Yasser Arafat was worth over $1.3b when he died What of the current leaders of Palestine Gaza’s Millionaires and Billionaires
Yasser Arafat was worth over $1.3b when he died. What of the current leaders?
Abbas is widely perceived among Palestinians themselves as one of the most notoriously corrupt individuals in the Palestinian Authority. Soon after the Authority was established in Gaza, construction began on a lavish $1.5 million villa for Abbas, funded by unknown sources, and in the midst of some of the world’s most wretched poverty. In response to widespread outrage, Arafat’s “Minister of Commerce and Economy,” Nasser Sarraj, argued in The New York Times, “Who says he [Abbas] doesn’t have the right to live in a villa worth $1.5 million, or even $10 million?” He added, “Those who say he doesn’t are spies and collaborators for Israel.” (2 February 1997)
I wonder where the money came from, since the Palestinian economy has a GDP of $10 billion (2012 est.) and 30% comes from foreign aid.
But then again, he’s quite an incredible magician, being in the tenth year of a four-year term.
Just as a comparison, the Israeli GDP is $286.840 billion. Netanyahu has a net worth of 11 million. As you can see,and their money is from their own personal assets, most had their own corporate ventures.
It is almost certainly in the low billions. For Masha’al, the top leader, safely tucked away in Qatar, it is known to be one or two billion. He has more than one luxury mansion there and lives at the same level as the Qatari royal family with whom he socializes… while declaring his determination to fight to the last Gazan.
One of the mysteries of the current war in Gaza can be seen in the photos coming out of the tiny enclave: On the one hand, there is the desolation and squalor of Gaza neighborhoods where hundreds of thousands of Gazans live, and on the other, pictures of the homes owned by Hamas’s top officials, complete with gym equipment and fancy furniture, or else images of the five-star hotel suites where they stay.
It’s quite a conundrum; just how did these new tycoons, who grew up in refugee camps and who wave the banner of helping their people, become so filthily rich in such a short space of time?
According to Dr. Moshe Elad, a Middle East expert from the Western Galilee Academic College, most of the founders of Hamas were refugees or direct descendants of refugees. “Some of them were born of intermarriages between Egyptians and Gazans, with no money at all. In its putative stage, the organization – not yet called Hamas – fed off the Israeli military establishment, which funded Islamic associations in Gaza in an effort to counterbalance Fatah. On the day they decided to cut ties with Israel and seek funding elsewhere, their phenomenal wealth started growing”.
The money, Elad told the Israeli financial newspaper Globes, came from several directions. “Donations by the families of people who dies, charity money, called ‘zakala’ in Arabic and the donations of various countries. It started with Syria, Saudi Arabia, then Iran, one of the main sponsors, and ended with Qatar which has today taken Iran’s place.”
There were also campaigns to raise money in the US. “Moussa Abu Marzouk,” Elad says, “started raising funds among the rich Muslims in America and also established several bank funds.” Over time he built a conglomerate of 10 financial operations “that give loans and conduct investments. He’s an amazing financier.”
In 1995 the US arrested Abu Marzouk for activities supporting terrorism and after two years in jail, he was deported without trial. But he kept the money. “This man was worth several millions already in 1997, when he was expelled,” Elad says. “Somehow he managed to elude the IRS and a trial for his offenses. Some say he made contacts in the administration. It is not proven, but it is hard to find another reason for how he managed to get away with such heavy accusations against him.”
“In 200, during the 9/11 probe, it was found that he had ties with al Qaeda including money transfers made to the 21 al Qaeda operatives accused of carrying out the attack.”
Today, Abu Marzouk is one of the major billionaires in Hamas. “Arab estimates peg his fortune at 2-3 billion dollars,” Elad says. Another senior-official-turned-terror-tycoon is Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas’s political wing. “Global estimates say Mashaal is worth $2.6 billion,” but Arab commentators, with other sources, say he is worth between 2 and 5 billion, “invested in Egyptian banks and Gulf countries, some in real estate projects.”
Next on the list is Ismail Haniyeh, who until the recent signing of a unity deal between Hamas and Fatah was the Prime Minister of Gaza. “His fortune is estimated at 4 million dollars, and most of his assets in the Strip are registered in the name of his son in law Nabil, and a dozen children of his and other less known Hamas officials,” Elad says.
According to Elad, Ayman Taha, a mid-tier official, “was born in desolate poverty at the El Buraj refugee camp, but recently built a house worth at least a million bucks. He is in charge of coordinating Hamas operations inside and outside the Gaza Strip and is not even a senior member, but he’s already a member of the millionaire club.”
Most of their money comes from misused donations to the Gaza Strip, since every dollar passes through Hamas’s pipeline. Elad assesses that smuggling of goods through tunnels generates hundreds of millions a year and those who control the siphon became wealthy along the way. There are several hundred millionaires in Gaza and there would be hundreds more if smuggling would continue unabated. The man pulling the strings in Egypt is Khirat el Shatr, who is No. 2 in the Muslim Brotherhood. His connection to Hamas is allegedly based on a shared religious outlook, “but in effect it’s a thriving business, with a revenue of millions.”
