January 7, 2013 at 5:00 am
We do not, however, just idly tolerate anti-Western groups in our midst and abroad; the harder truth is that government is often complicit with their activities, and when caught, our elected leaders simply refuse to discuss the facts. A recent report by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) revealed that British taxpayers are contributing towards the $4.5 million paid each month to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, including terrorists and mass murderers. Despite the evidence gathered by PMW, the British Foreign Office continues to deny that British money is rewarding terrorism. In a letter to Robert Halfon MP, who had voiced his concern at the findings, the International Development Minister Alan Duncan wrote: "We have investigated the matter fully and can confirm that the allegations in Palestinian Media Watch's report are both inaccurate and misleading." Duncan did not say how the report was inaccurate, and nor did he provide any sources or facts to back up his claim. As PMW sharply responded, "the general statements made by the Minister of State in his letter, which lack any sources that contradict PMW's findings, are wrong". 
This is unfortunately not the first time the British government has just rejected the accusations rather than examine the evidence. Several years ago, a report by the Taxpayers' Alliance revealed that £100 million in British aid to Palestinian schools was funding textbooks indoctrinating children with pro-terror and anti-Jewish propaganda. Similarly, rather than properly investigate, the government simply dismissed the claims as baseless. Why do politicians and the vehicles of government knowingly allow themselves to be complicit with groups that advance pro-terror and anti-Western ideas?
Look, for example, at a large organization called Interpal. Although in the UK it is a well-established charity which has enjoyed the support of leading British politicians and cabinet members, in the United States Interpal is designated a terrorist organization. What is Interpal, and why isn't the British Government shutting it down?
InterpalInterpal describes itself as a "non-political, non-profit making British charity that focuses solely on the provision of relief and development aid to the poor and needy of Palestine". However, many critics believe Interpal to be part of a terrorist fundraising network that helps to sustain the violent terror group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip and is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians. In 2003, the United States government classified Interpal as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), stating:
Interpal, headquartered in the UK, has been a principal charity utilized to hide the flow of money to HAMAS … Reporting indicates that Interpal is the fundraising coordinator of HAMAS. This role is of the type that includes supervising activities of charities, developing new charities in targeted areas, instructing how funds should be transferred from one charity to another, and even determining public relations policy.
Australia followed suit and designated Interpal, along with six other charities, as a terrorist organization. The Canadian government has also cited Interpal as a Hamas front. An Israeli investigation into a 2002 Interpal trustees report noted that every one of Interpal's 'local partner' charities within the Palestinian territories is "affiliated with Hamas or works on its behalf, not only with regard to humanitarian issues but as part of its terrorism-supporting apparatus."
Interpal was an inaugural member of the Union of Good (UoG), a coalition of charities that manages the financial support required by Hamas for its terrorist activities. In late 2008, the US Treasury issued a press release that claimed:
The Union of Good's executive leadership and board of directors includes Hamas leaders, Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs), and other terrorist supporters. The secretary general of the Union of Good, for example, also acts as the vice-chairman of the United Kingdom-based Interpal, which was designated in 2003 for providing financial support to Hamas under the cover of charitable activity. As of mid-2007, this official served on the Hamas executive committee under Hamas leader Khaled Misha'al.
In early 2001, among documents seized from the Al-Islah Charitable Society's office in Ramallah was a receipt that showed Interpal transferred $33,800 to al-Islah through the City Bank of New York. The receipt was signed by Jamal Mohammad Tawil, founder of the al-Islah charity and a senior Hamas operative who had planned several suicide bombings, including a car bomb attack in Jerusalem that killed 12 people and injured 180 more. Tawil had used the al-Islah charity to launder funds received from Hamas leaders in Damascus for terrorist operations conducted by the al-Qassam Brigades, a branch of Hamas.
In July 2006, an investigation by BBC Panorama claimed that Interpal was providing funds to a number of charities in the Palestinian territories that were affiliated with Hamas. Some of these charities were even run by senior Hamas members. The investigation uncovered video clips of young girls from the al Khalil al Rahman Girls' Society, which had received money from Interpal. The children sang: "We all sacrifice ourselves for our country. We answer your call and make of our skulls a ladder to your glory, a ladder" ... "Fasten your bomb belt, o would-be martyr and fill the square with blood so that we get back our homeland."
