Jerusalem – Steven Emerson, executive director of the Washington-based Investigative Project on Terrorism, said violent Islamist groups have directly benefited from State Department dollars. He asserted that the money has found its way into these groups hands through department-funded Islamic outreach efforts, both at home and abroad.

In July 31 testimony, Emerson urged Congress to review the State Department’s interaction with organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Palestinian American Research Center and the Islamic Society of North America and Citizen Exchange Program (ISNA). He said, in testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, Congress should assert greater oversight over the department due to allegations it hosts Muslims, convicted or indicted in terrorism cases.

“The question is: Why should the State Department spend U.S. taxpayer dollars to work with Islamists who actively oppose the foreign policy goals of the United States and subscribe to a supremacist, oppressive ideology?” Mr. Emerson asked during his testimony. “The fundamental question boils down to: Is the State Department using the Islamists to advance its agenda, or are the Islamists using the State Department to advance their own?”

Republican members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have expressed their own concerns over alleged State Department outreach efforts potentially involving violent groups. Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and John Kyl, R-Ariz., have written to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to stop funding groups that support what the senators termed “a radical Islamic ideology.”

The senators cited the Islamic Society of North America, which has allegedly raised $500,000 with State Department help. Federal prosecutors in a Dallas, Texas Hamas fundraising trial alleged the group has financial and other ties to the terror group, based on declassified FBI files and internal Muslim Brotherhood files. (Hamas is an outgrowth of the Palestinian affiliate of the Egyptian-originated Muslim Brotherhood.)

ISNA has denied the documents’ authenticity.

“We are sure you would agree that Americans should not have to fund their enemies in the form of misguided ‘outreach’ efforts,” the senators asked in a letter to Ms. Rice.

The ISNA responded to Mr. Emerson’s testimony last week in advance of the hearing by asking its supporters to contact subcommittee Chairman Brad Sherman, D-Calif., to “request that balanced, qualified testimony be included in the panel or the session be canceled.”

The Islamic group, which publicly denies overt connections with Hamas, denounced Mr. Emerson’s then-pending testimony as “hate-mongering” and “Islamophobia.” It also attacked his credentials, calling him unqualified to offer testimony before the subcommittee.

During the hearing, Mr. Sherman said prospective grant recipients could be asked to disclose their connections to Hamas, Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood.

“I don’t think you can cleanse an organization just because they haven’t sinned recently,” Mr. Sherman said. “It has to be a renunciation of support for terrorism.”

CAIR could not be reached for comment.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2008

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.