Homes for Hamas
How social housing funds extremism
Barnet, to those unfamiliar with this corner of the world, is the most Jewish borough in Britain, an area of north-west London often described as ‘leafy’ and including both pleasant inner suburbs like Finchley as well as areas of genuine countryside. The migration of eastern European Jews in the capital followed an anticlockwise direction from impoverished Whitechapel in east London up through Hackney and Haringey in the north, with Barnet the next stop.
It is also, strangely, home to a leading fundraiser for Hamas, the terrorist group responsible for the murder of 1,400 people in southern Israel earlier this month and quite explicitly committed to the eradication of Jews in the Holy Land.
What with London house prices being what they are, you wonder how he managed it, but of course Muhammad Qassem Sawalha, who ‘ran the group’s terrorist operations in the West Bank’, according to the Sunday Times, managed to buy his property with help from the council.
Despite being a known and wanted terrorist, Sawalha was allowed to settle in Britain in the 1990s and obtain British citizenship. He continued to work for Hamas, holding talks about committing terrorist acts and laundering money for the group, according to the US Department of Justice. In 2009 he signed the Istanbul Declaration which praised God for having ‘routed the Zionist Jews’, and called for a ‘Third Jihadist Front’ to be ‘opened in Palestine alongside Iraq and Afghanistan’, according to the paper.
All the while he was benefitting from Britain’s social housing system. In 2003, Barnet Council made him a council tenant and he was housed in a two-storey property with a garden and garage in the borough, where he still lives.
Two years ago, Sawalha and his wife used the Right to Buy scheme to acquire their home for £320,700, with Barnet Council giving them a £112,300 discount on its market value.
This is despite the fact that in 2006 Panorama reported that Sawalha was ‘said to have masterminded much of Hamas’ political and military strategy’ and that, ‘although he was known to MI5, the “authorities let him operate freely here”’. Not just let him operate freely, but sort him out with a house – and if you think this sounds insane, it is not at all uncommon.
Sawalha’s old comrade, the famous hook-handed hate preacher Abu Hamza, was also given a huge house courtesy of the British taxpayer. The Egyptian was allowed to live rent-free in a five-bedroom house in what the Mail described as ‘upmarket Shepherd’s Bush’, a phrase I would have found astonishing to read as a teenager in west London.
Shepherd’s Bush is next door to super-rich Holland Park, and private property is extremely expensive there – but it also has high levels of social housing, as with much of central London, so ‘upmarket’ might be stretching it.
Meanwhile Omar Bakri Muhammad, the Syrian-born cleric known as the ‘Tottenham Ayatollah’, was given a semi-detached home in north London by the authorities. Bakri was refused re-entry after leaving for Lebanon, not before he had managed to help radicalise many young minds while living off the taxpayer.
Another ‘hate preacher’, the Egyptian Hani al-Sibai, was also living in social housing with his wife and five children in Ravenscourt Park, a very desirable part of west London. Then there is Jihadi John, the most notorious ISIS killer, who grew up in social housing in Queen’s Park. His family were expelled from Kuwait after the 1991 Gulf War for being seen as pro-Saddam, but despite this he was given shelter in Britain — and not just shelter, but a house to live in, free of charge, in a very expensive area.
Like Shepherd’s Bush, Queen’s Park is not the most glamorous part of the capital, but if you or I wanted to buy a flat there, it would cost a fortune, unless we chanced our luck on the council waiting list — but we’d struggle, what with all the competition.