Hamas, and shortly thereafter, Hamas leaders negotiated broadcasting arrangements with a satellite television provider. As of late 2009, the Hamas headquarters in Damascus, Syria, allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars for Al-Aqsa TV's budget, and senior Hamas officials continued to control the station's operations.
Fathi Hammad, the former director of Al-Aqsa TV, currently serves as the Hamas interior minister in Gaza, is a former senior member of Hamas's military wing in Gaza, and as of 2007, was a member of the Hamas Shura Council. Hammad has supervised the construction of smuggling tunnels for Hamas and has encouraged the building and use of homemade weapons for use against Israel. In May 2009, Dr. Mahmud Abu-Daf replaced Hammad as the head of Al-Aqsa TV. Abu-Daf is a senior Hamas figure who served as a member of the Hamas Shura Council and Political Bureau.
Hamas, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist backed by Iran, has intentionally killed hundreds of civilians, including U.S. citizens. Its violent takeover of Gaza in 2007 has allowed continued rocket attacks against Israeli cities and civilians within range of the territory. As of this year, Hamas has continued to ignore demands from the international community to renounce violence and accept the other Quartet principles, including the recognition of Israel and a commitment to abide by past diplomatic agreements. Moreover, statements by Hamas leader Khaled Mish'al indicate that the group continues to produce and smuggle weapons into Gaza.
1 For further information see the February 21, 2010 bulletin, "Britain as a Focus for Hamas’ Political, Propaganda and Legal Activities in Europe” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_e097.pdf.
2 For further information see the June 6, 2007 bulletin, "Inculcating kindergarten children with radical Islamic ideology and the culture of anti-Israel terrorism” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/kindergarten_gaza060607.pdf.
3 For further information see the December 6, 2007 bulletin, "The Hate Industry: a children’s TV program on the Hamas Al-Aqsa channel aired a segment about cartoons created by popular cartoonist Omayya Joha.” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hi41207e.pdf.
4 For further information see the October 8, 2009 bulletin, "Hamas recently broadcast a children’s TV show which specifically called for the slaughter of the Jews” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_e085.pdf.