Israeli lawmakers accuse Islamist party of terrorist ties, call for investigation

A Ra’am charity funneled over $100,000 to a Turkish organization called Khir Ummah, a reported Hamas front group.

By Akiva Van Koningsveld, JNS

Israeli lawmakers on Monday accused the predominantly Arab Ra’am Party of maintaining ties to terror groups, including Hamas, and demanded an investigation.

“This is why we requested today’s discussion: To see how it is possible that links between Ra’am, its [aid] associations and Hamas have been revealed repeatedly, but in fact, the relationship continues while Ra’am is running legitimately in Knesset elections,” said Otzma Yehudit Party lawmaker Limor Son Har-Melech at a meeting of the Knesset National Security Committee.

She quoted Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas as saying that “the United [Arab] List in the Knesset is not the most important project of the Islamic Movement, but the third or fourth, after the Al-Aqsa Association and the [Igatha 48] aid association.”

The Igatha 48 Association (“Aid 48”) is the fundraising wing of the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, of which Ra’am is the political wing. (“Ra’am” is the Hebrew acronym by which the United Arab List party is commonly known.)

The Igatha 48 Association transferred large sums to and carried out activities with a Turkish organization called Khir Ummah, which according to an investigation by HaKol Hayehudi and Channel 14 published in February is a Hamas front group.

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In 2021 alone, Igatha 48 transferred close to 400,000 shekels ($110,000) to Khir Ummah, and the two organizations also hosted pro-terror summer programs for children in Turkey.

Earlier this year, the Israeli State Attorney’s Office filed an indictment against Rami Habiballah, an Israeli Arab from Ein Mahil, near Nazareth, for sending money to Khir Ummah, saying the association belongs to Hamas.

“Ra’am officials claim they didn’t know, but not only did they know, they also cooperated with the inciting organization,” Channel 14 said in its report, with HaKol HaYehudi noting that Abbas shared joint content of Igatha 48 and Khir Ummah to his personal Facebook page.

Yehuda Perl, an editor with HaKol HaYehudi, told lawmakers on Monday that “the materials that we found and compiled in a special research report are from open sources.

“There are two possibilities: Either the Israel Security Agency and the police do not notice these things—this would be a major omission—or they located the materials but protected Ra’am’s people, and no investigations were opened against Ra’am’s senior officials and Igatha 48.”

He went on to say that it was for lawmakers to decide which of the two options was more concerning.

“These are alleged offenses of funding terrorism and making contact with a foreign agent. Where are the authorities?” he asked.

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Knesset member Ariel Kellner (Likud) said he “hopes, expects and demands” that the security forces act against Ra’am.

Herzl Hajaj, whose daughter Lt. Shir Hajaj was killed in a 2017 terrorist attack, accused officials of refusing to investigate due to political considerations.

“Unfortunately, there are political and security officials who do not want to investigate Ra’am’s charities in order to leave them an option to form a future government with Ra’am,” he said.

Hajaj addressed the committee on behalf of Choosing Life, a forum of Israeli terror victims and bereaved families.

During the Knesset hearing, an ISA representative said he could not comment on the matter. The State Attorney’s Office did not send a representative to the meeting.

Meanwhile, a legal adviser to Israel’s Bank Leumi testified in court this week that Igatha 48’s accounts were used to finance terrorism.

The representative called the red flags surrounding the group “shocking,” Kan News correspondent Avishai Grinzaig reported on Tuesday.

The bank said it has lost all trust in the organization and frozen its accounts.

The Ra’am charity acknowledged in court that close to 10 banks had refused to open accounts for it before it applied to Bank Leumi.

The Ra’am Party played a key role in supplying the Bennett-Lapid government (2021-2022) with a Knesset majority.

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In November, the Israeli parliament voted to temporarily suspend Ra’am Party MK Iman Khatib-Yasin—barring her from Knesset activities and freezing her salary for two weeks—after she denied Hamas’s Oct. 7 atrocities.

More recently, Abbas told Arabic-language media that he has been advocating for the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state in meetings with Biden administration officials and representatives of other countries.