Legal Think Tank Warns Hotel Group That Hamas Event May Violate US Law

By Patrick Goodenough | May 1, 2017 | 4:27 AM EDT

Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani meets with Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh in Doha on October 17, 2016. The government of Qatar, while a U.S. ally, has long been one of Hamas’ strongest supporters. (Photo: Qatar News Agency)

(CNSNews.com) – A U.S. legal think tank has warned an international hotel group that it risks legal liability under U.S. federal law if it allows Hamas, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, to use one of its properties in Qatar for an event on Monday.

Hamas plans officially to launch a new political program at an event in the Qatari capital on Monday evening, in the presence of what it called “an elite group of writers, researchers, and journalists.”

The New York-based Lawfare Project, citing an invitation from Hamas, says the event is to be held at the InterContinental Doha–The City hotel.

The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is a multinational company with more than 5,100 hotels, mostly franchised, in scores of countries including the United States. Its brands include Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, and its Americas headquarters is in Atlanta, Ga.

In a letter to the IHG on Sunday, Lawfare Project director Brooke Goldstein urged the company to reconsider, warning that it risks violating U.S. law prohibiting the provision of “material support or resources” for terrorism.

The letter noted that the applicable U.S. law defines “material support and resources” to include services and lodging. Convictions under the law can bring penalties of large fines and up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

“Should InterContinental host the organization Hamas or any of its  members – tomorrow or on  any other date – both InterContinental and its employees would be recklessly exposing  themselves to criminal and civil liability under U.S. federal law.”

The letter, which was also signed by Lawfare Project board members, noted that IHG’s regional headquarters in Atlanta “is squarely within the jurisdiction of the United States.”

Queries sent to IHG’s corporate affairs offices for the Middle East, Asia and Africa brought no response by press time.

Hamas, established in 1987 as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization under U.S. law since 1997.

The group is blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, rocket assaults and other attacks. At least 15 Americans were killed in terrorist attacks attributed to Hamas between 1993 and 2002.

After winning legislative elections in the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) self-rule areas in 2006, Hamas the following summer seized control of the Gaza Strip from the larger Palestinian faction, Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah. It has ruled the territory ever since, leaving Abbas’ P.A. administration limited to the West Bank.

Despite its ongoing terrorism, Hamas has attracted strong support from some parts of the Islamic world, in particular from the governments of Qatar and Turkey.

Apart from its financial support, Qatar has provided a base for Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and the group’s “political bureau” since they moved from civil war-torn Syria in early 2012. Meshaal is expected to head Monday’s event in Doha.

In 2014, a senior U.S. Treasury Department official voiced concern about Qatar’s stance, saying in a speech that the Gulf state “has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability.”

Still, the U.S. views Qatar as an important regional ally, and U.S. Central Command’s forward headquarters in the region is located at the Al Udeid Air Base. Defense Secretary James Mattis visited last week to discuss “deepening the U.S.-Qatari strategic partnership” and the campaign to defeat ISIS, the Pentagon said.

Hamas’ founding charter says all Muslims are duty-bound to join a jihad to destroy Israel, and that the group sees itself at the forefront of the fight against world Zionism and “the warmongering Jews.”

The terrorist group has long been debating a new political document which Hamas officials cited in Arab media outlets have said would hopefully result in it being viewed in a more positive light, especially in Europe.

The so-called Mideast Quartet – the U.S., United Nations, European Union and Russia – has determined that Hamas will only be an acceptable partner in peace negotiations if it renounces violence, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and abides by existing agreements.

A leaked draft of the document suggests that the group will not recognize Israel, or drop its demand for “any part of the land of Palestine,” which it defines as all of the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Hamas in its invitation to Monday’s event does not describe the new text as a replacement for its 1988 charter, but merely “a document of general principles and policies.”

The Lawfare Project is a nonprofit legal think tank which according to its website “mobilizes public officials, media, jurists and legal experts to counter the international lawfare phenomenon: the abuse of the law as a weapon of war against Western democracy.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow