JERUSALEM – In partnership with a government fund initiated by Barack Obama, philanthropist and billionaire activist George Soros is investing in a private equity company that just launched in the Palestinian territories.
The company, Siraj Fund Management Company, says it was created “for the sole purpose of managing investment funds in Palestine.”
The new company’s website repeatedly refers to what it calls the “country” of “Palestine.” There is, however, no such country as Palestine. Siraj is apparently referring to territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
“Siraj has plans to launch future funds focused on the Palestinian market thereby contributing to the sustainable development of the country,” states the website.
This marks the latest involvement of Soros in Middle Eastern affairs.
WND reported last week Soros has been funding groups pushing for democracy in Egypt and is associated with an opposition leader there who has been fueling protests toppling the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, a key U.S. ally in the region.
WND also reported an international “crisis management” group led by Soros long has petitioned for the Egyptian government to normalize ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition in Egypt.
This week, Siraj Fund Management Company, the first private equity fund in the Palestinian territories, officially launched in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Soros’ Economic Development Fund invested in the new group alongside the U.S. government-owned Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC.
OPIC is an independent agency of the US government that mobilizes private sector investment in new and emerging markets overseas.
In 2009, OPIC created its Global Technology and Innovation Fund, which invested in Siraj, in response to an initiative by Obama to launch an investment group to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries.
The initiative followed Obama’s historic address to the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt in June 2009.
The U.S. fund invested with Soros in the West Bank’s new Siraj Fund Management Company, which was created to manage investment funds in a “country” Siraj repeatedly refers to in its official literature and website as “Palestine.”
Palestine is a conventional name used to describe a geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The name “Palestine” comes from the ancient word meaning “Philistines” or “Land of the Philistines.” Palestinian Arabs have no relation to ancient Philistines.
“Palestine” previously referred to a future Jewish state in the decades before its founding in 1948. Indeed, the Jerusalem Post, the country’s English newspaper, was previously called the Palestine Post. Jerusalem’s Jewish philharmonic was previously called the Palestine Orchestra.
The use of “Palestine” by the Siraj Fund Management Company seems to refer to a Palestinian state, which has not yet been established. After the 1967 Six Day War, Palestinians began referring to their desire for a future country possibly called “Palestine.”
Siraj Fund’s initial closing was $60 million and is expected to close at $80 million in the coming months. The Fund’s capital includes about half participation from foreign investors, the other half are Palestinians and Arabs.
Besides the U.S. government and Soros’ organization, other foreign investors in Saraj include the Pension Boards of the United Church of Christ and Crescent Investments of the United Arab Emirates.
Soros fingerprints on Mideast chaos
The International Crisis Group, or ICG, which includes Soros among its eight executive committee members, long has petitioned for the Egyptian government to normalize ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The ICG also released a report urging the Egyptian regime to allow the Brotherhood to establish an Islamist political party.
The ICG includes on its board Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the main opposition leaders in Egypt, as well as other personalities who champion dialogue with Hamas, a violent offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a June 2008 report entitled, “Egypt’s Muslim Brothers Confrontation or Integration,” Soros’ ICG urges the Egyptian regime to allow the group to participate in political life.
The report dismisses Egypt’s longstanding government crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood as “dangerously short-sighted.”
The ICG report called on Mubarak’s regime to “pave the way for the regularization of the Muslim Brothers’ participation in political life,” including by allowing for the “establishment of a political party with religious reference.”
The ICG specifically stressed allowing the Brotherhood to serve as an Islamist party several times in its 2008 report.
The ICG and its personalities also long have petitioned for the Muslim Brotherhood to be allowed to join the Egyptian government.
ElBaradei suspended his board membership in the ICG two weeks ago, after he returned to Egypt to lead the anti-Mubarak protests.
U.S. board members include Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to Jimmy Carter; Samuel Berger, who was Bill Clinton’s national security adviser; and retired U.S. ambassador Thomas Pickering, who made headlines in 2009 after meeting with Hamas leaders and calling for the U.S. to open ties to the Islamist group.
Another ICG member is Robert Malley, a former adviser to Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. He resigned after it was exposed he had communicated with Hamas. WND reported Malley long had petitioned for dialogue with Hamas.
The ICG defines itself as an “independent, non-profit, multinational organization, with 100 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.”
Meanwhile, Soros also has other ties to opposition groups in the Middle East.
His Open Society Institute’s Middle East and North Africa Initiative has provided numerous grants to a wide range of projects that promote so-called democratic issues across the region, including in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood stands to gain from any future election.
Soros’ Open Society also funded the main opposition voice in Tunisia, Radio Kalima, which championed the riots there that led to the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
In September, Soros’ group was looking to expand its operations in Egypt by hiring a new project manager for its Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which is run in partnership with the Open Society Justice Initiative. The group is seeking to develop a national network of legal empowerment actors for referral of public-interest law cases. Such organizations in the past have helped represent Muslim Brotherhood leaders seeking election or more authority in the country.
