What is Israel’s case against them?
Sheikh was an avowed supporter of Hamas and defender of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.
In 2008, the US Treasury alleged that the UoG acted “as a broker for Hamas by facilitating financial transfers between a web of charitable organisations” and designated it as a terrorist entity.
Islamic Relief told me it “was never a member or supporter of the Union of Good and never gave its consent to be listed as such”. Yet its name was on the Union of Good website from 2001 to 2003. Can the charity really have been oblivious to that? The Union of Good was established by the Londonbased Palestinian charity, Interpal. The US Treasury has alleged that Interpal was “a principal charity utilized to hide the flow of money to Hamas”. Interpal has categorically denied having any links with Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organisation in the US, UK, the EU.
However, following an investigation I carried out on Interpal for the BBC Panorama programme in 2009 the UK Charity Commission ordered Interpal to sever its links with the Union of Good.
The Commission found that “continued membership” was “not appropriate” because “designated organisations” were among the UoG’s membership. There was also a “lack of clarity surrounding the constitution, organisation structure and membership of the Union of Good”.
The Commission also asked the UoG to supply the names of its UK members. Islamic Relief was not one of them. However, a year later, its name was again listed by the UoG, this time on its Arabic website.
This June Islamic Relief was outlawed by Israel, whose domestic intelligence service alleged it was “another source of funds for Hamas”. The charity is now banned by Israel from the West Bank.
The Israelis have not responded to Islamic Relief’s request for details of the case against them. Islamic Relief say they are “extremely surprised and concerned” at the decision to outlaw them and categorically deny “any links with Hamas.”
However, it is unlikely that Islamic Relief will be prevented from working in Gaza by the British government, even if Israel is able to show that they have remitted funds to organisations linked to Hamas.
The reason for this is that the Foreign Office takes a different view from the Israelis, the Americans and some other governments such as Germany as to what constitutes funding Hamas.
Integral to the Hamas movement is its welfare infrastructure which runs charitable organisations in Gaza and the West Bank.
Over the years, millions have been sent or directed to these organisations by Interpal and the Union for Good.
Whilst there is no evidence that this money has bought weapons, the Americans and others have nonetheless regarded this as funding Hamas because Hamas leaders have themselves emphasised the seamless nature of the movement’s three constituent parts: social, political and military.
Hamas’s welfare organisations are part of its political wing and Hamas’s founder, the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, said its political and military wings are “one body. We cannot separate the wing from the body. If we do so, the body will not be able to fly.”
Likewise, Hamas’s current political supremo Khalid Mishaal has said: “You cannot say that Hamas is only a religious, or only a political, or only a military, or only a religious and social movement. It is not, for example, just an armed wing or a political party. It is all of these things. It is a fusion of all these dimensions.”
A key Hamas politburo memorandum has also acknowledged that Hamas’s “social movement” is an integral part of what it calls “The Hamas Project”.
That project is described as building “the organisational infrastructure for a Jihadi (struggle) to project both against the Zionist occupation in Palestine in particular and against the Zionist project in general” — all ultimately aimed at eliminating Israel and replacing it with an Islamic state, as ordained by the Hamas Charter.
The Americans have argued that funding Hamaslinked welfare organisations allows Hamas to promote its own extreme form of religious proselytising — or da’wah.
This in turn assures popular support for the Hamas movement as a whole, including its military wing, and helps Hamas to compete with opposing political factions, particularly, its main rival Fatah.
By contrast, the Foreign Office here, whilst acknowledging that Hamas’s “political wing is represented by charitable organisations”, argues that Hamas’s military wing operates separately.
For its part, Interpal says that while some of its funds may have gone to organisations linked to Hamas, only humanitarian need — not ideology — has determined the choice.
I hope this helps to explain the complexities of charitable funding in Gaza.
The JC Facebook Furious would be better off using their energy to take up any further questions with the British government.