WASHINGTON, D.C. — As U.S. and Israeli authorities move to crack down on Hamas, new evidence suggests that the Islamic fundamentalist group's fund-raising activities in the United States are extensive.
Video footage made public recently depicts a network of pro-Hamas organizations exhorting Arab audiences at conferences across the country to take part and fund an Islamic holy war.
While the footage does not provide conclusive evidence of fund-raising for terrorism — officials rarely mention specifics and often claim to be raising money for orphans — it sheds light on the existence of pro-Hamas groups in America and how difficult it is for federal prosecutors to track their activities.
"The rhetoric in the conferences is truly frightening," Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference last week. "It is the worst and most vile, extremist hatred, and it is all designed to raise money for terrorist acts."
One promotional video, produced and distributed in the United States, includes an interview with Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel, just before their execution by Hamas death squads.
The interview is followed by a telephone number for the Dallas-based Islamic Association for Palestine in North America.
An ad for the same organization in the Muslim Business Directory contains membership and fund-raising information.
In a video shot at a 1992 Muslim Arab Youth Association conference in Oklahoma City, an official with the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development is seen announcing contributions totaling $23,065 that were later traced to a Hamas terrorist leader.
In another video, widely distributed in the United States for fund-raising purposes, a Hamas member based in Kuwait is seen delivering a sermon on jihad, or holy war.
"He who supports a warrior's family with goodness, it is as if he fought himself," the Hamas member says in the video. "The warrior has his reward, and the facilitator — that is the one who pays money to support the jihad — gets his own reward, plus the reward of the warrior."
Steven Emerson, an investigative reporter and terrorism expert who provided the video clips, said, "Their agenda is to promote terrorism, although they hide that agenda from the American public."
In a letter to President Clinton, Schumer called on the administration to investigate and freeze the assets of the organizations depicted in the video footage.
"It is time for Americans to take their heads out of the sand," the congressman said. "Make no mistake about it. Hamas is here in the United States."