Essam Yusuf, a key Interpal trustee, refused to be interviewed for the program, but did vehemently deny that Interpal maintained any links with Hamas. According to the BBC, Yusuf described the allegations as a product of the "Christian and Jewish Zionist Movement".
After the Panorama broadcast, the Charity Commission launched an investigation into Interpal's activities. Following a lengthy inquiry, the Commission eventually concluded that "due to the nature of the allegations made about the Union for Good," the trustees must "end the Charity's membership of, and in all other respects dissociate from, the Union for Good, including ceasing to provide it with any facilities or other resources."
In response to the Charity Commission investigation, trustee Essam Yusuf publicly announced that he had severed all his ties with the UoG in 2009. Later that year, the Charity Commission informed Interpal that it was satisfied "that the trustees had complied" with the instructions to disassociate from the UoG.
A number of commentators, however, have claimed that Yusuf and Interpal continue to play a pivotal role within the UoG. In 2011, Al-Quds al-Arabi, an Arabic newspaper published in London, described Essam Yusuf as the person in charge of the Union of Good in Europe.
Additionally, since the Charity Commission's instruction for Interpal to sever links with the UoG, Yusuf has granted interviews to a number of UoG websites. In one such interview, Yusuf both announced his resignation and his future plans for the UoG. Upon examining the text of this interview in English, some critics might well think that Yusuf's resignation was fraudulent:
"As I mentioned earlier, we at UoG reevaluate our work periodically. This would be the fourth time we do so, because we are a realistic institution aware of our surroundings. We respond to the requirements but do not submit to the dictates.
No new secretary General has been named. One of the issues being discussed is whether restructuring will continue, and whether it is necessary to have a title of secretary general."
Interpal and its supporters continue to protest their innocence over the charity's alleged ties to terrorism. And yet Interpal's work goes far beyond building key infrastructure in the Gaza Strip: it includes continued dialogue with the UoG, meetings with leading Hamas terrorists and active participation in events that glorify terrorism.
In late August 2012, after leading a convoy to Gaza, Essam Yusuf joined with key Hamas leaders and visited the families of Hamas 'martyrs'. The visits included the family homes of deceased terror leaders such as:
- Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, a senior Hamas leader, who once promised: "We will kill Jews everywhere. There will be no security for any Jews, those who came from America, Russia or anywhere."
- Sheikh Said Seyam, who commanded Hamas's 'Executive Force', a militia which tortured and murdered Palestinian Fatah supporters in 2006 during Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip.
- Ismail Abu Shanab, a senior Hamas leader who, in 2003, was assassinated by an Israeli helicopter missile strike, as a response to Hamas's suicide bombing of a crowded bus in central Jerusalem, in which 20 civilians were murdered and over 120 injured, including children and babies.
- Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Hassan Yassin, who was responsible for hundreds of terrorist attacks. In a Hamas statement distributed in the US through a group called the Islamic Association for Palestine, Yassin stated: "Come to jihad, come to jihad, come to martyrdom... Those thirsty for Jihad all over the world. For the sake of Allah. For liberating the land of Palestine and Jerusalem.... We declared and continue to declare now, that a Jew is a Jew... do not trust them when they say they want peace because they act only to serve their religion and their people."
August 2012: Hamas leaders at 'martyr' Sheikh Yassin's home with Interpal trustee Essam Mustafa (wearing a headscarf and sitting under Sheikh Yassin's portrait).
August 2012: Hamas leaders at 'martyr' Sheikh Yassin's home with Interpal trustee Essam Mustafa (at left, wearing a headscarf).
Despite evidence improper conduct by Interpal, the Charity Commission released a supplementary report in June 2012, which followed up on its 2009 inquiry, concluding:
"The trustees demonstrated to the Commission that they had developed appropriate procedures and systems to ensure that they are able to satisfy themselves that the Charity has appropriate partners to work with. The responsibility lies with the trustees in administering their Charity to continue to review these procedures to ensure that they remain fit for purpose. The Charity must continue to undertake due diligence on any local partner in order to mitigate the risks of the Charity's funds being abused or misapplied."
While both the original 2009 report and its 2012 follow-up emphasize the importance of responsible partners for Interpal within the Palestinian territories, as well as the demand to disassociate from the UoG, the Charity Commission did not, perversely, censure Interpal for its actual involvement with Hamas - which, unlike the UoG, actually is a proscribed terrorist organization under UK law.
