Dear Mr. President,
Ghassan Elashi. I'd like you to know his name. He is the father of six children, and he is serving a 65-year prison sentence, allowed no visits with his children and only 2 phone calls a month. His crime is not murder or rape or theft, but charity; what you would call material support. He is one of the "Holy Land Five," convicted of sending money to Palestinian charities run by Hamas. The prosecution, which relied upon the testimony of an Israeli intelligence officer to make their case, does not believe that one dollar of the money Ghassan sent to Palestine went toward violence or acts of terror, but, as the hospitals and schools and food it bought were linked to Hamas, the good will it may have garnered is, apparently, just as dangerous.
I want to live in the real world. I try to be pragmatic, I try to understand the complexity and nuance of cases like this. I find fault with much of Hamas's charter, with their goals and with their methods. But what options have we given them? Hamas has done charity and community service work, they have honored cease-fires, they have participated in legitimate elections and won. Leaders of Hamas have indicated that their stance on Israel is softening. What do they have to do to gain international legitimacy without sacrificing domestic credibility? These projects funded by the Holy Land Foundation were helping some of the poorest people on earth just to survive and have access to basic services. It doesn't make Hamas' violent past all better, but it doesn't make every member of the party terrorists. How can we ignore the complexity of this situation? How can we look at this work, that by any other group, in any other place, you would praise as God's own, and call it a crime?
Ghassan Elashi. Please remember that while you call on Americans to give our time and our money to the betterment of those less fortunate, that this man will sit in prison for 65 years because he tried to help.