DC Human Rights Group Official Says Israel Is ‘Sole Reason Hamas Exists’

Abdelrahman Ayyash of the Freedom Initiative praises Hamas for ‘babysitting Israeli kids and babies’

(Photo by Bassam Masoud/Reuters)
October 18, 2023

An official at a human rights group that claims to lobby for the release of political prisoners blamed Israel as the "sole reason Hamas exists" and praised the terrorist group for "babysit[ting] Israeli kids & babies" that it took hostage.

Abdelrahman Ayyash, who works at the D.C.-based Freedom Initiative, made the comments as his organization has been pressing Congress for the release of Muslim Brotherhood cleric Salah Soltan from Egyptian prison.

His remarks could raise questions about the Freedom Initiative, which describes itself as "dedicated to advocating for prisoners wrongfully detained in the Middle East." The group was founded by Soltan’s children, Mohamed and Hanaa, who have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats while attempting to free their father.

"A recent Hamas video shows that its soldiers took their time after infiltrating the borders to babysit Israeli kids & babies for several hours without any response from the IDF," wrote Ayyash in an Oct. 14 Twitter post, which has since been deleted. The post included a video of Hamas terrorists in military garb and clutching weapons while holding Israeli child and baby hostages.

Ayyash also claimed Israel was the "sole reason Hamas exists" and argued that Israel should be blamed if any Jewish hostages taken by Hamas are killed.

"The possibility of a safe return for all hostages exists. If one is harmed, it's due to Israel's disregard for life, Palestinian or otherwise," he wrote.

Ayyash, a Muslim Brotherhood researcher who listed himself as a "case manager" for the Freedom Initiative on LinkedIn, promoted comparisons between Ukrainian soldiers defending their country against Russia’s invasion and Hamas terrorists who massacred Israeli civilians. He retweeted a post that said "When Ukrainians resist it's heroic. Agreed. When Palestinians resist its 'terrorism' and condemnation." Another post he retweeted claimed there was a "discrepancy between many of those celebrating Ukrainian resistance but now condemn Palestinian resistance … You are either with people's right to resist an army occupation or not!" Although the Freedom Initiative states that its mission is "advocating for prisoners wrongfully detained in the Middle East," it has not yet issued any comment on the nearly 200 Israeli hostages, including some American citizens, taken by Hamas.

The Freedom Initiative and Ayyash did not respond to a request for comment.

Democrats who received donations from the Freedom Initiatives founders Mohamed and Hanaa Soltan have called on the Egyptian government to release their father Salah Soltan, a U.S. green card holder who was imprisoned during Egypt’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. While Salah Soltan has a history of calling for the slaughter of Israelis, his supporters say he renounced his anti-Semitism in prison.

Mohamed Soltan gave $5,800 last year to then-Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), who posted on Twitter in support of the elder Soltan’s release last May. He also gave $5,800 to Rep. Don Beyer (D., Va.) in 2021. Beyer in May tweeted that the cleric "should never have been imprisoned to begin with, but the conditions he faces—including denial of essential health care—are now threatening his life." Menendez has since been charged with conspiring to act as an agent of the Egyptian government while serving as a senator.

Hanaa Soltan also gave $47,000 to President Joe Biden’s campaign and $18,600 to the Democratic National Committee in 2020.

Mohamed is married to a legislative aide to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Ben Cardin (D., Md.), Habiba Shebita. In August, Cardin called on Egypt to release Salah Soltan from detention, saying that the cleric disavowed his "previously held anti-Semitic positions and remarks" while in prison.

In 2011, Salah Soltan called for the assassination of Israel’s ambassador to Egypt and issued a fatwa that "Any Zionist—tourist or other—who enters Egypt must be killed." He also claimed that Jews kill Christians and use their blood to make special bread for Passover.