|Hamas insiders at 2012 Gaza rally: Things have been working out surprisingly|
well for them; not so great for ordinary Gazans [Image Source]
An analytical piece with the improbable title "Meet the Hamas billionaires" appeared in Israel's main business newspaper, Globes, on July 24, 2014. It offers what we think is a serious explanation by taking a close look at the extraordinary phenomenon of
how much the Hamas leaders, the Arab world's new tycoons, are worth, and how they, born and raised in refugee camps, who raise aloft the cause of their people's welfare, have become so wealthy and reclusive.Authored by Ella Levy-Weinrib, it is largely based on original research by Dr. Moshe Elad of the Western Galilee Academic College in Acre. His career in the IDF included three decades of senior positions in Judea and Samaria.
Elad's thesis is that the founders of the Hamas terrorist organization accumulated phenomenal personal wealth from tapping into Islamic charitable sources. These initially came from Syria and Saudi Arabia. At a later stage, Iran took a major role that today has been eclipsed by the stupendously-wealthy rulers of Qatar. He tracks the rise of the personal fortunes of several key Hamas figures.
|Haniyeh's newly-acquired style includes private jets|
Born into an exceedingly modest family from the Al-Shati refugee camp, Haniyeh today has some $4 million, according to Elad. Not exactly in Khaled Mashaal's league or Marzook's (see below), but none too shabby. Elad says Haniyeh has taken the trouble to register most of his assets in the Gaza Strip in the name of a son-in-law, Nabil, as well as the names of a dozen sons and daughters and several lesser-known Hamas insiders. All have homes in good neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip "where the value of every home is at least $1 million." Haniyeh became prime minister of the Palestinian regime after Hamas won legislative elections in 2006. Mahmoud Abbas dismissed him from office in 2007 at the height of the Fatah–Hamas bloodbath; Haniyeh ignored this and has continued to exercise prime ministerial authority in the Gaza Strip ever since. Ynet, quoting the Egyptian news magazine Rose al-Yusuf in 2010, says Haniyeh paid a cool $4 million for a 2,500 square meter parcel of land area in Rimal, "a tony beachfront neighborhood of Gaza City... Since then, there have been reports that Haniyeh has purchased several homes in the Gaza Strip, registered in the names of his children - no hardship, as he has 13 of them."Khaled Mashaal:
|Mashaal in his private work-out room |
Born in a village near Ramallah in 1956, he moved with his family to Kuwait "for financial reasons" around 1967 according to Wikipedia and obtained his education there. Since that move, Mashaal has spent no part of his adult life living in Gaza or the Palestinian Arab towns of the West Bank. Nonetheless he has risen to the position of head of Hamas' so-called “Political Wing”. A Jordanian website reported in 2012 that he controlled $2.6 billion of Hamas funds including investments in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Dubai. Residing these days in Doha, Qatar, Mashaal's personal worth may be larger than that. Globes: "The numbers mentioned by the Arab commentators (based on their many sources) are much higher, varying from $2-5 billion invested in Egyptian and Persian Gulf banks, and some in real estate projects in the Persian Gulf countries." His Wikipedia entry mentions a Hebrew-language article published this past week on the Walla site in which it is alleged Mashal appropriated, for himself and his inner circle the entire Hamas "Syrian Fund" consisting of hundreds of millions of US dollars when he departed Damascus (where he had lived for some years) in 2012 for a well-publicized life of opulence in Qatar. The Jerusalem Post recently disclosed how that money smuggling caper worked ["The corruption at the head of Hamas"].Musa Abu Marzook:
|Marzook in 1996 [Image Source]|
The one-time chief of the Hamas Political Bureau was born in Gaza in 1951. He eventually made his way to the United States where he pursued a notably undistinguished education, making his largest mark at Louisiana Tech in the use of bar code technology. A 1995 article in the Washington Post quoted one of his professors observing that "he was not a bright student" who received a number of incomplete grades. But it turned out that he had a knack for taking money from others, particularly wealthy American Moslems. This skill eventually led to his sitting atop a financial services conglomerate of his own. Marzook was arrested by the US authorities in 1995 and charged [indictment here] with racketeering and terrorism. He spent two years in a US prisons and was eventually expelled from the US in 1997. By then, says Elad, "He was already worth several million dollars [and] evaded the clutches of the US Internal Revenue Service and was not charged with financing terrorism. People in the know say he probably became connected to the administration and cooperated with it. There is no proof, but it's hard to think of any other reason why he escaped punishment for such serious offenses." The Globes articles quotes Arab sources estimating his wealth today at more than $2 billion.Iman (also known as Ayman) Taha:
|Iman Taha: Aspirational and |
facing corruption charges within Hamas
Not a household name even in Israel, and far from Hamas' highest levels, this aspirational junior Jihadist is one of several depicted in the Globes article as feeding from the Islamist trough. We stumbled across a 1998 Associated Press report that reveals him to be the son of a Hamas founder; so he's a Hamas insider and a man with access. Elad: "He was a poor rebellious kid from the al-Borg refugee camp, but he recently built a home in central Gaza worth at least $1 million. He's responsible for coordination between oversea Hamas and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and he's not even a leading figure, but he's already among the millionaires." In 2009, he was arrested by Egyptian border authorities [INN] attempting to bring a suitcase stuffed with dollars and Euros through the crossing; he was arrested, and the money was confiscated. Evidently the man is sufficiently resourceful to have overcome this minor setback. He currently faces larger problems, having been arrested by Hamas in February 2014 [source: Al-Quds] for engaging in certain "irregularities".The Globes piece steps back from the individuals to offer a view as to how so much money flowed to so few in a society so enmired in poverty:
- The Arshaq Al-Awsad (Middle East) newspaper, one of the most prestigious in the Arab world, recently reported that at least 600 millionaires were living in the Gaza Strip - the same people sitting on the money pipelines there...
- Senior Hamas leaders charged a 25% 'tax' and $2,000 on every disassembled vehicle coming through the tunnels. There are hundreds of smuggling tunnels from Egypt to Gaza, and these are the types of tunnel Israel has been less busy in destroying, because Egypt has destroyed many of them. From June 2007 until 2010, $800 million in cash was transferred in tunnel deals (according to information from Hamas money traders). Hamas also taxes Gaza merchants on everything traded, from boxes of vegetables to luxury cars, and the leaders scoop the money into their pockets."
- Hamas insiders "took over land mainly near the sea in good areas, such as the former Gush Katif, then sold it. In effect, they are the cat guarding the cream - the land - so they were able to take over land and loot it for themselves...
- "There are hundreds of fictitious names of soldiers and officials supposedly in Hamas. Actually, the leaders and officials put the money in their own pockets"...
- Elad: "What has united the Palestinian leaders all throughout the years is the saying, 'We have to get rich quick.' This is how the regime sees it. Their leaders have no shame. Shortly after they got power, they took control of fuel, communications, and any other profitable sectors in the country. There are get-rich-quick schemes and corruption in Western society, too, but there it's done sophisticatedly with envelopes of money and complex structures of bribery and the like. Among the Palestinians, they tell you straight out, 'I want to get rich.'"