SINGER v. BANK OF PALESTINE
Osen LLC (together with co-counsel) represents 20 families who were victims of terrorist attacks committed by the Palestinian Foreign Terrorist Organization (“FTO”) known as Hamas. The Amended Complaint in Singer v. Bank of Palestine alleges that Bank of Palestine, headquartered in Ramallah, aided and abetted Hamas by knowingly providing financial services and maintaining accounts for the terrorist organization.
Hamas was established in December 1987 with the help of a pre-existing da’wa (social welfare) infrastructure – the network of Muslim Brotherhood institutions established by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and other senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Gaza that became the backbone of Hamas’s physical infrastructure and political power base. Since its founding, Hamas’s da’wa organizations have played a direct role in facilitating the group’s terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings. For example, then-FBI Deputy Director John Pistole testified to Congress in 2003 that at least “a portion” of contributions made to Hamas fronts directly support “the terrorist organization’s military wing;” other funds also support Hamas attacks indirectly, as “any contribution to Hamas, for any purpose, frees up other funds for its planned violence.” Similarly, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in United States v. El-Mezain that even though the defendants’ transfers were made to Hamas da’wa institutions that “performed some legitimate charitable functions,” “by supporting such entities, the defendants facilitated Hamas’s activity by furthering its popularity among Palestinians and by providing a funding resource” that “allowed Hamas to concentrate its efforts on violent activity.”
The Complaint alleges that Bank of Palestine knowingly maintained accounts and facilitated international funds transfers for prominent Hamas organizations in the Gaza Strip such as Al-Mujama Al-Islami (The Islamic Center), Al-Jam’iya Al-Islamiya (The Islamic Society), and Al Salah Islamic Society, among other well-known Hamas institutions there.
Islamic Center of Gaza (Al-Mujama Al-Islami)
The Islamic Center of Gaza or the Islamic Complex-Gaza, otherwise known as Al-Mujama Al-Islami, is one of the oldest and most important charities comprising Hamas’s da’wa network. Formally established in 1973, Al-Mujama focused in the 1970s on building new mosques to establish a power base for the Muslim Brotherhood outside the traditional channels of the Islamic religious authorities in the Gaza Strip. Sheikh Yassin, a founder of Hamas and its spiritual leader until his death, founded Al-Mujama, which he originally developed as an umbrella organization for several religious charities and groups in Gaza. Yassin’s deputy, Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi, was also a co-founder of both Al-Mujama and Hamas, and both of them have been featured in the organization’s fundraising literature. Six of the seven co-founders of Hamas were members of Al-Mujama. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Al-Mujama turned its attention to facilitating a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the Islamic University of Gaza, which further extended its influence in Gaza. In 1993, Hamas operative Muin Shabib, speaking at a Hamas meeting in Philadelphia, tied Al-Mujama to Hamas and described it – along with others – as “our organizations.” Due to Al-Mujama’s ties to Hamas, it was declared an “unlawful organization” in 2002 by the Israeli government, and its accounts were frozen by the Palestinian Authority in 2003. In May 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice identified Al-Mujama as an “organization that operates on behalf of, or under the control of, Hamas,” in the list of unindicted co-conspirators in the United States v. Holy Land Foundation criminal trial.
Islamic Society Gaza (Al-Jam’iya Al-Islamiya)
The Islamic Society Gaza or Islamic Association-Gaza, otherwise known as Al-Jam’iya Al-Islamiya, is one of the largest and oldest charitable organizations within Hamas’s da’wa network. It was founded in 1976 by Sheikh Yassin. Like the Islamic Center of Gaza, Hamas operative Muin Shabib described the Islamic Society of Gaza as one of “our organizations” at the 1993 Hamas meeting in Philadelphia. Due to the Islamic Society’s ties to Hamas, it was declared an “unlawful organization” in 2002 by the Israeli government, and its accounts were frozen by the Palestinian Authority in 2003. In a letter dated November 28, 2002, the German Intelligence Service informed the German Ministry of the Interior in Berlin that “[t]he association Al-Jam’iya Al-Islamiya should be considered closely associated to HAMAS’ sphere of influence.” Several individuals were centrally involved in both Al-Jam'iya and Hamas, including Sheikh Yassin, who was involved in founding both; Ahmad Bahar; and Ibrahim al-Yazuri. A particularly disturbing example of indoctrination activity conducted at the Islamic Society is reflected in a video of a graduation ceremony for one of its kindergartens, in which the children were dressed in Hamas uniforms, carried mock rifles, and swore an oath “to pursue jihad, resistance, and Intifada.” In May 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice identified Al-Jam’iya as an “organization that operates on behalf of, or under the control of, Hamas,” in the list of unindicted co-conspirators in the United States v. Holy Land Foundation criminal trial.
Al Salah Society
According to the U.S. government, the al Salah Society, or Jamiyat al-Salah, is a key part of Hamas’s charitable network. It quotes Ismail Abu Shanab, a senior Gaza-based Hamas founder and leader, stating that al Salah is “one of the three charities that form Hamas’ welfare arm.” According to a 2001 article in The New York Times, al Salah received funding from Saudi Arabia, and “money is then wired to a Gaza branch of the private, Palestinian-owned Arab Bank: $5,000 for spouses or parents of those killed, $2,500 for the wounded.” Due to al Salah’s ties to Hamas, it was declared an “unlawful organization” in 2002 by the Israeli government, and its accounts were frozen by the Palestinian Authority in 2003. In a letter dated November 28, 2002, the German Intelligence Service informed the German Ministry of the Interior in Berlin that “[t]he association Jam’iyat al-Salah / Al-Salah Islamic Association in the center of the Gaza Strip is an Islamic charitable society directly linked associated with HAMAS.” After the PA’s aforementioned action in 2003, it confirmed that al Salah was indeed a front for Hamas, a fact underscored by the Treasury Department’s subsequent designation of al Salah in 2007. According to the Treasury Department, “Hamas has used the Al-Salah Society, as it has other charitable fronts, to finance its terrorist agenda,” and “Al Salah supported Hamas affiliated combatants during the first Intifada and recruited and indoctrinated youth to support Hamas’ activities. It also financed commercial stores, kindergartens and the purchase of land for Hamas.” Al Salah was, for over a decade, directed by Ahmad Al-Kurd, who was also designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and tied to Hamas: “Al-Kurd’s affiliation with Hamas goes back over a decade. During the First Intifada, Al-Kurd served as a Hamas Shura Council member in Gaza. As of late 2003, Al-Kurd was allegedly the top Hamas leader in Deir al-Balah, Gaza. Since mid-2005, he has served as the mayor of Deir Al-Balah, elected as a Hamas candidate.” In May 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice identified al Salah as an “organization that operates on behalf of, or under the control of, Hamas,” in the list of unindicted co-conspirators in the United States v. Holy Land Foundation criminal trial.
The Complaint further alleges that Bank of Palestine “understood the value and importance to Hamas of the bank’s role in facilitating large transfers of funds, including U.S. dollars, from donors and co-conspirators around the world and making those funds available to Hamas.” Complaint, ¶ 717.
On April 30, 2021, the District Court denied Bank of Palestine’s motion to dismiss without prejudice to renew its motion. The Court did not reach the merits, finding that Plaintiffs were entitled to jurisdictional discovery to try to establish the threshold issue that the Court had personal jurisdiction over Bank of Palestine. If Plaintiffs can make that showing within the time period allocated for jurisdictional discovery, the Court will consider Bank of Palestine’s merits-based arguments.
Plaintiffs and Bank of Palestine are currently engaged in jurisdictional discovery.