Soros himself last Friday made public statements in support of the protests in Egypt, which the Mubarak government has warned will result in the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country.
In a Washington Post editorial entitled, “Why Obama Has to Get Egypt Right,” Soros recognized that if free elections were held in Egypt, “the Brotherhood is bound to emerge as a major political force, though it is far from assured of a majority.”
He stated the U.S. has “much to gain by moving out in front and siding with the public demand for dignity and democracy” in Egypt.
He claimed the “Muslim Brotherhood’s cooperation with Mohamed ElBaradei … is a hopeful sign that it intends to play a constructive role in a democratic political system.”
Soros did not mention his ties to ElBaradei.
Soros did, however, single out Israel as “the main stumbling block” in paving the way toward transition in the Middle East.
“In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks,” he wrote.
Muslim Brotherhood awakens terrorist wing
WND reported this week an Egyptian Islamist terrorist organization founded by the Muslim Brotherhood is re-establishing itself amid the political upheaval in Cairo
Both Egyptian and Israeli security officials said the group, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, is being reconstituted at the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The officials affirmed Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya serves as the de facto “military” wing of the Brotherhood, which originally founded Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya.
Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya is suspected of involvement in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and it took credit for the 1995 attempt on the life of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. It has carried out scores of deadly terrorist attacks, some targeting foreign tourists.
The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to spread Islam around the world. Hamas and al-Qaida are violent Brotherhood offshoots.
While the Brotherhood claimed it abandoned violence to push for a peaceful takeover of Egypt, the group’s new spiritual leader, Muhammad Badi, recently publicly has called for violent jihad, including against the U.S.
On Sunday, an Egyptian security official was quoted in the news media stating Egyptian troops had arrested two armed Palestinians from Hamas who entered the country illegally from the Gaza Strip.
The security official told reporters the men had crossed from Gaza into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula using smuggling tunnels and that they were arrested in a stolen car in the town of el-Arish, near the border, along with three Egyptian smugglers.
The official told the Associated Press the two Hamas men were caught with weapons, hand grenades, two RPGs and about $8,600 in cash.
A senior Egyptian security official speaking to WND on Monday said an investigation found the two Hamas men were aiding in the reorganization of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, which, he said, is attempting to reconstitute itself under the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Egyptian security official said Hamas is helping Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya organize into divisions and to arm itself with weapons currently in the Sinai waiting to be smuggled into Gaza.
Both Israel and Egypt say Hamas has amassed a large quantity of weapons in the Sinai Peninsula, where the Islamist group has been attempting to smuggle the weaponry into Gaza.
Now, the Egyptian security official said, some of those weapons are going to arm the reconstituted Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya.
Notorious terrorist attacks
Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, and is classified as a terrorist group by the U.S., European Union and Egypt. Like the Muslim Brotherhood, the group is dedicated to the overthrow of Mubarak, seeking to replace his regime with an Islamic state.
The group has carried out numerous deadly attacks.
Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya may have been involved indirectly in Sadat’s assassination. The group’s leader has talked publicly about collaborating in planning the murder with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which was blamed for the killing.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya carried out scores of terrorist acts in Egypt, including the murders and attempted murders of prominent Egyptian writers and intellectuals. The group also targeted tourists and foreigners.
In 1997, it carried out the notorious Luxor massacre in Luxor, Egypt, killing 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians. Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya went on a shooting rampage in that attack, even reportedly mutilating the bodies of victims. A note praising Islam was found inside one disemboweled body.
One year earlier, in 1996, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya carried out a shooting rampage at the Europa Hotel in Cairo, killing 18 Greek tourists.
In 1995, the group took responsibility for a car bomb attack on the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, murdering 16 people.
After a massive Egyptian crackdown on the group in 1997 following the Luxur attack, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya brokered a deal with the Egyptian government that is known as the Nonviolence Initiative, in which some leaders of the movement said they renounced violence.
Still, exiled leaders of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya maintained the group would not give up its violence.
Brotherhood declares war on U.S.
Multiple prominent U.S. commentators also have been claiming the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate organization and denying any Islamist plot to seize power.
In November, the Brotherhood’s new supreme guide, Muhammad Badi, delivered a sermon entitled, “How Islam Confronts the Oppression and Tyranny.”
“Resistance is the only solution,” stated Badi. “The United States cannot impose an agreement upon the Palestinians, despite all the power at its disposal. [Today] it is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan because it has been defeated by Islamist warriors.”
Badi went on to declare the U.S. is easy to defeat through violence, since it is “experiencing the beginning of its end and is heading toward its demise.”
With research by Brenda J. Elliott