Ahead of a Wednesday afternoon congressional hearing on terror financing, the House Ways and Means Committee has its sights set on a handful of charities that lawmakers worry appear to share certain ties with Hamas, whose Oct. 7 terrorist attack against Israel has since killed more than 1,400 people in the Jewish state. Recent reports on tax-exempt organizations “supporting or financing” terror are “deeply concerning,” according to Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), the panel’s chairman.
“The American people have a right to know whether organizations with beneficial U.S. tax treatment are complicit in the vicious attack on the Jewish people or any act of terrorism around the world, and the Ways and Means Committee will continue to investigate these developments to ensure these tax-exemptions are not being abused and Americans are not unknowingly financing violence,” Smith told the Washington Examiner.
The hearing on Wednesday will also focus on the surge in pro-Hamas and antisemitic activities on college campuses across the United States. Witnesses include Vice President Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, Cornell University student Talia Dror, Hillel International CEO Adam Lehman, Israeli actress Noa Tishby, and Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
Members of Congress have particularly sounded the alarm over terror-tied groups supporting Gaza since Oct. 7 while expressing support for federal investigations following Washington Examiner reports on pro-Palestinian activist hubs praising and meeting with terrorists. Many of the groups leading recent U.S. demonstrations against Israel, including the Palestinian Youth Movement, ANSWER, and Al-Awda, have opaque “dark money” funding structures and are projects of foundations with tax-exempt status under the IRS.
House Ways and Means Republicans are, for instance, eyeing oversight into the Zakat Foundation of America, an Illinois-based charity that has in the past partnered with the Islamic Charitable Society. A West Bank-based group, ICS has pocketed cash from the Holy Land Foundation, a defunct charity shuttered by the U.S. government in 2001 due to Hamas support and later sanctioned, according to bank records obtained by the FBI.
ZFA Executive Director Halil Demir worked previously for the Benevolence International Foundation, another defunct charity, according to tax forms filed with the IRS in 2001. Benevolence International Foundation was designated by the Treasury Department as a financier of terrorism in 2002.
“We are not and never have been,” ZFA Chief Operating Officer Amina Demir told the Washington Examiner when asked about Hamas-link allegations.
Ways and Means Republicans are also eyeing oversight of Islamic Relief USA, which partners with ZFA, according to a source familiar. Islamic Relief USA is affiliated with Islamic Relief Worldwide, which Israel banned in 2014 for allegedly funneling cash to Hamas.
“In the Gaza Strip, Islamic Relief [Worldwide] funds organizations closely linked to the terrorist organization, Hamas,” the Middle East Forum think tank said in a 2018 report, adding that the group funded a project run by a senior Hamas official.
In 2021, the State Department said it was “conducting a full review of the organization and U.S. government funding” over its “antisemitism.” The banking giant HSBC cut ties with Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2016 over apparent terror ties, according to multiple reports. UBS and Credit Suisse, two other banks, did the same, according to documents.
Other groups the Ways and Means Committee is investigating include Students for Justice in Palestine, an anti-Israel group with chapters on college campuses organizing protests, plus American Muslims for Palestine and its affiliated Americans for Justice in Palestine, a source familiar said.
Students for Justice in Palestine has long celebrated terrorism against Jews and expressed support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Hamas, and other terror factions, such as Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to a 2017 report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank. SJP’s recent Stanford University leader, Kristian Davis Bailey, joined Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) in 2015 to co-found Black for Palestine, an anti-Israel group in Detroit that has rallied with PFLP members overseas, the Washington Examiner reported.
As for American Muslims for Palestine, the charity is already under the microscope due to Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares in late October announcing his office “has reason to believe” AMP is illegally soliciting donations in the state due to not being registered with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Miyares is reviewing allegations from a lawsuit that AMP “may have used funds raised for impermissible purposes,” including “benefiting or providing support to terrorist organizations.”
The lawsuit is from the family of the late David Boim, a 17-year-old killed in a 1996 West Bank attack, and alleges AMP is an alter ego for the Islamic Association for Palestine and Holy Land Foundation, court records show. Boim’s relatives were awarded $52 million from both IAP and HLF in 2004 over the since-dissolved groups allegedly “providing material support to Hamas,” court records show.
The family says AMP’s leadership and operations came directly from the two dissolved organizations.
News of some of the Ways and Means Committee’s priorities ahead of the hearing comes one week after the pro-Israel think tank Zachor Legal Institute sent senior congressional staffers a memo alleging that Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups “exploit” little-known “loopholes” to fundraise in the U.S., the Washington Examiner reported.
Both congressional committees confirmed receipt of the memo.
The memo argued that Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control should strengthen its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List, which includes individuals and groups, such as terrorists or drug traffickers, that are prohibited from gaining access to U.S. assets. Zachor’s president, Marc Greendorfer, expressed concerns to Ways and Means, as well as the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that fiscally sponsored projects of charities have been given a “loophole” to boost terrorism.
Through fiscal sponsorship, registered charities often provide services, such as donation processing, human resources, and legal oversight, to projects housed under them, according to the National Council of Nonprofits.
Zachor’s memo mentioned Alliance for Global Justice, an Arizona charity revealed through a Washington Examiner investigation to share Palestinian terror ties. AFGJ notably fiscally sponsors the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, an Israeli-designated terror coalition that has shared staffers with the PFLP.
At least eight combined payment processors and donors jumped ship this year from AFGJ following revelations of its terror ties. Greendorfer and other watchdogs have accused AFGJ of providing “material support to terrorism.”
The IRS did not return a request for comment.