College Students Could Never Give Hamas As Much Money As Netanyahu Did

Hey, Anti-Defamation League, I hear you're really concerned about who commits material support for terrorism! PLUS: A free screening of the groundbreaking documentary 'Israelism'!

College Students Could Never Give Hamas As Much Money As Netanyahu Did
An antiwar demonstrator at a Cornell University protest. Photo by Carmen Esparza Amoux, CC-BY-SA 4.0

Edited by Sam Thielman

IF YOU'RE A REGULAR READER OF HAARETZ, the left-most Israeli broadsheet, you're familiar with a persistent line of criticism aimed at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly post-Oct. 7. Netanyahu, for most of his extremely long (2009-2021) second premiership and into his third (2022-?), facilitated the Qatari financing of Hamas.

It was a cynical ploy that made sense as a means to prolong the Israeli suppression of Palestine. The policy was an open secret in Israel—to the point that in 2018, Ha'aretz's defense correspondent, Amos Harel, defended it as an alternative to war (oops). Harel's piece included photographs purporting to show suitcases full of Qatari cash heading for Gaza.

"The purpose of the doctrine was to perpetuate the rift between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank," explained Dmitry Shumsky in the Oct. 11 Haaretz, less than a week after the Hamas massacre. "That would preserve the diplomatic paralysis and forever remove the 'danger' of negotiations with the Palestinians over the partition of Israel into two states—on the argument that the Palestinian Authority doesn’t represent all the Palestinians."

Shumsky estimated that between 2012 and 2018, "Netanyahu gave Qatar approval to transfer a cumulative sum of about a billion dollars to Gaza, at least half of which reached Hamas, including its military wing." On Sunday, the New York Times did a long takeout on the policy, which mentioned that by 2021, when Netanyahu handed off power to the even-further-right Naftali Bennett—who continued the facilitation policy—"Qatar was spending roughly $30 million a month in Gaza."

That's a lot of money. I bring all this up because, as I reported for The Nation in late October, the pro-Israel faux-civil rights organization known as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wants to bring the force of the Justice Department onto college students in the United States for alleged material support for Hamas. The ADL has zero evidence that said college students are materially supporting terrorism—that is, providing financial or other tangible support to a banned organization—rather than offering rhetorical support to resistance in Gaza. They're trying to intimidate those who stand with Palestine into silence. 

Meanwhile, there sure is copious, documented evidence of Israel committing material support for Hamas. Weird oversight for the ADL, I know. 

The ADL's accusation against Students for Justice in Palestine doesn't have any plausibility to it if you think about it for more than ten seconds. Broke college students are funding Hamas? Hamas would surely be doomed if its revenue came from student associations. But for sake of argument, let's say it's true. There's no chance at all that SJP or any other vocal student opponent of Israeli apartheid, slaughter and incipient genocide could provide remotely as much as the reported monthly $30 million from Qatar that Israel, as a matter of longstanding policy, guaranteed. 

If we apply the ADL’s standard to the Netanyahu government, It doesn't matter that the money was Qatari and Israel was the facilitator. Under the U.S. material-support-for-terrorism statutes the ADL invokes, known legally as 2339A and 2339B—supercharged by the PATRIOT Act—facilitation is criminal. "In general, the offense of conspiracy to provide material support is complete upon assent; the support need only be planned, not delivered," explains a Congressional Research Service overview of American material-support laws. "Moreover, each of the conspirators is liable not only for the conspiracy, but for any other foreseeable offense committed by any of the conspirators in furtherance of the overall scheme." I'm no lawyer, but that would sure seem to cover complicity in Oct. 7. 

Were someone in the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to enforce the material-support statutes against Israel for its facilitation of payments to Hamas—for decades a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization—where would that end? Would the United States have to sanction Israel? Would it have to sanction itself for, say, providing Israel with billions annually, knowing that Israel has ensured payments to Hamas? (And that's to say nothing of the $106.5 million in 120-mm M830A1 anti-tank artillery rounds the Biden administration bypassed Congress on Friday to provide for Israel. Hamas, by the way, has no tanks; but Gaza sure has a lot of infrastructure that such artillery can demolish.) 

