By Todd Bensman, special to D Magazine, September 2007
The federal trial of the richardson-based Holy Land Foundation is actually the last of a trio of trials. The five Elashi brothers, all of them immigrant Palestinians, have been indicted or convicted of various forms of supporting the terrorist group Hamas, or of trading with state terrorism sponsors like Syria. The current trial may last through October.
But much less publicized throughout has been the saga of these men’s wives and some 20 children. The government has secured deportation orders for the wives, some of whom have been here illegally for 20 years; three have already been deported. This leaves the kids. Some of them are elementary-school age. All of them are American-born. If all the wives are deported and the husbands imprisoned, what will happen to the children?
No one knows. The kids, though, have argued in immigration courtrooms over the past two years that they and their mothers should stay. The kids made one thing clear during those proceedings: they feel American to the core. “I support my country. I support my troops. And I support my president,” 19-year-old Manhat Basman Elashi said in a 2005 hearing. He said he’d be beaten if he were to move to the Palestinian territory. Government attorneys argued that the Elashi parents so inculcated their children in Islamic schools, religion, and language that they’d fit in just fine. It’s unclear today what’s happened to them all.
The Elashi clan stopped talking to the press years ago. The attorney for Fay Elashi, Irrekka Clark, says her client took her youngest two children with her to Egypt when she recently lost an appeal to stay in the States. One wife, Lima Dijani, is reportedly still awaiting the outcome of her appeal to stay.
The argument that the kids are Americanized is more than rhetoric. Ghassan Elashi is the patriarch of the family, already convicted in another Holy Land trial. His daughter Noor, however, works at no less a civic institution than the Star-Telegram, where she’s a general assignment reporter. (She didn’t return calls from D.) Her bosses just gave her a three-month leave of absence to attend her father’s trial.