Interpal's other key trustee is Ibrahim Hewitt. Hewitt does not keep quiet about his own hatred of Jews, claiming the US government is a "puppet" of Zionism, Zionism is a "threat to world peace" and that "Much has been said about Zionist control of the media and conspiracy theories abound on this subject. Can there be smoke without fire though?" Hewitt has also said: "By their behaviour in vandalising and destroying Mosques and Churches, the Jews have demonstrated that they cannot be entrusted with the sanctity and security of this Holy Land".
In a pamphlet written by Hewitt, titled 'What Does Islam Say?', he advocates the death penalty for apostates and adulterers, and demands that homosexuals suffer "severe punishments" for their "great sin".
Other Interpal officials continue to show a similar lack of caution. Zaid Yemeni (also known as Zaid Hassan) is the Birmingham contact for Interpal. While he was in Gaza, Yemeni met with Ahmad Bahar, a Hamas leader who has called Jews a "cancerous lump" and beseeched God to "annihilate" Jews and their allies. God, he said, should take care to "not leave any one of them".
Ibrahim Dar (also known as Abu Hana) has been the Bradford representative of Interpal. Dar openly supports sharia law and calls for an Islamist caliphate to replace democracy. He also regularly voices his admiration for the late al-Qaeda terrorist Anwar Al-Awlaki, a senior leader within al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who played a "significant role" in plots to blow up US airliners. Al-Awlaki is blamed for encouraging US Army Major Nidal Hassan to murder his fellow soldiers and for inspiring Roshonara Choudhry, a British woman, to stab her MP Stephen Timms because he had supported the invasion of Iraq. Perversely, Stephen Timms has been a vocal supporter of Interpal and remains so to this day.
During Israel's recent conflict with Hamas, many leading Interpal officials openly voiced support for Hamas's terrorism. Shihab Almahdawi, an Interpal staffer based in Birmingham, posted a picture of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, accompanied by a note praising Hamas terrorists.
Almahdawi also mocked Israelis forced to take cover from terrorist rocket attacks.
Ibrahim Dar, the Interpal staffer based in Bradford, maintains a Facebook account called Youth Talk Dawah. In a number of posts, he calls for the complete destruction of Israel -- even raising the possibility of nuclear obliteration.
Dar also supports the killing of homosexuals.
Zaid Yemeni, the Interpal representative in Birmingham, called senior Hamas terrorist Ahmed Jabri, after his death as a result of an Israeli drone strike, a "shaheed" (martyr).
In late 2009, Jihad Qundil - who was listed as Interpal's General Manager in their 2006 and 2007 annual reports - bemoaned the difficulty of operating with perceived impartially. Qundil complained: "The accusation of 'supporting Hamas' doesn't make sense - if Hamas is ruling Gaza, then you can be accused of 'supporting' them when you build a well there."
Similarly, the pro-Hamas British MP George Galloway, who has led his own convoys to Gaza with his group Viva Palestina, stated, in an interview on American television, that he didn't give money to Hamas; rather, that: "I gave money to the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Health happens to be governed by Hamas."
It is clear, however, that Interpal's involvement with Hamas goes far beyond the bureaucratic requirements of charitable giving. In visiting the family homes of terrorist leaders and operatives, and mourning their loss alongside Hamas representatives, many critics would propose that Interpal trustee Essam Yusuf is, at least, indirectly endorsing Hamas's murderous activities -- in clear conflict with the puzzling conclusion of the Charity Commission in 2009 that there was no evidence to suggest that Yusuf's meetings with Hamas figures had "impacted on his conduct as a trustee of the Charity."
It may well be essentially accurate to acknowledge that the Interpal-endorsed convoys to Gaza fulfill the Charity Commission's demands. After all, Interpal is supposedly no longer moving aid through unaccountable local charities with ties to terror, and although the Union of Good publicizes the convoys, it is supposedly no longer an official partner. Nevertheless, the illogical demands have forced Interpal to cut its ties to a few non-proscribed groups while the Commission conversely looks the other way as Interpal continues to work closely with the banned terrorist group Hamas, whose fundraising through British charities for the purpose of terrorism was, after all, the original catalyst for action.
