Fox strains to tie Park51 to Hamas

Fox & Friends continued their attack on Islam and the Park51 project, this time by smearing a Park51 investor as a “terror contributor” because he once donated to a group that was later found to be linked to Hamas. However, his donation to the Holy Land Foundation came well before the government alleged the group had ties to Hamas and operated by actively deceiving donors to appear as though it was a “good charity.”

Fox smears Park51 investor as a “terror contributor” who should have known of HLF's Hamas ties

Fox5 New York smears Park51 investor as a “terror contributor.” In an article titled “Mosque Investor was Terror Contributor,” Fox 5 New York reporter Charles Leaf wrote, “Fox 5 News reported Thursday that one of the financial backers of the Islamic mosque and cultural center project in Lower Manhattan once contributed to a terror group, although the investor says the contribution was made because he thought he was giving money to a harmless charity.” Leaf claimed that businessman Hisham Elzanaty “made a 'significant investment' in the development of the mosque near Ground Zero,” and “that in 1999 Hisham Elzanaty sent money to an organization that would later be deemed by the U.S. government to be a terrorist group.” Leaf identified that group as the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF). The article noted that “Mr. Elzanaty's attorney tells Fox 5 News exclusively his client believed he was making contributions to an orphanage,” but followed by reporting that a representative of the anti-Muslim group Investigative Project on Terrorism believed that "[i]f you gave money (to HLF) in 1999 you probably had some inkling that HLF was giving money to Hamas and therefore to terrorist operations."

Jerrick: "[T]he man who actually bought the mosque has contributed thousands of dollars to a terror group." Leaf appeared on the September 3 edition of Fox & Friends to discuss his story. Guest co-host Mike Jerrick introduced Leaf by saying “Fox has learned the man who actually bought the mosque has contributed thousands of dollars to a terror group.” Leaf misleadingly claimed that Elzanaty “had contributed a terrorist organization back in 1999.” Leaf claimed that “the federal government had been investigating HLF since the mid-1990s and in 2001, it shut down HLF and declared it to be a terrorist organization because it was funneling money to Hamas.” Jerrick aired video of Leaf apparently confronting Elzanaty at his home, and said: "[H]e said he didn't know that that's where the money is going, but if he didn't know, why's he running from you?" Leaf again noted that Elzanaty has claimed that he thought he was donating to help fund an orphanage, but immediately followed by claiming, “All of the terrorist experts we talked to say that anybody who was paying any attention to what is going on in the late 1990s, there were reports all over the place that HLF was suspected of contributing to Hamas.”

Fox chyron: “Terror Links. Ground Zero Mosque's Money Man Under Scrutiny.” During Leaf's interview, the following onscreen text appeared, alleging “terror links” to the Park51 project:

Fox & Friends later speculates both that terrorist-linked “charities” could donate to Park51 and that Park51 could donate to “Hamas based organizations.” Later on Fox & Friends, Jerrick asked Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham to “bring us, our viewers, up to date on what you have learned. Apparently one of the people that has given money, also gave money to Hamas in a way, at least an organization supporting Hamas.” Ingraham noted that HLF “back then was not deemed to be in violation of our anti-terrorism funding laws” but then went on to say that this revelation “raises just one more question” as to whether potential donors to the Park51 project could have ties to terrorism. Ingraham stated: "[T]his is the murky nature of some of these, quote, 'charities' that might be giving money to this -- to this project." Guest co-host Peter Johnson Jr. later speculated whether Park51 or those involved in project would “give money to Hamas based organizations.” Johnson said: “It's a bigger question, we're not going to take money but the question becomes, will you not give money to Hamas based organizations? Are they going to raise money and then give money?”

In fact, donation occurred when HLF was “deceiv[ing] the American public into believing” they were “a good charity”

Elzanaty's donation came years before U.S. government alleged they had ties to terror. As Leaf noted in his reporting, Elzanaty's donation occurred in 1999 and "[t]wo years later, in 2001, HLF was shut down by the federal government and designated as a global terrorist. After a mistrial in 2007, in 2008 five HLF leaders were convicted of providing material support to Hamas."

U.S. Attorney prosecuting HLF: “For 13 years, the defendants deceived the American public into believing” HLF was “a good charity.” A September 18, 2007 Los Angeles Times article on HLF officials' first trial reported:

Federal prosecutors mounted their final courtroom assault on former officials of a defunct Islamic charity on Monday, arguing that the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development funneled millions of dollars to support terrorists in the guise of helping needy Palestinian families.

“For 13 years, the defendants deceived the American public into believing” Holy Land was “a good charity,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Barry Jonas told jurors here. But, he said, the organization was a fundraising front for Hamas and for terrorist activities that helped “create widows and orphans” rather than coming to their aid.

DOJ indictment of HLF cited their “cloak of legitimacy” “to conceal its relationship to Hamas,” and including a program “with a benevolent appearance” to help orphans. In a 2008 superseding indictment, HLF was accused of supporting Hamas, in part by “sponsor[ing] orphans and needy families in the West Bank and Gaza.” The Department of Justice alleged:

In furtherance of HAMAS' goal of garnering support of the Palestinian people, the HLF sponsored orphans and needy families in the West Bank and Gaza. While the program was mantled with a benevolent appearance, the HLF specifically sought orphans and families whose relatives had died or were jailed as a result of furthering HAMAS' violent campaign, including suicide bombings.

The DOJ further alleged that the group “concealed its relationship with Hamas,” in part by “provid[ing] minimal support to legitimate charitable causes.” From the indictment:

In order to provide the HLF with a cloak of legitimacy and to conceal its relationship to HAMAS, the defendant Shukri Abu Baker discussed with the defendant Ghassan Elashi and others, the need to provide minimal support to legitimate charitable causes. In furtherance of this conspiracy, the defendants...carried out this plan, while providing a substantial amount of their financial assistance to organizations and programs, which operated on behalf of, or under the control of, HAMAS, and to families of HAMAS “martyrs,” detainees and others.

Geraldo on Fox & Friends: “I think you got to give that guy the benefit of the doubt.” Later on the September 3 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News host Geraldo Rivera pointed out:

GERALDO: The second thing is that the guy who gave the $6,000 to the Holy Land Foundation, it was in 1999. That is almost three years prior to 9/11. The Holy Land Foundation was not on any terror watch list. And more importantly, what has not been pointed out this morning is that that fellow's parents were killed - remember that Egypt Air, talk about Nantucket, went down there when the pilot, you know, Allah Akbar [sic], drives the aircraft into the sea, over 200 dead. This is a guy you would expect if he had a normal human reaction to something as traumatic and hideous as that would go the other way rather than toward terrorism against terrorism. I think you got to give that guy the benefit of the doubt.

Geraldo also noted “Remember, Hamas was not on the terror list yet. Subsequently became and in retrospect it's easy. But in '99, you could give money freely to that. So although I applaud the enterprise of the investigation, I think it deserves extreme caution and some skepticism.”