On December 29, aircraft of the Israeli Defense Forces bombed Hamas terror labs located at the Hamas-run Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) that the IDF said were used by IUG faculty members to make explosives for the terrorist group. The following day I reported exclusively here at Pajamas Media that the bombed terror labs were financed and built by the Dublin, Ohio-based Arab Student Aid International (ASAI). As I noted, ASAI is chaired by Saudi Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz, half brother to Saudi King Abdullah, who is also the organization’s primary benefactor.
In response to our reporting, the Columbus Dispatch published an article two weeks ago by reporter Dean Narciso quoting ASAI director Ishaq Y. Al-Qutub that they are considering taking legal action against their detractors — namely, Pajamas Media:
“There has been a serious misunderstanding and misinterpretation of what we do,” he [Al-Qutub] said, adding that they eventually will consider legal action.
Is it likely that ASAI will follow through on their legal threats? Not really.
For one, Al-Qutub confirms virtually every component to our story. He admits that his organization did fund the labs destroyed by the IDF and cites a figure that $425,000 was used to build the IUG facilities. And in my initial reporting I linked to ASAI’s own website, which cites the construction of the IUG labs as one of their group’s “achievements.” And IUG’s website notes Arab Student Aid’s contributions to the school, specifically mentioning the labs named after Prince Turki. Thus, any attempt to deny the substance of our initial story is contradicted by their own stated admissions.
And it would be hard for ASAI and Al-Qutub to claim that IUG has no connection to Hamas, as IUG officials aren’t bashful about their relationship to the terrorist group. In 2006, IUG professor Jameela El Shanty told the Baltimore Sun:
Hamas built this institution. The university presents the philosophy of Hamas. If you want to know what Hamas is, you can know it from the university.
And federal prosecutors last year named IUG as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism finance trial, which resulted in convictions on all 108 counts, where IUG was listed among the “individuals/entities who are and/or were part of the Hamas social infrastructure in Israel and the Palestinian territories” (pg. 2, no. 43).
Reporting on the IDF strike against IUG, the New York Times identified the school as a “Hamas stronghold.” Just after the 9/11 attacks, the Times reported on a rally organized by Hamas at the university, where thousands of IUG students demonstrated against the U.S., many holding signs prepared by the Hamas organizers saying, “Hamas hails bin Laden.” And in 2006 Knight-Ridder reporter Dion Nisserbaum examined the extensive ties between IUG and Hamas, noting that “virtually every major Hamas figure — living and dead — has taught or studied at the tranquil 25-acre campus in the heart of Gaza City, which some call Hamas U.”
Admittedly I’m not the first observer to connect Arab Student Aid International with terrorism. That honor goes to the Washington Post, which in April 2006 reported that Arab Student Aid had funded the education of several high-ranking Hamas leaders. Perhaps the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Knight-Ridder will join Pajamas Media as defendants in Arab Student Aid’s threatened “legal action.”
Apart from airing legal threats, the Columbus Dispatch article is sloppy, unquestioning, and apologetic for the terror charity. Take, for instance, this gem from their story:
Al-Qutub has been subjected to inflammatory remarks on blogs trying to link his charity to terrorism.
It’s hard to believe that such editorialization (“subjected,” “inflammatory”) made it past the Dispatch editors. This is supposed to make us feel sorry for poor Mr. Al-Qutub. Inflammatory remarks on blogs — scary!
Another example of the sloppy reporting is the sourcing. How do we know that the labs weren’t used for making explosives, as Al-Qutub claims? Because he says the IUG president told him so, the Dispatch explains. And Al-Qutub trusts the president’s word. But the Dispatch allows him to keep his options open:
Yet he concedes that there is a possibility for abuse: “What goes on afterward we cannot really know.”
Also consider the counterterrorism experts the Dispatch turned to for special insight on this terrorism-related story: the Chronicle of Higher Education. Yes, you read that correctly.
Citing an editorial published in the Chronicle, the Dispatch assures that even if IUG was making explosives for a terrorist organization, that shouldn’t necessarily make it a military target:
Even if Islamic University did produce weapons, that alone doesn’t justify an Israeli attack, wrote Neve Gordon and Jeff Halper of the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“Weapon development and even manufacturing have, unfortunately, become major projects at universities worldwide — a fact that does not justify bombing them,” they wrote.
Understand that this is not Ohio State University working on defense contracts we’re talking about. Not many universities host Iranian Revolutionary Guard generals and military trainers as visiting faculty. And not only is IUG operated by Hamas and used by Hamas to launch rockets, but many of the Hamas leaders directly involved with its terrorist activities serve as IUG faculty. This includes Nizar Rayan, a top Hamas military commander and professor of Islamic law at IUG who was killed in an IDF strike two days after the IUG attack.
But since the Chronicle of Higher Education appears to be the Dispatch’s designated authority on all things Hamas, they should have noted the Chronicle’s coverage on the IUG strike, where we learn that it’s not just the Israelis who have discovered more than academics going on there:
This is not the first time that the university has been accused of hiding weapons. In February 2007, at the height of tension between Hamas and the rival Fatah movement of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, his presidential guard stormed the university and confiscated weapons and ammunition. Palestinian TV aired footage of dozens of rocket-propelled grenade launchers, rockets, and assault rifles, as well as thousands of bullets, that Mr. Abbas’s officials said had been found inside the university.
Grenade launchers, rockets, and assault rifles — just like you can find in any dorm room at Vanderbilt and Northwestern!
The Columbus Dispatch’s shoddy coverage of this controversy and contempt for those of us outside the establishment media are hardly a surprise. And clearly Arab Student Aid’s legal threats are little more than an attempt to appear aggrieved while trying not to draw too much attention of the authorities. (No doubt their shredders are working overtime these days.) As for our initial article on the matter, Mr. Al-Qutub has entirely vindicated our reporting. Our sincere thanks.