How could the U.S. government be funding Hamas's university in Gaza? It's the question that has been asked often since my front-page story in the Washington Times earlier this month, from Capitol Hill to the State Department's daily press briefing.
No good answer was provided—but in fairness, no good answer exists for supporting a college controlled by Hamas. The alternatives, though, aren't much better. The sad reality of Palestinian society is that almost any university the U.S. might choose to support at a minimum has student chapters of terrorist organizations on campus.
Whereas Americans have College Republicans and College Democrats, Palestinians have College Hamas and College Islamic Jihad.
Even Al Quds University—embraced as the bastion of moderation by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—engaged in a weeklong celebration this January of the terrorist credited with developing the first suicide belts more than a decade ago.
Given how much leverage the U.S. has—just through money alone—officials could have demanded that at least some of the support or glorification of terrorism be put to an end. There's no indication, though, that any such pressure was applied.
Rather, it appears that USAID, most likely with guidance from State, decided to fund Palestinian universities with troubling terrorism ties—including the Hamas-controlled Islamic University—and simply hope that no one would catch on. That might have been the case—if not for the Palestinian Media Watch(PMW), which keeps a watchful eye on everything from school textbooks to television shows and newspaper articles.
PMW has documented, mostly through local and school newspaper articles, that student chapters of terrorist organizations are the most potent political forces on the vast majority of Palestinian campuses. And it was PMW Director Itamar Marcus who tipped off this journalist that USAID’s support of Islamic University needed to be investigated. Marcus provided a 2006 article from Hamas's newspaper al-Risala proclaiming that 16 Islamic University teachers had just been elected as Hamas members of the Palestinian legislature.
It took several weeks to compile overwhelming evidence of Hamas control of Islamic University, but it was all attainable through open sources—and it is precisely the kind of information that should have been uncovered in the "careful vetting process" State insists occurred before the school received assistance.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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