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July 28, 2014 1:54 am

Gaza’s Millionaires and Billionaires — How Hamas’s Leaders Got Rich Quick

avatar by Deborah Danan

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Khaled Meshaal in a meeting with spanish journalists. Photo: Traangal.

One of the mysteries of the current war in Gaza can be seen in the photos coming out of the tiny enclave: On the one hand, there is the desolation and squalor of Gaza neighborhoods where hundreds of thousands of Gazans live, and on the other, pictures of the homes owned by Hamas’s top officials, complete with gym equipment and fancy furniture, or else images of the five-star hotel suites where they stay.

It’s quite a conundrum; just how did these new tycoons, who grew up in refugee camps and who wave the banner of helping their people, become so filthily rich in such a short space of time?

According to Dr. Moshe Elad, a Middle East expert from the Western Galilee Academic College, most of the founders of Hamas were refugees or direct descendants of refugees. “Some of them were born of intermarriages between Egyptians and Gazans, with no money at all. In its putative stage, the organization – not yet called Hamas – fed off the Israeli military establishment, which funded Islamic associations in Gaza in an effort to counterbalance Fatah. On the day they decided to cut ties with Israel and seek funding elsewhere, their phenomenal wealth started growing”.

The money, Elad told the Israeli financial newspaper Globes, came from several directions. “Donations by the families of people who dies, charity money, called ‘zakala’ in Arabic and the donations of various countries. It started with Syria, Saudi Arabia, then Iran, one of the main sponsors, and ended with Qatar which has today taken Iran’s place.”

There were also campaigns to raise money in the US. “Moussa Abu Marzouk,” Elad says, “started raising funds among the rich Muslims in America and also established several bank funds.” Over time he built a conglomerate of 10 financial operations “that give loans and conduct investments. He’s an amazing financier.”

In 1995 the US arrested Abu Marzouk for activities supporting terrorism and after two years in jail, he was deported without trial. But he kept the money. “This man was worth several millions already in 1997, when he was expelled,” Elad says. “Somehow he managed to elude the IRS and a trial for his offenses. Some say he made contacts in the administration. It is not proven, but it is hard to find another reason for how he managed to get away with such heavy accusations against him.”

“In 200, during the 9/11 probe, it was found that he had ties with al Qaeda including money transfers made to the 21 al Qaeda operatives accused of carrying out the attack.”

Today, Abu Marzouk is one of the major billionaires in Hamas. “Arab estimates peg his fortune at 2-3 billion dollars,” Elad says. Another senior-official-turned-terror-tycoon is Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas’s political wing. “Global estimates say Mashaal is worth $2.6 billion,” but Arab commentators, with other sources, say he is worth between 2 and 5 billion, “invested in Egyptian banks and Gulf countries, some in real estate projects.”

Next on the list is Ismail Haniyeh, who until the recent signing of a unity deal between Hamas and Fatah was the Prime Minister of Gaza. “His fortune is estimated at 4 million dollars, and most of his assets in the Strip are registered in the name of his son in law Nabil, and a dozen children of his and other less known Hamas officials,” Elad says.

According to Elad, Ayman Taha, a mid-tier official, “was born in desolate poverty at the El Buraj refugee camp, but recently built a house worth at least a million bucks. He is in charge of coordinating Hamas operations inside and outside the Gaza Strip and is not even a senior member, but he’s already a member of the millionaire club.”

Most of their money comes from misused donations to the Gaza Strip, since every dollar passes through Hamas’s pipeline. Elad assesses that smuggling of goods through tunnels generates hundreds of millions a year and those who control the siphon became wealthy along the way. There are several hundred millionaires in Gaza and there would be hundreds more if smuggling would continue unabated. The man pulling the strings in Egypt is Khirat el Shatr, who is No. 2 in the Muslim Brotherhood. His connection to Hamas is allegedly based on a shared religious outlook, “but in effect it’s a thriving business, with a revenue of millions.”

Pan-Arab London based paper, Asharq al Awsat, which is considered a reliable media outlet, recently ran a story saying there are 600 millionaires in Gaza. Elad explains how the corrupt officials charge: Every car load smuggled through the tunnels was taxed by a fixed sum of $2000 and additionally 25% of the value of goods. Between June 2007 and 2010 the tunnel smuggling business generated $800 million. Hamas also taxed all merchants in Gaza, from car retailers to sellers of fruit and vegetables. Hamas also took over lands and then resold them at a profit.

Hamas also apparently published fictitious names of employees to sponsors abroad and then scooped up their salaries and distributed them between a few senior members.