"Israel should be held accountable, as they clearly violated all elements of the statute in knowingly providing, conspiring to provide, and actually providing material support and resources to a specially-designated global terrorist (as defined by the U.S.)," Terry Albury, a former FBI counterterrorism special agent turned whistleblower, tells FOREVER WARS. "Because of institutional cowardice, lack of political will, and historical deference to Israel, the Department of (selective) Justice will never impartially uphold 2339B, as it's far easier to manufacture cases on economically impoverished and mentally deficient 'terrorists.'" 

As the phantom pretext of material support is used against those opposed to Israel's assault on Gaza, it's worth remembering that Israeli security officials for years drove the Qatari diplomat Mohammed al-Emadi, bearer of the millions in cash, "to the Kerem Shalom border crossing and into Gaza," per the Times. But the point of the U.S. looking askance at that is not consistency but domination. Or, as Albury puts it, "Sadly, we live in a world of legal ipse dixit, where laws are not equally applied and enforced."

FOR YEARS, I'VE STRUGGLED TO WRITE a piece about my Jewish education. 

Despite the years of Hebrew School I attended three days a week after public school let out, I can today understand maybe 20 words of Hebrew. When I say brachot or when I pray on high holidays, I am engaging in an act of ritual more than an act of connection with my heritage. (There's value in ritual, but let's put that aside for the moment.) But from before I was a teenager, I could and can to this day tell you the elaborate story I was taught about the Balfour Declaration, 1936, 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 and all the other milestones on the road to the creation and maintenance of the State of Israel. 

I don't mean to lay all this on the East Midwood Jewish Center or the shuls I attended before that one. I have to take my share of responsibility for, certainly, my post-Bar Mitzvah Jewish education. But I've struggled to express the feelings of spiritual emptiness and even mourning that come from the realization that I wasn't properly taught Judaism. As is very typical for diaspora Jews like myself, I was instead taught something that a groundbreaking new documentary names Israelism. 

Israelism gives language and voice to Jews, mostly young and in the diaspora, reckoning with the indoctrination we experienced. I watched it about two weeks ago—and let me tell you, I was at first afraid to watch it, and put off doing so. I was uncomfortable confronting this element of my upbringing. But seeing the film lay out in such vivid, human ways the processes by which we were taught that Israel was the happy ending redeeming us after the Shoah, with at most minor asterisks devoted to the Israeli project of suppressing and erasing the Palestinian nation, provided a catharsis I can barely voice. 

"Israelism is a newly-released documentary on the quickly-changing American Jewish relationship to Israel, as more and more young American Jews realize that the narratives they've been told about Israel largely erase the Palestinians," Erin Axelman, one of the directors of Israelism, tells FOREVER WARS. "As more and more American Jews begin to understand Palestinian narratives, they also come to the understanding that to live out our Jewish values, we must fight for Palestinian freedom and equality."

As you can surely imagine, Israelism is a controversial documentary that faces distribution challenges. If you're reading this on Dec. 11, Erin was kind enough to extend to you, the FOREVER WARS reader, a link to a free screening at 8pm Eastern. That screening will be followed by a Q&A with them and their team. And if you can't make it tonight, Erin has also gifted you with a registration link for a screening on Monday, Dec. 1.  

I suspect I'll have more to say about Israelism as I process it, either here or in another outlet. But for now, I encourage you to check out this powerful, even shattering, film. 

IN 2015, the Gaza strip hosted its first-ever TEDx lecture series event. The event took place in and honored the Gaza City neighborhood of Shujayea, which was heavily assaulted by Israel during the 2014 war. Speaking at the event was the Palestinian writer, academic, literary mentor, poet and symbol Refaat Alareer. Alareer was a resident of Shujayea, and his brother died in an Israeli bombing. "Shujayea refuses to be defeated. Shujayea is now the epitome of resurrection that refuses to kneel to Israel’s barbarity," Alareer said at the event.

On Dec. 6, Israeli warplanes killed Refaat Alareer, along with what Al-Jazeera reports were "several family members" in Gaza City. The Independent reports that he was killed in Shujayea. "He was full of energy, life and humour. He loved Chicago pizza, cats, history, classic music, theatre, poetry and Harry Potter," the Gazan writer Muhammad Shehada eulogized, as collected in this Middle East Eye remembrance. Many people circulated Alareer's poem, "If I Must Die." You should read it, but also remember that Alareer fought against the reduction of his life—of Palestinian life—to a martyrdom statistic. 

Ceasefire today. Binationalism tomorrow. Peace, freedom, equality, justice and security for everyone between the River and the Sea.