Hamas’ South African Support Network

Hamas’ South African Support Network

A web of unsanctioned organizations operating in South Africa support and enable the terrorist group free of consequences. 

 

South Africa does not just carry water for Hamas by attacking Israel in international forums. It has also allowed Hamas to turn South Africa into a base for fundraising, where an extensive network of front organizations builds support for terrorism. Washington has stepped up its efforts to impose sanctions on Hamas’s foreign enablers, but its South African support network has escaped the consequences so far.

At the center of Hamas’s South African web of support is the Muslim cleric Ebrahim Gabriels, also known as Ibrahim Jibril. Gabriels, a leader within the South African Muslim community, has founded, directed, and currently directs several Muslim organizations tied to Hamas. These include the South African branches of the Al-Quds International Foundation (AQIF), the Al-Aqsa Foundation (AAF), and the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC).

 

The Al-Quds Foundation (AQF) is the South African branch of the AQIF, which the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned in 2012 and features several senior Hamas leaders on its board. Gabriels spoke at the South African AQF’s opening ceremony in 2006 and serves as its president.

For their support of Hamas, the Treasury has also sanctioned the Al-Aqsa Foundation and its South African branch, an institution for which Gabriels has served as the chairman of the board. Two banks in South Africa froze the foundation’s accounts in 2013 because of AAF’s sanctions designation.

Gabriels has spent over two decades building support for Hamas. In 2004, as MJC president, Gabriels organized a protest march at which he said, “Hamas is not a terrorist group” and that the MJC supported Hamas “100 percent.” The Union of Good, a charity umbrella group the U.S. Treasury Department designated in 2008 for funding Hamas, listed Gabriels in 2004 as a board member. The MJC, listed as a Union of Good member, frequently co-hosts events with AQF, including a 2015 welcome rally in South Africa for Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.

On October 8, 2023, one day after Hamas massacred 1,200 Israelis, AAF’s South African branch held an event in “support of Palestine and Masjid Al-Aqsa,” a reference to the mosque that sits atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. At the event, the MJC’s first deputy president offered “solidarity and support to our brothers and our sisters in Hamas.” Gabriels, an MJC leader, praised Hamas fighters as “people who are connected to Allah.”

Gabriels also met Hamas officials in Damascus in 2009, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza in 2011, politburo members Mohammad Nazzal and Maher Obeid in South Africa in 2017, and was part of a small group that welcomed a Hamas delegation to South Africa in 2015. A 2021 Arabic-language biography of Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk, based on interviews with Abu Marzouk himself, named Ebrahim Gabriels and an associate as Abu Marzouk’s gateway to South Africa’s Muslim community.

While Gabriels is a pivotal figure, South Africa’s Hamas problem goes much deeper. Besides the MJC, on its website in 2003, the Union of Good named sixteen other South African organizations as part of this Hamas funding network. None are under any sanctions.

Pretoria has long been a friend of Hamas. South Africa was one of few countries to invite Hamas for talks following the terrorist group’s victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006. Pretoria also hosted Hamas delegations in 2015, 2018, and even in 2023, amid the war Hamas launched on Israel. On the day of Hamas’s killing spree, South Africa’s foreign ministry said, “The new conflagration has arisen from from the continued illegal occupation of Palestine land, continued settlement expansion, desecration of the Al Aqsa mosque and Christian holy sites, and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.” A week later, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa donned a kaffiyeh and framed Hamas’s atrocities as a response to an “oppressive government that has occupied their land.” On October 17, Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor called Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to discuss how to deliver aid to the Hamas-controlled territory.

Washington clearly has its work cut out for it. To begin, U.S. president Joe Biden should tell his South African counterpart in no uncertain terms that the United States expects Pretoria to take action against the terror fronts residing within its borders. South Africa’s Targeted Financial Sanctions list is based on the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC’s) list of proscribed entities and individuals. Pretoria should expand its list to obvious terrorist groups such as Hamas. If Pretoria fails to act, the administration should review South Africa’s eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act’s (AGOA) duty-free arrangement, which requires participating countries not to “undermine U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.”

However, the White House should not wait for Pretoria to act first. While the Treasury sanctioned the Al-Aqsa Foundation’s South African branch, it fell short of designating the Al-Quds Foundation of South Africa. Other glaring omissions include Gabriels himself and the MJC. Gabriels is the epicenter of Hamas funding and support in South Africa. Sanctioning him and his organizations will help dry up the funds that enabled the October 7 massacre.

David May is a research manager and senior research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy. Follow David on X @DavidSamuelMay. Follow FDD on X @FDD.

Image: Shutterstock.com.