Corruption in Hamas, Elad says, is not just rampant but extrovert. “What’s unique about Palestinian leaders over the years is the motto ‘Get rich quick’. Leaders there have no shame. They take over crucial industries like communications and gasoline as soon as they take the reins. In Western society you also have people gaining wealth quickly and corruptly, but there it is usually done subtly with envelopes of cash and elaborate forms of bribery which are not easy to track down. But the Palestinians will say to your face: ‘I want to be rich’.”

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  • Meyer Mussry

    Arafat wasn’t even from Palestine – he was Egyptian!

  • Rose Alper


  • Sherlock Holmes

    The world commuity gives the PA billions of dollars which goes for building terror tunnels and lining the pockets of PA officials. When will the EU, USA, UN and others learn?

  • Chad Weisman

    Benjamin netanyahu’s salary is somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 a year

  • Eucef

    This whole article is Israeli propaganda. It’s all lies and distortions. Don’t believe a word they say.

    • jon johns

      Of course its propaganda. Everything that criticizes the scum of the earth like hamas always is. Imbeciles like you can only attack the jews.

    • Eldar Moore

      That is why so many Muslims are so dumb, they believe everything that is true is a propaganda while believing in a lie. Result is how high Israel has got and how low you Muslims are.

  • Palestinian Officials can’t touch ( The Trillions ) of what Jews have Stolen from America and other Gentile countries in the World !

    • Tom

      Not stolen but received you antisemitic hater , unlike the Arab countries who stole all the fortunes the Jews had after 1967. and I understand why you feel bad when you know your country gives her money to us (but it just make me feel even better about everything 🙂 )

      • WatchIt

        ^ White supremacist

    • Moti

      They have even secret accounts in Israeli banks.Arafat had in bank LEUMI at the Hachashmonaiim branch.

      Hopeless people are good sttuff for Jiadists/terrorists

  • Sherlock Holmes

    Arafat proved you CAN take it with you. He supposedly took about five billion dollars of PLO money, which he invested in French and Swiss banks. Not a bad profit for a ‘freedom fighter’.

  • The Watchman

    I see that the usual Israel bashing BollockBrains are posting here and who in their hatred wilfully refuse to see the difference between, genuinely earning money, creating jobs, products and wealth for others, and the HAMAS terror kleptocrats who keep their people poor, badly housed “victims”, paraded on the world stage for the edification of the usual leftists and apologists for terror, while they themselves live the high life in safe Qatar, the taxes and “aid” money filling their sectretive bank accounts that sit alongside the stolen Jewish gold, art and money in Switzerland.

  • Pingback: No Friend Of Israel Works With the UN to Place Israel on a Blacklist For Harming Children » Choosing Life - God's Gift To The Unborn()

  • Michal NK

    Middle East Peace AND Terror are a couple of cash cows for those involved on all sides.

    • SLMorris

      On “all sides”? Let’s try this: hamass stops building terror tunnels and stops lobbing mortars, rockets and missiles at Israel; hamass and the PA stop celebrating terror attacks and terrorists; hamass and the PA stop broadcasting pure hatred on their radio and TV; hamass and the PA stop teaching their children that Zionists, Israelis and Jews are less than monkeys. Then let’s see what happens.

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    • Rose Alper


  • hassan hammoud

    The people of Gaza deserve to know the truth. Why do we never hear of these facts from main stream media. Where are the decent objective hardworking journalists?

    • dave777

      But our corrupt politicians are bought off on Saudi/UAE money to ignore where all the Hamas get money for being rich and bomb/rockets for genocide.

      I imagine UN gets lots of brown envelopes to avoid Hamas declared as the terrorists they are.

      If we had honest government ourselves, they would expose how Hamas rockets were financed and by whom.

    • Mitchito

      Good Question, Hassan Hammoud!

      I suspect the hardworking journalists end up like NIZAR NAYYOUPH in Syria all through the 1990’s and aughts. Assad Family LLC & the Baath Party apparatchiks kept NIZAR NAYYOUPH in Tadmor Prison (see Human Rights Watch Reports around year 2000) being tortured, although they did not kill him. Not much global protest even in the Umma or in the civil liberties-loving West.

      Many other hardworking journalists in all countries (east or west) risk imprisonment or death (usually under mysterious circumstances or they just disappear). Sometimes the high tech imperial powers like U.S. years after the invasion of Iraq just target Al Jazeera crewmember rooms in hotel from the air or via cell phone bomb. In West Bank of Palestine the Israeli military & border troops just kept breaking the video camera of a peaceful protester against occupation and loss of land to security fence.

