Food for Kids or Terror Funding?

While the Holy Land Foundation trial focuses attention on the role, if any, the Dallas-based charity had in financing Hamas, another Dallas-based charity has quietly dropped its lawsuit against author and former Bush administration official Matthew Levitt and his publisher over similar allegations.

Writer Greg Krikorian of the Los Angeles Times says that a group called Kids in Need of Development, Education and Relief, known as KinderUSA, has dropped its libel lawsuit against Levitt, who left his job earlier this year as deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Treasury Department.

KinderUSA filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court in April against Levitt for his book Hamas Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. Snappy title.

It also sued the publishers, Yale University Press and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which released the book last year, for saying the organization funded Hamas. The group’s lawsuit said the group was created in 2002 by physicians and humanitarian relief workers “to bring education, health and other programs to war zones, including the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.” One of its efforts is called The Bakery Project, bringing food to 250 families twice a week in devastated villages.

According to Krikorian, the group alleged that “in one passage, Levitt made a connection between KinderUSA and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a now-shuttered Islamic charity that has been accused by the federal government of funneling money to Hamas … Levitt, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, has been a government witness in the current Dallas trial of Holy Land, which has denied any support of Hamas or terrorism.” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy described the dismissal a “complete victory” for the author and publishers.

Though the action came as discovery proceedings would have forced the organization to release documents and other information, KinderUSA’s attorney Todd Gallinger said it was dismissing the case so the group could focus on charity rather than spend its money on litigation.

“We made no statements, no agreement that the claims in their book are accurate, and in fact, we still contest the statement that KinderUSA financed terrorism,” Gallinger said, according to Krikorian. “That is why we see this case as a draw.”

The Web site Little Green Footballs has more about the obscure organization:

KinderUSA removed from itsWeb site all mention of former board member Dalell Mohmed (who was also a board member of The Holy Land Foundation), even though the WHOIS information for ‘kinderusa.org’ still shows that name as their site manager.

In another page now removed from their site, but still accessible at the Internet Archive, the founders of the terror-supporting International Solidarity Movement, Huwaida Araf and Adam Shapiro, are listed as “advisors.”

Another founding member, Riad Abdelkarim, was arrested in Israel on suspicion of funneling money to terrorists, and was also on the board of the Holy Land Foundation.

The Web site insideghihered points out the lawsuit was quietly dropped last week and compares it to a lawsuit over a similar book in the UK, where Cambridge University Press settled a case by promising to shred the book.

The outcomes may come down to differences in English and American libel law and Yale University counterattacking KinderUSA by filing an “anti-SLAPP” motion to quash the libel suit and receive legal fees. SLAPP is an acronym for “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” a legal action viewed as an attempt to harass or punish a non-profit group, author or publication that tackles issues of public concern. Asked if the anti-SLAPP motion affected KinderUSA’s decision, attorney Gallinger said, “Yale came at us hard.”--Glenna Whitley

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