- Expert: Officials in “leadership positions within the American BDS campaign” came from organizations linked to Hamas funding
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A “significant contingent” of the former leadership of “three organizations that were designated or shut down, or held civilly liable for providing material support for the terrorist organization Hamas…appears to have pivoted to leadership positions within the American BDS campaign,” according to testimony provided to Congress on Tuesday by Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Appearing at a joint hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittees on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade and on the Middle East and North Africa, Schanzer explained that the leaders had “gravitated to a new organization called American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)”, which is a “leading driver of the BDS campaign.” AMP is “arguably the most important sponsor and organizer for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which is the most visible arm of the BDS campaign in campuses in the United States.”
Schanzer noted that “at least seven individuals who work for or on behalf of AMP have worked for or on behalf of organizations previously shut down or held civilly liable in the United States for providing financial support to Hamas: the Holy Land Foundation [HLF], the Islamic Association for Palestine [IAF], and KindHearts.” HLF was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2001 for alleged terror ties: from 1995-2001, it sent “approximately $12.4 million outside of the United States with the intent to contribute funds, goods, and services to Hamas.” According to the Treasury Department, Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas, identified one of its officers, Mohammed El-Mezain, as Hamas’ leader in the U.S. IAF was “found civilly liable in a federal district court for supporting Hamas” in 2004 and there is “significant overlap between employees from this Hamas-supporting organization” and new BDS funding networks, Schanzer's testimony indicated. The Treasury Department had frozen KindHeart’s assets in 2006, calling the organization the “progeny” of the HLF and saying it provided “support for terrorism behind the façade of charitable giving.” Its president was formerly an official of the Group Relief Foundation, which was designated a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” in 2002 for funding Al Qaeda. AMP itself has displayed a poster at its headquarters that reads in Arabic: “No Jew will live among them in Jerusalem.”
Schanzer appeared at the hearing alongside Michael Rubin, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; David Makovsky, Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Tamara Cofman Wittes, the Director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. The experts discussed a variety of threats to Israel in addition to the BDS campaign, including Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian incitement, and efforts at the United Nations to impose parameters for a two-state solution.
Iranians “to a large extent have themselves to blame” for their economic difficulties because of their country’s corrupt financial system and support for terrorism, The New York Times editorial board wrote on Monday.
While Iran has largely complied with the nuclear-related aspects of the deal it reached with global powers last year, leading to the lifting of European sanctions, American sanctions due to Iran’s support for terrorism, ballistic missile tests, and human rights abuses remain in place. This should not be a surprise, the editorial pointed out, because “Iran knew that lifting all American sanctions was never part of the nuclear deal.”
This means American companies are still banned from doing business in Iran, except for trade in civil aviation, carpets and agricultural products. Also, Iran is still barred from using the American financial system, and its dollars, through which most international business is conducted. Many foreign banks who are free to engage with Iran hesitate to do so, fearing they will run afoul of American sanctions.In the absence of choosing to reform its financial system and stop supporting terrorism, the current restrictions mean that the Islamic Republic will have to settle for smaller business deals that don’t involve using American currency, since Iran should continue “should be subject to sanctions when appropriate under United States law.”
Before the nuclear deal, Iran was largely isolated from the international banking system. It has not kept up with strict new rules to prevent money-laundering and terrorist financing. Experts say Iranian banks are badly run, politicized and lack transparency — warning signs for risk-averse foreign banks. Iran’s warlike behavior in the region — supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, arming Hezbollah and testing missiles — further discourages investment. As President Obama said recently, “Businesses want to go where they feel safe, where they don’t see massive controversy, where they can be confident that transactions are going to operate normally.” Iran can help itself by reforming its system and becoming a more constructive force in the region.
The Times supported the the nuclear deal, so their latest op-ed can be seen as a rebuke to Iran’s government, which has been expressing its displeasure with the pace of its economic growth since the deal last year.
The governor of Iran’s central bank, Valiollah Seif, threatened to walk away from the nuclear deal if the United States did not give Iran access to the American financial system during a 90-minute speech in Washington last week. In response, Matthew Levitt, a former Treasury Department official and who now works at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Monday that “Iran seems to expect the Obama administration to provide benefits beyond those in the nuclear deal.” Levitt noted that Seif admitted that Iran has not changed how it does business, and added “that Iran has not changed is at the core of its problem.”
Iran’s behavior prompted Levitt to draw similar conclusions to The New York Timeseditorial board:
The bottom line is that Iran has yet to curb or stop the illicit conduct that makes it a pariah state and a financial risk. It enacted a law against terrorist financing last July, but that’s done little to calm banks’ fears because its government continues to support terrorism. Until those behaviors change, banks are likely to continue to see prohibitive reputational, regulatory, and other risks to doing business there. And the only country that can do anything about that is Iran.(via TheTower.org)