      That 2012 film named FIVE BROKEN CAMERAS by Palestinian director Emad Burnat and Israeli director Guy Davidi won the U.S. Utah Sundance and Yerevan, Armenia Golden Apricot Film Festival Awards before being nominated for the 2012 Hollywood Oscar for Best Documentary. That movie teaches not only Israelis & Palestinians how peaceful protest is handled (if protest demonstrations don’t bleed, they don’t lead the headlines or New Info’tainment broadcasts) but also teaches the world of news-starved human beings seeking peaceful change and progress out of the DEATH TRAP that there is a choice of different paths to safety, civil struggle and stability. When we in the FREE WORLD do not take our cues from such signals to press our own governments for peaceful resolution, we become part of the problem we complain about.

      Thanks to you for noticing and for your willingness to question and seek independent non-scripted answers…


    • Joseph Feld

      ‘Where are the decent, objective hardworking journalists?’ Why do you assume they exist? Perhaps I’ve missed them but I haven’t noticed many in the BBC, Guardian, NY Times, Independent, Haaretz et al.

  • והנשיא שמעון פרס, מקיבוץ אלומות, כיצד הוא נעשה לטייקון ?!

    “And President Shimon Peres, Kibbutz beams, how he became a “‹”‹tycoon!”

    • שלומית

      הנשיא פרס (שלשמחתי הוא כבר נשיא לשעבר) לא נקרא בכדי “החתרן הבלתי נלאה”. הוא עשה את הונו בצורה מושחתת בדיוק כמו השמאלנים בכל העולם וכמו הארגונים עוכרי ישראל שמפזרים כסף לכל מי שפועל להרס ישראל. פרס פעל רבות כנגד ישראל – ×›×›×” הוא עשה את הכסף שלו.

    • טוב שלא הגזמת, טייקון הוא לא, והוא גם לא מנפנף בעושר שלו וטס במטוסים פרטיים כמו 2 הטרוריסטים פה, ההשוואה מיותרת, ובהמשך לשאלתך, הבן של שמעון פרס, חמי פרס הוא אחד משותפי קרן הון הסיכון פיטנגו שהשקיעה בעשרות פרוייקטים מוצלחים וחמי עצמו הרוויח הרבה מאוד כסף מהסיפור.

      “Well not exaggerating, the tycoon is not, and is not waving his wealth and flew in private jets as two terrorists here, the comparison unnecessary, and further to your question, son of Shimon Peres, Chemi Peres is one of the partners Pitango Venture Capital has invested in dozens of successful projects and Chemi himself earned a lot money story.”

  • Eric Hand

    Deborah – You write great stories + you are beautiful & brave to go where you do as Jewish woman!
    You make me sorry I’m only 1.74% Jewish, according to 23&Me.

  • E Pluribus Wombat

    So what? Who cares if the Gazans live like animals. They voted for it so hard even Jimmy Carter approved of their choice.

  • Dr.M.Otero

    It seems that no matter what political or economic system we devise, there will always be scoundrels who must steal and subvert the system to their own ends.
    Those who engage in the very act of selling a “better system” enrich themselves in the process at the public’s expense. Witness what most are doing under the guise of bringing others democracy or free markets!

  • mjazzguitar

    Arafat was worth billions too and everyone knows his wife is a millionaire in Paris.
    It might have been cheaper and we may have had better results telling them we’d pay all their bills and they could live for free without working for the rest of their lives.

  • Glen

    They are stealing away the future of their own people while using Israel as a tool in which to mask their own crimes on the people of Gaza.
    From now on, each time I hear Hamas blaming Israel for the poor living conditions for the majority of civilians in Gaza, I will now assume that one of the Hamas officials has just transferred himself a few million USD to his or his sons personal offshore bank account.

    One truly has to wonder how it could be that the ordinary people of Gaza can possibly be so oblivious to the actions of their leaders, or perhaps even less likely, complicit?

    • Lynne T

      The residents of Shul’jiya were aware of the tunnel building enterprise beneath their feet and probably supplied some of the considerable labour required to build them.

      Recalling the legendary story of the Allied soldiers who escaped a German prison camp by tunnelling out of it, the only mystery is what happened to the soil and sand that had to be excavated. That is a hell of a lot of landfill to spread around.

      And all done under the watchful eyes of the NGOs that pressured Israel to allow more shipments of cement and building materials without anything actually getting built above ground.

      • Dee Tee

        Maybe that’s what those kids were doing on the beach.
        They were not playing together but spread out along the beach.