Col. (res.) Dr. Moshe Elad, a lecturer in the Middle East Department of the Western Galilee Academic College, who served in senior positions in the territories for 30 years, is attempting to answer these questions.
"The vast majority of Hamas founders and leaders were refugees or second generation refugees, and some of them were the product of marriages between Egyptians and Palestinians. They had no money at all. When they and Hamas were just starting out, the organization (not in its own name) was nurtured by the Israeli military government, which fostered the Islamic associations working in the Gaza Strip as a counterweight to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Their phenomenal wealth started accumulating when they decided to disassociate themselves from Israel and search for alternative financing sources."
Elad explains that the money came from two directions: "Legacies from the deceased; money from charity funds; a donation called zaka, one of the six pillars of Islam; and donations from various countries. It started with Syria and Saudi Arabia, with Iran added later and becoming one of Hamas's biggest supporters, and ended with Qatar, which has now taken Iran's place."
Together with the donations from various countries, fundraisers began operating in the US to collect money for Hamas. Here, the Hamas leaders began to get their hands on some really big money. "One of those fundraisers was Dr. Musa Abu Marzook, the number 2 man in Hamas," Elad says. "At the beginning of the 1990s, he began a fundraising campaign in the US among wealthy Muslims, while at the same time founding several banking enterprises. He himself became a conglomerate of 10 financial enterprises giving loans and making financial investments. He's an amazing financier."
The US administration ordered Marzook's arrest in 1995 on charges of supporting terrorism. After he spent two years in a US prison, it was decided to expel him without trial. He kept the money. "When he was expelled from the US in 1997, he was already worth several million dollars," Elad says, adding, "Somehow he evaded the clutches of the US Internal Revenue Service and was not charged with financing terrorism. People in the know say he probably became connected to the administration and cooperated with it. There is no proof, but it's hard to think of any other reason why he escaped punishment for such serious offenses. In 2001, in the investigation of the September 11 events, it turned out that he had extensive financial connections with Al Qaeda, including the transfer of funds to the 21 Al Qaeda operatives accused of the attacks."
Today, Marzook is considered one of Hamas's wealthiest billionaires. "Arab sources estimate his wealth at $2-3 billion," Elad says.
Another Hamas leader-turned-tycoon is Khaled Mashaal. "Estimates around the world are that Mashaal is currently worth $2.6 billion, but the numbers mentioned by the Arab commentators (based on their many sources) are much higher, varying from $2-5 billion invested in Egyptian and Persian Gulf banks, and some in real estate projects in the Persian Gulf countries," Elad adds.
The next tycoon on the list is Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. "He is a scion of a family from the Al-Shati refugee camp, and his capital is estimated at $4 million," Elad says, adding, "He registered most of his assets in the Gaza Strip in the name of his son-in-law, Nabil, and in the name of a dozen of his sons and daughters and a few less well known Hamas leaders. They all have homes in good neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip, where the value of every home is at least $1 million."Thank you Bill Clinton (it was Clinton who released Marzouk).
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