Menu JTA Search

Family cheers Holy Land indictment

CLEVELAND, Aug. 3 (JTA) — In 1996, 17-year-old David Boim was standing with four friends at a bus stop in front of his West Bank yeshiva. Two Palestinians, members of Hamas, drove by, spraying the bus stop with bullets, killing David. In May 2000, his parents, Stanley and Joyce Boim, filed a $600 million suit against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and several other Islamic non-profit organizations. The Boims charge that these Islamic charities aided their son’s murderers by sending funds to Hamas, which used the money to buy weapons and carry out terrorist acts. This week, the government unsealed a federal grand jury indictment against the foundation and seven of its leaders on charges that they funneled millions to Hamas, a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel. Stanley Boim, who made aliyah in 1985, feels his case helped pave the way to attack terrorism on legal grounds. In December 2001, when he first heard that President Bush shut down the Holy Land Foundation, freezing its assets, he said to himself, “I was there first.” The latest charges against the foundation only confirm the substance of his original suit, Boim told the Cleveland Jewish News in a phone interview from Israel. “We wanted to deter terrorism, to spotlight groups that hide behind the veneer of charitable organizations and support terror,” he said. “We have set a precedent by going not after the terrorists themselves, but those who have supported terrorism.” Other Boim family members expressed their appreciation for the government’s indictment, which they say can only help their case. David Boim, who held dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, was the nephew of Louis and Chanie Malcmacher of Cleveland Heights. The family is “delighted” that the Holy Land Foundation has “finally been indicted,” Louis Malcmacher said. Since 1997, when the government designated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization, it has been a crime to knowingly provide material support to the group. In 2001, at least two Muslim fund-raisers for the charity were held in Cleveland, an FBI source told the Plain Dealer. “More than anything, the family feels it’s high time we really took terrorism to the courts in this country, to go after these known terrorist organizations funneling money to terrorists,” says Malcmacher. “It’s been a long time, too long, in coming.” Last month, a federal appeals court upheld the Holy Land Foundation’s designation as a foreign terrorist organization and the freezing of its assets. The government has investigated the organization since 1993. In 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft declared the group, once the largest Islamic charity in the U.S., the “North American front for Hamas.” For its part, the foundation has said the funds it raised supported schools, hospitals and other relief efforts for orphans in the West Bank and Gaza. It denies funds ever went to Hamas terrorists. After the 42-count indictment was unsealed July 27, five leaders of the foundation were arrested. Two of its officials were out of the country and the government has declared them fugitives. The men face charges of providing support to a terrorist organization, money laundering, tax evasion and conspiracy. Rick Hoffman, a Chicago attorney representing the Boims in their suit against the Holy Land Foundation, says he’s not sure whether this week’s indictments against the Texas charity will impact his case. However, he does expect the Boim case to go to trial Dec. 1, before the government tries its criminal case against the defendants. His firm has already taken depositions from several of the men indicted this week. Most pled the Fifth Amendment. “We’ve got their testimony,” says Hoffman. “Whether the indictments affect their willingness to testify at trial — I’m not sure they would have testified at trial anyway.” The Holy Land Foundation, located in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, “exists to create an Islamic Palestinian state throughout Israel by eliminating the state of Israel through violent jihad,” the government charges in its indictment. Since 1995, the group sent $12.4 million to Hamas-controlled hospitals, Islamic committees and other organizations in the West Bank and Gaza, in order to funnel money to terrorist causes. Money was then given to family members of those “martyred” or jailed in terrorist attacks. Nancy Hollander, one of the attorneys representing the Holy Land Foundation and its officials, adamantly insists the organization never provided money to Hamas. The day before the indictment was unsealed, Hollander’s firm filed a formal complaint with the Justice Department asserting that the FBI falsified evidence and fabricated a case against HLF to show it financed Palestinian suicide bombers. Hollander says the FBI used an erroneous translation of Israeli intelligence material. She said two independent translators the firm hired found numerous mistakes. For example, in one statement, a Holy Land manager in the West Bank said the foundation gave some money to Hamas. But in the original, the manager never made such an admission, Hollander says. “I’m not an apologist for Hamas, nor are my clients,” says Hollander, one of the attorneys who defended Imam Fawaz Damra in his Akron trial last month. The Parma imam was convicted of concealing his ties to terrorist organizations on his citizenship papers. “I have nothing good to say about Hamas at all.” Unsealing the indictment at this time, during the presidential election campaign and the Democratic National Convention, is politically motivated, Hollander says. There’s nothing new in the indictment. “If the government has legitimate evidence that a foundation was supporting Hamas, they would be right to file charges,” she said. “But they have no evidence. “Everyone should be concerned about this manipulation of our criminal justice system.”