A Policy of Inaction?Why does the British government flatter and legitimize supporters of terrorism by treating them as statesmen, humanitarians or community leaders? Through British foreign policy, we continue to place our trust in "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood groups as they hijack peoples' cries for freedom in Egypt and Tunisia. We unquestioningly welcome, each time, duplicitous Iranian promises of negotiation and reform while Tehran jockeys for space to consolidate its nuclear capabilities; and we invite Islamists to represent Islam instead of supporting the lonely voices of moderation, secularism and progress. At home, there is little difference: we encourage these same supporters of terrorism by disingenuously persuading ourselves that such persons can be humanitarians or community leaders -- legitimate voices of the Muslim community.
The Charity Commission's 2009 report came as little surprise to counter-terrorism experts in the UK. Earlier in 2003, even after the US designation of Interpal as a terrorist organization, the Charity Commission gave Interpal a clean bill of health. The author and terrorism expert Matthew Levitt has written that the "Charity Commission's decision to unfreeze Interpal's accounts was considered ... a setback to the international effort to sideline Hamas and resurrect the Middle East process."
The Charity Commission claimed that US authorities had failed to provide evidence that showed Interpal had financial ties to Hamas. But the 2003 decision to exonerate Interpal was reached despite the Commission having found that Interpal received funds from the al-Aqsa Foundation in the Netherlands, which had already been banned in the UK as a Hamas terror front.
Interpal is not the only Hamas front to have been exonerated by a weak Charity Commission. In 2010, the journalist Andrew Gilligan wrote about a similar investigation into Muslim Aid -- a charity linked to the extreme Islamist group Islamic Forum of Europe -- regarding claims that charitable funds were ending up in the pockets of the terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The Charity Commission exonerated Muslim Aid but admitted serious deficiencies in the scope of its investigation. Gilligan described the Commission as "hopeless" and deemed the investigation a "whitewash".
Several obstacles prevent a Charity Commission inquiry from pursuing a comprehensive investigation and making the necessary demands of Interpal. The main issue is the nature of the charity, its perceived importance to a significant demographic -- and the consequent drain on any political will to act.
Interpal is one of the better-known charities within the Muslim community. Presently, there is heightened sensitivity to anti-Muslim sentiment among British Muslims. When sections of the political establishment and the media are working hard to articulate a clear dichotomy between Islam and Islamism, shutting down a charity such as Interpal might seem by many to be, on the face of it, a gratuitously hostile act.
Interpal chairman Ibrahim Hewitt appears to have realized this; he has been quick to capitalize on Interpal's position as one of the principal Muslim charities, having stated: "Regrettably, there are many who want to stop the little charitable support we give from actually getting to needy Palestinians. We believe we are targets of the Israeli and US governments purely because we are a Muslim-run charity." In other words: Interpal is a victim being further victimised for helping other victims.
Significantly, politicians who support charities accused of ties with Islamist terror groups have been more than happy to condemn equally repulsive, but non-Muslim, organizations. In December 2012, MPs Paul Flynn and Jeremy Corbyn tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) which congratulated the Charity Commission for denying charitable status to a extreme Christian sect called the Exclusive Brethren, on the grounds that the cult forces its members to "develop an utter hatred of every feature of the world to avoid being sucked in and seduced by it." These same MPs possess selective moral judgement. Flynn has previously supported the work of the Union of Good charity Islamic Relief, which is accused by Israel of financially supporting Hamas. Corbyn has been a consistent defender of Sheikh Raed Salah, an Islamist activist who preaches hatred against homosexuals and Jews.
With such double standards from those whom we elect to protect us, the Muslim community also suffers. By failing to condemn charities such as Interpal, MPs such as Corbyn and Flynn legitimize extremists as representative of the British Muslim community. In reality, these Islamist charities, emboldened by the support of leading politicians, have appropriated the hard-earned income donated by Muslim families who believed it would be used to help others.
In 2008, in response to the ongoing inquiry into Interpal, Jeremy Corbyn MP tabled an EDM signed by a total of thirty eight MPs, of whom thirty-four were from the Labour Party, which stated he and the signatories "further noted the wide distress that this [inquiry into Interpal] has the potential to cause, in both the local Muslim community and the wider Arab world, since both hold the charity in particularly high regard."
