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February 23, 2022 11:10 am
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Extensive Malaysian Propaganda and Fundraising Network Enables Hamas Plots Targeting Jews

avatar by Abha Shankar

Opinion

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad arrives to visit jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was recuperating from surgery, at Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jan. 10, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Lai Seng Sin.

Hamas officials work openly with Malaysian Islamist charities to route money and supplies to government ministries and charities in Gaza, new findings by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) show.

The charities also use their humanitarian veil to promote the violent rhetoric of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.

The findings are concerning, given Malaysia’s increasingly significant role in Hamas operations, which was spotlighted once again after authorities uncovered a plot this month to target Israelis in the Philippines.

A Hamas “Filipino source” made several trips to Malaysia during 2016-2018 to receive bomb-making training and to discuss attacks against Israelis in the Philippines with a member of the terrorist group’s foreign operations, the Philippine National Police said in a statement.

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The Hamas member, identified as “Bashir” by the source, is Fares Al Shikli, the alleged head of Hamas’ Foreign Liaison Section. The “source” and Shikli discussed enlisting Filipinos with connections to local militant groups “to kill Jews present in the country, conduct rallies at selected embassies and spread video propaganda in exchange of financial support.”

An Interpol red notice has been issued against Shikli, who has been charged with “terrorism logistic support.”

The rising power and influence of hard-line Islamist parties and organizations in Malaysia has created a conducive environment for Hamas to operate there with impunity.

A Hamas rocket expert was assassinated in Kuala Lumpur in 2018. A terrorist confessed in 2014 to receiving training in Malaysia to paraglide from Gaza into Israel to carry out terror attacks. Another operative with a doctorate in computer science served as a courier for encrypted messages for Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

During last May’s Gaza war, a “Hamas-Malaysia digital front” launched a vicious cyberattack targeting Israeli citizens.

In December, the World Squash Championship in Malaysia was canceled after the country declined to issue visas to “Zionist athletes.” Hamas praised the Malaysian action.

“Malaysia’s refusal reflects the genuine stance against all forms of normalizing ties with the Israeli occupation and supports the Palestinian people and strengthens their steadfastness in the face of the occupation,” said Hamas spokesman Abdul Latif Al-Qanoua.

It now appears that Hamas operations in Malaysia are not just restricted to terrorist recruitment and training.

The misuse of Islamist charitable organizations to support terror is not new. Islamist charities, including Hamas charities, have been known to use humanitarian assistance as a cover to solicit funds for terrorist groups and promote extremist propaganda.

Malaysian charities share close ties with Hamas leadership. Senior Hamas members also work for Malaysian charities.

Muslim Care Malaysia Society (“Muslim Care”) president Zulkifli Wahijan has appeared alongside high-ranking Hamas leaders, including its leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Pictures from a December 23, 2019, Muslim Care Facebook post show Wahijan presenting a plaque of appreciation to senior Hamas politburo member Khalil Al-Hayyah (“The Father of Martyrs”).

In March 2014, Muslim Care posted a thank you note from Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin‘s son: “On the anniversary of the Martyrdom of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin we send our regards and love to our Malaysian brothers in Muslim Care.”

Ahmed Abu Ayesh Al-Najjar, director of International Relations for the Ministry of Education in Gaza, also serves as chairman of “Muslim Care Malaysia, Gaza, Palestine.”

Al-Quds Foundation Malaysia’s managing director Shareef Abu Shammalah is a Hamas activist, Israel’s Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center reported.

The foundation lists among its objectives the need to “accurately introduce and inform the issue of Al-Quds [Jerusalem] and Masjid Al-Aqsa [Temple Mount]” to the Malaysian people, and “[r]eveal the brutal practices of the Israeli occupation against Al-Quds and its Islamic and Christian sanctities.”

