Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF)



Richardson, TX


Islamic Nonprofit




Defunct (alleged ties of funding Hamas terrorist organization)

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Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) was the largest Islamic nonprofit organization in the United States before it was shut down by the federal government for allegedly funding Hamas, a terrorist organization in the Palestinian Territories.


HLF was founded in 1989 as the Occupied Land Fund as a philanthropic group for Muslims and as a human rights advocacy group. It operated hospitals, schools, and assistance programs for families in need and the homeless in America. It had a food pantry in Paterson, New Jersey launched in 1999. 1

Holy Land Foundation’s website had featured stories such as, “Ahmad Ghazi Saleh is one of many Palestinian children who cry themselves to sleep at night, wishing that their lives would be different.” From its supporters it asked for donations that it claimed would go to providing hot meals to families in Gaza and wheelchairs for disabled Palestinians. 2 3

Five HLF leaders were convicted for funneling the money that was raised to Hamas-controlled entities in the Palestinian Territories. Funds were specifically diverted to the families of Hamas members who were killed or imprisoned by Israel. 4

Evidence submitted during the trial of the Holy Land Foundation show that it was set up as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian wing, Hamas. It was specifically a branch of their “Palestine Committee” set up in the U.S. to support Hamas. In 1992, HLF received $210,000 from senior Hamas official Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk.

HLF President Shukri Abu Baker repeatedly emphasized the use of deception in a private Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas meeting in Philadelphia in 1993. “War is deception. We are fighting our enemy with a kind heart and we never thought of deceiving it. War is deception. Deceive, camouflage, pretend that you’re leaving while you’re walking that way. Deceive your enemy…Politics, like war, is deception.” 5


In the 1990s and 2000s, the U.S. government investigated the Holy Land Foundation for its suspected ties to Hamas. The State Department asked the Agency for International Development (USAID) to remove HLF from its list of registered charities on the grounds that it was providing funds to terrorist organizations. A spokesperson for the foundation, Dalal Mohammed, expressed her surprise at the request, claiming that HLF was “in close cooperation with AID,” had no connections to Hamas or any other terrorist group, and was merely “the object of an Israeli vendetta” to prevent Palestinians from receiving aid. 6

In June 2001, then-New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D) demanded that HLF release its funding data in order that authorities might investigate whether it had ties to Hamas. 7 In response to a suicide bombing in Israel, then-President George W. Bush announced in December 2001 that the U.S. would freeze the assets of HLF as well as Palestine-based Al Aqsa International Bank and the West Bank and Gaza-based investment group Beit El-Mal Holdings Company. 8

Treasury officials revealed that HLF had been under investigation by the U.S. government since 1993, and that the presidential administration only hesitated to close the group out of concern that it would disrupt an FBI investigation of the nonprofit already underway. Then-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill described HLF as “scam artists” who swindled innocent donors looking to give to charity into supporting Hamas, while HLF itself repeatedly denied all accusations that it was connected to terrorism. 9

In March 2002, HLF filed a lawsuit against the federal government for freezing its assets and declaring it a financier of terrorism. 10 A U.S. Court of Appeals panel in Washington, D.C. unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that the George W. Bush administration was justified in freezing HLF’s assets, overturning HLF’s lawsuit. It additionally found that the Treasury Department had “overwhelming evidence” that HLF was an arm of Hamas. 11

HLF requested to transfer its frozen funds in 2004, but its request was rejected. It then claimed that the FBI had fabricated the case against it and falsified evidence, erroneously translated Israeli intelligence material to that end. Then, in July 2004, HLF’s five former leaders were arrested on charges of sending $12.4 million in funds to Palestinian terrorists. Then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft claimed the arrests were among the most important since the September 11 attacks in the government’s efforts to stop the flow of money from the U.S. to terrorists. 12 In 2005, Abdel Jabber Hamdan, a former fund-raiser for HLF was deported on court orders citing national security threats. 13

In November 2008, five leaders of HLF were convicted in a retrial on 108 criminal counts including money laundering, tax fraud and supporting terrorism. The American Task Force on Palestine created the American Charities for Palestine and signed an agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to allow citizens to make donations to educational and health institutions in the Palestinian territories insofar as they have been vetted and approved by USAID. 14


In 2000, Holy Land Foundation had raised $13.3 million in the United States. The foundation officials claimed the money went to relief in Europe as well as the West Bank and Gaza. 15


  1. Starita, Angela. “ON THE MAP; Following Muslim Charity and Dietary Laws, Food for the Needy.” New York Times, March 21, 1999. Accessed March 5, 2023.
  2. “Holy Land Foundation.” Holy Land Foundation. Accessed March 5, 2023.
  3. “Holy Land Foundation.” Holy Land Foundation. Accessed March 5, 2023.
  4. “Federal Judge Hands Downs Sentences in Holy Land Foundation Case.” Federal Judge Hands Downs Sentences in Holy Land Foundation Case | United States Department of Justice, September 16, 2014.,a%20designated%20foreign%20terrorist%20organization.
  5. “Government Exhibit 016-0069.” Investigative Project on Terrorism. Accessed October 19, 2023.
  6. Miller, Judith. “U.S. Contends Muslim Charity Is Tied to Hamas.” New York Times, August 25, 2000. Accessed March 5, 2023.
  7. Saulny, Susan. “Spitzer Seeks to Force Fund-Raising Data From an Islamic Charity.” New York Times, June 1, 2001. Accessed March 5, 2023.
  8. Miller, Judith. “U.S. to Block Assets It says Help Finance Hamas Killers.” New York Times, December 4, 2001. Accessed March 5, 2023.
  9. Sanger, David E. and Miller, Judith. “MIDEAST FLARE-UP: THE GRIP TIGHTENS; Bush Freezes Assets of Biggest U.S. Muslim Charity, Calling It a Deadly Terror Group.” New York Times, December 5, 2001. Accessed March 5, 2023.
  10. Miller, Judith. “A NATION CHALLENGED: MUSLIM AMERICANS; Group Sues Over Frozen Assets, Saying U.S. Violated Rights.” New York Times, March 9, 2002. Accessed March 6, 2023.
  11. “Topic – Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.” New York Times. Accessed March 6, 2023.
  12.  “Topic – Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.” New York Times. Accessed March 6, 2023.
  13. “Topic – Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.” New York Times. Accessed March 6, 2023.
  14. Goodstein, Laurie. “U.S. Muslims Taken Aback by a Charity’s Conviction.” New York Times, Accessed March 6, 2023.
  15. [1] “Topic – Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.” New York Times. Accessed March 6, 2023.
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Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF)

Richardson, TX