The duty of charitable giving within Islam known as zakat -- the compulsory tithe of a set proportion of one's wealth to a charitable cause -- means that particular charities are exploiting the good intentions of hard-working Muslim families through both the direct and indirect funding of terror.
Much like the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas operates a system of da'wah [outreach; literally: a call to God], such as providing social activities and services at a grassroots level, designed "to reshape the political consciousness of educated youth". Da'wah has become a tool used by Islamists to legitimize their rule, justify their mandate, and radicalize and recruit Muslim youth.
Through the provision of social services -- food for the hungry, care for the elderly and medicine for the sick -- Hamas can claim a moral legitimacy that extends to its patrons in the West. Whether or not Interpal and fellow UoG charities provide money directly to Hamas's terrorist activities, the contributions to social programs in Gaza nevertheless help to legitimize and strengthen Hamas's brutality and terror.
Consequently -- and leaving aside the evidence of Interpal's overt involvement with Hamas -- support for da'wah means that any attempt to justify action against Interpal is a hard sell. As we have seen, persuading the Charity Commission and political establishment to set up a proper inquiry is difficult. The greatest obstacle, however, is convincing the Muslim population in the UK, which has dedicated its energy and money in order to help others, that such an inquiry is warranted. It is little wonder that there is no real political will to investigate the problem of terror finance.
After the earlier 2003 exoneration of Interpal, the Commission had excused the movement of money between the proscribed Hamas front al-Aqsa Foundation and Interpal because, the Commission wrote, "the funds received were in respect of humanitarian work already carried out by Interpal and then invoiced to The Al-Aqsa Foundation." As Matthew Levitt has noted: "Apparently what inhibited Commission action against Interpal was the conventional wisdom that the charitable, political, and military wings of a terrorist group are morally distinguishable. But even if Interpal were not tied to Hamas' political and violent activities, Interpal's support for the terrorist group's social service infrastructure ought to have been reason to ban Interpal."
The UK could look to a precedent set by a June 2010 US Supreme Court ruling, in which the court asserted that the US government has the right to "prohibit providing material support in the form of training, expert advice, personnel and services to foreign terrorist groups, even if the supporters meant to promote only the groups' non-violent ends".
Elena Kagan, the lawyer who argued the US government's case at the time, told the court: "Hezbollah builds bombs. Hezbollah also builds homes. What Congress decided was when you help Hezbollah build homes, you are also helping Hezbollah build bombs." If this approach were to be applied in the UK, trustees' associations with Hamas terrorists as well as Interpal's support for Hamas da'wah programs would spark a proper investigation by the British authorities.
Another impediment to action is a result of the legitimacy afforded to Interpal by a number of politicians – most of whom are from the Labour Party. In May 2009, after the Charity Commission's inquiry, Labour MP Lynne Jones sponsored another EDM in defense of Interpal, which attacked those who had leveled "numerous unsubstantiated allegations of links to terrorism" and expressed concern at the "undeserved and unjust negative impact that these have had on the charity's reputation and operations". The text of the EDM concluded by calling on the Government to "offer stronger support to Interpal in their efforts to find permanent banking arrangements." The motion was co-sponsored by Labour MP Phyllis Starkey, Liberal Democrat MPs John Hemming and Bob Russell, Scottish Nationalist Party MP Mike Weir, and independent MP Dai Davies.
As the Charity Commission was obliged to remind Interpal, the inquiry did not completely vindicate the charity, and in fact expressed significant concern at the practices of the charity and the links it maintained. Nevertheless, the EDM attracted thirty-five signatures, of which twenty-four were Labour MPs, including Andy Slaughter MP, who is presently the shadow Justice Minister.
A number of commentators have expressed disbelief that members of Parliament, including a possible future cabinet minister, could so hastily pledge support to an organization such as Interpal, especially considering the enormity of the allegations made against the charity as well as the concern expressed by the Charity Commission just a few months earlier.
In late 2009, at a parliamentary reception for Interpal, Labour peer Lord Ahmed praised the charity's work: "I have to say that Interpal has probably faced more challenges and discrimination and, sometimes, more scrutiny than it deserved. In every case they proved to be very professional and a fantastic British charity, and we want to congratulate them ... Well, I don't care what you think about Hamas. I care about what we think about those innocent people who live in Gaza and those people who live in the West Bank and the other occupied territories."
