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memri
December 19, 2018 No.
1428

For Years, Qatar Funded Hamas Schools In Gaza Where Children Receive Weapons Training

By: S. Schneidmann*

On September 15, 2018, the Saudi London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that, in May, Qatar had stopped funding a group of Gaza schools operated by Hamas's Dar Al-Arqam association. According to the report, the Qatari institution that had funded the schools gradually decreased its support for them in 2017, until finally ceasing all of its activity in Gaza in August of that year. The Qatari institution that provided the aid to the DarAl-Arqam schools for over a decade is the Sheikh Eid Bin Muhammad Aal Thani Charitable Association, which is subordinate to Qatar's Labor and Social Services Ministry, and according to many reports is close to Qatari regime circles.[1]

The London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that, after the aid ceased, Hamas urged Qatar to provide it through some other organization or to a different Hamas body, noting that they are attended by "hundreds of sons and daughters of Palestinian martyrs," but Qatar refused this request. The report speculated that Qatar was concerned that the funding of the schools could be construed as support for terrorism.[2]

The Dar Al-Arqam association was founded in 2000 by Hamas officials, among them the movement's late leader Sheikh Ahmad Yasin.[3] The four schools it runs, which received Qatari funding for years, are attended inter alia by children of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operatives killed in confrontations with Israel. The schools inculcate Hamas's ideology and glorify its founders and the jihad against Israel, and provide students with military training, including weapons training, conducted by members of Hamas's security apparatuses.


Dar Al-Arqam logo (source:facebook.com/ArqamSchools)

This document presents reports on this Qatari aid and on the association's links to Hamas.  

 Qatar's Support For Dar Al-Arqam

As stated, reports indicate that Qatar supported the Dar Al-Arqam[4] schools for about a decade, since Hama's 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip. At a June 4, 2008 graduation ceremony at one of the schools, Dr. Muhammad Shama'a, then-head of the association's board of trustees, thanked the association's supporters, and in particular the Qatari Sheikh Eid Bin Muhammad Aal Thani Charitable Association, which he said had "supported the Dar Al-Arqam schools and sponsored orphans of the martyrs and prisoners."[5]

Reports in the Qatari government press indicate that in 2013 it invested some $50 million in projects in Palestine, including in Dar Al-Arqam,[6] and that in 2014 it provided aid to over 6,000 Palestinian orphans. A July 2014 report on the charity in the Qatari daily Al-Arab presented statements by Amira 'Asliya, daughter of Wafi 'Asliya, an operative in the PIJ military wing who was killed by Israel in 2004.[7]  She praised the Sheikh Eid Bin Muhammad Association and its material and moral support for Dar Al-Arqam.[8]

The Qatari Sheikh Eid Bin Muhammad Aal Thani Charitable Association is named after a member of the Qatari royal family and is subordinate to Qatar's Labor and Social Services Ministry.[9] Among the stated goals of the Sheikh Eid Bin Muhammad Association is to help impoverished widows and orphans."[10] However, although it presents itself as a charity organization, there are indications that it has ties to terrorism. One of its founders is 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Nu'aimi, who is close to members of the Qatari government, and was named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the United States Department of the Treasury in 2013 for providing money and material support to Al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen. In 2014 he was also designated and sanctioned by the UN Security Council and by the U.K. It should be noted that, although  Al-Nu'aimi appears in a list of terrorist operatives released by the Qatari interior ministry itself, Qatari government officials, including prime minister 'Abdallah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Aal Thani, attended the wedding of his son in April 2018.[11]

Furthermore, reports indicate that the Eid Bin Muhammad Association is part of the Union of Good, run by Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi,[12] an umbrella organization of bodies that transfer funds to Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist entity by the U.S. and Israel.[13] The Eid Bin Muhammad Association has also been placed on a terror list by the four countries boycotting Qatar: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.[14] On its website (eidcharity.net), it lists as one of its "global partners" the Turkish IHH organization, which allegedly had ties to Al-Qaeda in the past.[15]

Dar Al-Arqam Aims To Cultivate A Generation That Will Liberate Palestine And Purge Al-Aqsa "Of The Filth Of The Zionist Occupiers"