Pan-Arab London based paper, Asharq al Awsat, which is considered a reliable media outlet, recently ran a story saying there are 600 millionaires in Gaza. Elad explains how the corrupt officials charge: Every car load smuggled through the tunnels was taxed by a fixed sum of $2000 and additionally 25% of the value of goods. Between June 2007 and 2010 the tunnel smuggling business generated $800 million. Hamas also taxed all merchants in Gaza, from car retailers to sellers of fruit and vegetables. Hamas also took over lands and then resold them at a profit.
Hamas also apparently published fictitious names of employees to sponsors abroad and then scooped up their salaries and distributed them between a few senior members.
Corruption in Hamas, Elad says, is not just rampant but extrovert. “What’s unique about Palestinian leaders over the years is the motto ‘Get rich quick’. Leaders there have no shame. They take over crucial industries like communications and gasoline as soon as they take the reins. In Western society you also have people gaining wealth quickly and corruptly, but there it is usually done subtly with envelopes of cash and elaborate forms of bribery which are not easy to track down. But the Palestinians will say to your face: ‘I want to be rich’.”
TWO PEACE AGREEMENTS THAT FAILED
The Camp David Accords 2000
Between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Chairman of the PLO Yasser Arafat, mediated by President Bill Clinton.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak shakes hands with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat
together with U.S. President Bill Clinton, host of Camp David Peace Talks in 2000.
– A demilitarized Palestinian state on 92% of West Bank and 100% of Gaza Strip
– Dismantlement of most Jewish settlements
– A Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, sovereignty over half the Old City of Jerusalem
– Religious custodianship over the Temple Mount
– A return of Palestinian refugees
– Encouragement for international assistance to settle refugees
Barak asked for only two concessions:
– An end to violence
– A public declaration that the terms of the final settlement marked an “end of the conflict” with no more Palestinian claims or additional demands on Israel in the future.
RESULT: Arafat walked out of the talks and launched the Second Intifada. Why? Because Arafat had learned that terrorism pays off. His goal was not a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel. His goal was to destroy Israel. Both President Bill Clinton and Israel publicly blamed Arafat for the failure of the peace agreement.
Michael Oren, Israeli scholar and ambassador wrote, “The peace process collapsed not over land but because of the Palestinians’ refusal to accept Israel’s existence.”
Peace Offer of 2008
By Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, hosted by President George W. Bush..
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (left) and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (right)
shake hands with U.S. President George W. Bush, host Of 2008 Peace Talks.
This peace plan included the basic proposals of Prime Minister Barak at the Camp David Accords in 2000, plus some new offers; most notably, for the first time, designated permanent borders.
– Give 93.7% of West Bank to Palestinians
– Give 5.8% of Israeli territory in exchange, equal to giving Palestinian 99.3% of West Bank area.
– Provide safe passage for Palestinians traveling from West Bank to Gaza via a tunnel.
– Give sovereignty of the Temple Mount to Palestinians
– Religious sites in Jerusalem to be managed by a special committee consisting of representatives from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, the United States and Israel.
– Fixed borders of the future Palestinian State. [Note there has never been “Palestinian– Israeli borders” because Arabs never accepted the existence of Israel and therefore no borders were drawn. No matter how much the UN and the nations talk about borders, they all know that there are none – only cease-fire lines of 1949.]
RESULT: Mahmoud Abbas never replied to the proposal.
Abbas did speak with the media, saying: “I am not in a marketplace or a bazaar. I came to demarcate the borders of Palestine – the June 4, 1967 borders [!] – without detracting a single inch, and without detracting a single stone from Jerusalem, or from the holy Christian and Muslim places. This is why the Palestinian negotiators did not sign.”
Then Leader Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered to give Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas part of the Sinai Peninsula adjacent to Gaza to establish a contiguous Palestinian state in those areas.
United States President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were also notified of the plan, according to a report today (Monday, August 9) on Galei Tzahal (IDF Radio). Although there has been no official confirmation of the proposal, news of the initiative met with approval from Israeli leaders.
Abbas, meanwhile, is reported to have categorically rejected the plan, which entails a demilitarized PA state located on lands encompassing five times the current area of the Gaza Strip. The state, referred to as “Greater Gaza,” would contain PA citizens and Palestinian refugees living in other countries. The offer would also enable Arab cities in Judea and Samaria to retain PA autonomy, on condition that Abbas maintains a viable administration in those areas.
The latest public demands by the Palestinian Authority circulated in April, 2014, indicate a hardening of positions by the Palestinians and nothing has come of negotiations over the last two years. Here is a list from Ynet, with my comments:
– A written commitment by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the borders of the Palestinian state will be along the 1967 ‘green-line’ and that its capital will be East Jerusalem.