The Al-Quds Foundation has influence at the highest levels of Malaysian society. Malaysian politician Datuk Mukhriz bin Tun Dr Mahathir, the son of Malaysia’s former antisemitic prime minister Mahatir Mohamed, is chairman of the Al-Quds board of trustees. At the December 2019 Kuala Lumpur Islamic Summit, Mukhriz Mahathir participated in a roundtable session, “The Role of Politics in Development” along with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

Fadi Al-Batsh, the Hamas rocket and drone expert killed in 2018, worked for the charity Humanitarian Care Malaysia Berhad (“MyCARE”). Al-Batsh was shot dead while walking from his Kuala Lumpur home to a mosque for prayers.

Intelligence officials suspected that al-Batsh used Malaysia as a base to negotiate arms deals with North Korea. In fact, around the time of al-Batsh’s killing, Egypt reportedly seized a shipment of North Korean communications equipment for guided munitions bound for Gaza. Al Batsh is believed to have helped negotiate the deal. Israel has denied allegations that its Mossad spy agency was behind the killing. In January, Hamas announced it had captured a Gaza Palestinian who it claimed had collaborated with Mossad in al-Batsh’s killing.

Malaysian charities also work with the Malaysian chapter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, including sponsoring events featuring global BDS activists.

BDS seeks to isolate Israel economically and culturally, and is considered antisemitic in part because it singles out the world’s only Jewish state and ignores countries with far worse human rights records.

Another Malaysian Islamist charity, Aman Palestin, has a Facebook page replete with pro-Hamas propaganda.

A Gaza imam was sentenced by an Israeli court in May 2020 to one year in prison for smuggling funds from Malaysian charities to Hamas. Malaysian charities Aman Palestin and MAPIM reportedly asked Imam Walid Div to smuggle funds into Gaza for Hamas. He sneaked in $3,000 from Aman Palestin to Hamas in 2013.

The group Aman Palestine also collaborates closely with Hamas.

Hamas Prime Minister Issam al-Da’alis was a guest speaker at the dedication of a new mental health and rehabilitation center in Gaza funded by Malaysian Islamist charity Aman Palestin.

Another charity, Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM), is a regional offshoot of an Islamist charity formerly registered in the UK that has sought to support and legitimize Hamas, rather than provide aid to the needy.

George Galloway founded Viva Palestina while serving in Britain’s Parliament, to deliver “humanitarian aid” and “break the sanctions” on Gaza after Israel launched a 2009 military campaign, known as Operation Cast Lead, against Hamas’ terror infrastructure.

Viva Palestina delivered cash and supplies to Hamas officials in Gaza. During a March 2009 address in Gaza, Galloway said he personally handed “three cars and £25,000 in cash” to the Hamas leadership. “This is not charity,” Galloway said, as he held up a bag full of cash. “This is politics.” He boasted that he was about to “break the sanctions on the elected government of Palestine” and “give all our vehicles, our keys, our aid, our money to Ismail Haniyeh, the elected prime minister of Palestine.”

Malaysian charities participated in the “humanitarian convoys” as part of the “Lifeline4Gaza,” including in the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla that violently tried to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza. The voyage ended with nine people dead after passengers attacked Israeli commandos with knives, metal bars, and other weapons as they tried to take control of ship.

An inquiry opened by the UK Charity Commission into Viva Palestina’s fundraising activities in connection with the Gaza convoy concluded that the organization did not provide money to Hamas. It found that Viva Palestina exaggerated the amount of money it raised. Even as Viva Palestina claimed more than £1 million in aid was delivered during the first convoy, its books showed the group raised less than a fifth of that amount. Galloway told investigators that the bag of cash he gave a Hamas official in 2009 contained his own money, not Viva Palestina’s.

Malaysia provided the staging ground for the recently foiled plot to launch terror attacks against Israelis in the Philippines. This leaves no doubt that Hamas’ extensive fundraising and propaganda network in Malaysia provides an enabling environment for jihadists to plot similar future attacks targeting Jews.

The author is a contributor to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, where a version of this article first appeared.

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