Dar Al-Arqam's social media describe its schools as "philanthropic non-profit [institutions] established in order to provide excellent education that associates the [ancient] roots with the modern, and in order to dispense free education services to orphans." According to the association's website, it is a "pedagogical-educational institution that provides comprehensive education services to orphans, to the sons and daughters of the martyrs and prisoners, and occasionally also to special needs [students]."[16] The Hamas website, however, describes the goals of the schools in different terms, stating that they aim "to cultivate a generation like that of the [Prophet's] Companions, that will undertake to spread Islam... and will successfully liberate all of Palestine and purge the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque of the filth of the Zionist occupiers."[17] 

The Dar Al-Arqam schools hold ceremonies attended by Hamas officials, as well as memorials for Hamas leaders such as the movement's founder Ahmad Yasin and the head of its military wing Ahmad Al-Ja'bari.


Poster announcing an event at the Dar Al-Arqam school for boys in honor of the orphaned children of the late Ahmad Al-Ja'bari (source: facebook/com.ArqamSchools, December 2, 2012)


Dar Al-Arqam schools director Muhyi Al-Din Al-Hilou (third from right) with Hamas officials, including Moushir Al-Masri (sixth from left) at the ceremony in honor of Al-Ja'bari's children (source: facebook/com.ArqamSchools, December 2, 2012)


Hamas official Dr. Ahmad Bahar,  deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), speaking at memorial for Ahmad Yasin at the Dar Arqam school for boys (source: facebook/com.ArqamSchools, March 27, 2013)


Dar Al-Arqam schools director Muhyi Al-Din Al-Hilou (center) and girl students with Hamas official Dr. Ahmad Bahar (on Al-Hilou's right) during a visit to the Hamas party offices at the PLC (source: facebook/com.ArqamSchools, April 11, 2018)

Military Training At Dar Al-Arqam Schools

In addition to serving as part of Hamas's social and educational infrastructure, the Dar Al-Arqam schools are part of the movement's military recruitment and training mechanism. Members of Hamas's security apparatuses visit the schools and conduct military training as part of the Futuwwa program, intended to teach military skills and instill values of discipline, valor and sacrifice. The program serves as an initiation into further Hamas programs for children and teens, like the summer camps and training camps operated by the movement's military wing, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, which train youngsters for jihad against Israel.[18] The schools hold events and ceremonies at which the program graduates display their skills, including foot drills, the use of weapons and other fighting skills.


The Futuwwa training program at Dar Al-Arqam schools in 2014 (source: facebook.com/ArqamSchools, December 9, 2014)


Ceremony marking the anniversary of Ahmad Yasin's death at Dar Al-Arqam school (source: facebook.com/ArqamSchools, March 29, 2014)


Futuwwa Graduation ceremony at Dar Al-Arqam school (source: facebook.com/ArqamSchools, June 4, 2014)

 

 

* S. Schneidmann is a research fellow at MEMRI.

 

[1] Reports from August 2017 indeed stated that the Eid Bin Muhammad Association had stopped its activity in Gaza. See Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 18, 2018.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 15, 2018.

[3] Hamas.ps.

[4] Dar Al-Arqam was the house of one of the Prophet's Companions in Mecca, where, according to Muslim tradition, the Prophet and his first disciples used to gather and study the principles of Islam and the Prophet's revelations.

[5] Alaqsavoice.ps, June 4, 2008.

[6] Al-Arab (Qatar), May 14, 2013.

[7] The website of the PIJ military wing described him as a prominent fighter during the period of the second intifada. Saraya.ps, March 27, 2012.

[8] Al-Arab (Qatar), July 2, 2012.

[9] Aljazeera.net, September 15, 2012, alaraby.co.uk, June 12, 2017.

[10] Eidcharity.biz.

[12] Aljazeera.net, January 27, 2002.

[13] Golbalnews.ca, September 27, 2017; justice.gov.il, June 23, 2008; treasury.gov, December 11, 2008.

[14] Okaz.com.sa, June 10, 2017.

[15] Nbcnews.com, June 2, 2010.

[16] Facebook.com/ArqamSchools, twitter.com/Arqam_schools, arqamschools.com.

[17] Hamas.ps.