The first witness for the government in the Chicago trial of alleged Hamas operatives Mohammed Salah and Abdelhaleem al-Ashqar was Matthew Levitt, current Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the U.S. Treasury Department, former Director of Terrorism Studies at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and a former Contributing Expert to the CT Blog (see his archived posts). He is also the author of "Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad," considered a leading text on the terrorist group. He testified as an expert witness for the government on the history, structure, and activities of Hamas.
Dr. Levitt testified that Hamas was founded in 1987 in the Gaza Strip by Palestinians associated with the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood. The Government asked him to explain how Hamas reacted to the Oslo Accords and the Movement's views on the territories. Peace talks which would divide historic Palestine is in opposition to the views of Hamas, which considers the entire territory to be Muslim land. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Ferguson questioned Dr. Levitt in detail about the Hamas charter, with Arabic and English copies admitted into evidence. Two of the most important sections of the charter which pertain to this case read that "The Jihad (جهاد) for Palestine is an individual duty" and that "Whosoever mobilizes a fighter for the sake of Allah, he himself is a fighter." William Moffitt, the lead defense lawyer for Abdelhaleem al-Ashqar, claimed in his opening statement that Ashqar merely sent books to poor Palestinians and voiced his dissent concerning the Oslo Accords. Dr. Levitt confirmed in his testimony that a person who sends books and preaches encouraging Jihad is a fighter for Hamas who "mobilizes a fighter for the sake of Allah…."
One term discussed in some detail is "Economic Jihad." U.S. Attorney Ferguson asked Dr. Levitt if he was familiar with the term and he replied that he was, causing William Moffitt, Ashqar's lawyer, to raise an objection. Moffitt objected to the use of this term because according to Moffitt, "Economic Jihad" was a term invented by Dr. Levitt and Steven Emerson, and therefore was not a Hamas word. Dr. Levitt continued stating that actually "Economic Jihad" is an Arabic term "al-Jihad bil Mal" (الجهاد بالمال) and certainly was not invented by him or by me. In fact, testified Dr. Levitt, Hizballah's leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah frequently uses the term. The terms concerns individuals who can't physically engage in Jihad being able instead to engage in a financial Jihad with their money, contributing, for instance, towards the purchase of weapons.
Dr. Levitt then began to testify about the threefold structure of Hamas: Political, Social Welfare, and Terrorist. Although these divisions are somewhat independent they are work together where, for instance, the Political Wing will take credit for a suicide bombing committed by the Terrorist Wing, and the Social Welfare Wing will control the university which recruited the suicide bomber. Levitt even stated that some universities hand out free class schedules that students can fill on. The schedules contain pictures of Suicide Bombers as well as quotes about fighting the Jews.
The Social Welfare of Hamas is known as Da'wa (دعوة) and is made up of schools, hospitals, universities, charities, youth centers, and mosques. This system of Da'wa engenders hatred in Palestinian society and further radicalizes an already radical population. Charities provide for the families of suicide bombers after they carry out attacks, hospitals treat family members of activists, schools bombard children with praises of martyrs and those who take up arms against occupation, while the mosques offer fiery Khutba (خطبة), reminding religious Muslims that it is their duty to wage Jihad against the infidel. Besides the obvious functions of this Da'wa network, they also serve as cover for members of Hamas' military wing by providing jobs.
The Government also questioned Dr. Levitt about the Military Wing of Hamas, the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades. Levitt testified that fighters for the Brigades are often recruited through the Da'wa and that terror cells are compartmentalized and that funding for terror operations comes from all over including the United States. While early activities of the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades consisted mainly of shootings and kidnappings, in the mid 1990's, attacks evolved into tactical bombings and then suicide bombings.
The Government concluded their direct examination of Dr. Levitt on Tuesday, October 24, and the Defense began their cross-examination starting with Mohammed Salah's lawyer, Michael Deutsch.
Cross-posted at Counterterrorism Blog.