Lord Ahmed's fellow speakers at the event included Daud Abdullah and Ismail Patel. Abdullah is the Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, and had led the boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day. He is a signatory to the Istanbul Declaration, which called for support of Hamas in "this malicious Jewish Zionist war over Gaza," encouraged attacks on British ships sent to the area, expressed opposition to the "so-called Arab peace initiative" of the Palestinian Authority, called upon Palestinians to "carry on with the jihad" and declared that Muslims must seek to provide money and weapons to the people of Gaza so that they "are able to live and perform the jihad in the way of Allah Almighty."
Ismail Patel, who runs an organization called Friends of Al Aqsa, is an outspoken supporter of Hamas. The anti-racism group Engage has noted Patel's fondness for the late French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy. Patel's organization has published the work of the notorious anti-Jewish journalist Khalid Amayreh, including a piece that claims the invasion of Iraq was planned by "mostly Jewish neocons in Washington". Amayreh has described Ahamd Jabari, the senior Hamas terrorist recently killed by an Israeli drone strike, as a "hero" in an obituary written for the website of Al-Qassam Brigades, one of the 'military' branches of Hamas.
Labour members' association with Interpal and other extremists is not just limited to backbench MPs and Peers. In 2009, the then-Treasury Secretary Stephen Timms gave a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research, during which he said: "Many people are motivated by faith to give financially to alleviate suffering ... The UK NGO Interpal is a channel for such contributions, very widely supported by Muslims in my constituency and elsewhere, and respected by other NGOs ... It wouldn't be right if mainstream routes for British Muslims' humanitarian contributions were blocked by unexplained concerns from outside the UK."
In making such a speech before the Charity Commission had properly published its findings on Interpal, Stephen Timms subverted the very real concerns about Interpal's work and simultaneously illuminated his own reasons for supporting the charity -- referring to the perceived concerns of a particular demographic whose votes he wishes the Labour Party to retain.
Leading Labour Party politicians also feel able to voice support for Interpal because there is little grassroots displeasure to persuade them otherwise. This is partly due to the litigious behavior of Islamist groups in the UK – particularly the ones aligned to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Libel law is useful tool for Islamist groups. Just as tolerance offers freedom to intolerance, democracies offer ammunition to anti-democratic groups. Anti-Western groups work to exploit and manipulate democratic institutions and ideas, employing everything from British libel law to international arrest warrants. The academic Richard Landes describes the perpetrators as 'demopaths': People who use democratic language and invoke human rights only when it serves their interests. The most lethal demopaths, Landes notes, use democratic rights to destroy democracy.
Interpal has successfully issued a large number of legal threats, taking advantage of certain deficiencies within British libel law, to discourage examination of Interpal's relationship with Hamas. Within the last few years, the Daily Express, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and even the Jerusalem Post have all published apologies after Interpal threatened legal action over statements suggesting the charity was aligned to Hamas.
Interpal is, of course, just one charity among dozens which are accused of financing terrorism. Friends of Israel in UKIP has recently submitted a question to the European Commission, which queries the European Union's decision to fund Muslim Aid and Islamic Relief to the tune of €9 million and €22 million respectively. Both charities are believed to be inaugural members of the Union of Good. Islamic Relief is accused of funnelling as much as $6 million to al‑Qaeda linked terrorists in Chechnya, and Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has claimed that the charity "provides support and assistance to Hamas's infrastructure". Muslim Aid is accused of financing Islamic terrorism in Bangladesh, and in 2002 Spanish authorities alleged that it "used funds to send mujahedeen fighters to Bosnia".
A weak Charity Commission is also a factor. Lord Carlile has noted, in his counter-terrorism review, that, "Allegations have been made about the charity Interpal, and the associated Union of Good, and others. The Charity Commission has limited resources for such allegations to be investigated fully, and has neither the expertise nor the responsibility to investigate terrorism." Carlile's later report in 2011 added that the Charity Commission "... has lost a significant proportion of its staff, and as constituted has little prospect of carrying out the fullest inquiries where there are allegations of sophisticated money laundering which channels charitable funds to terrorist groups abroad."
The British government's counter-terrorism strategy (June 2011), states: "Where a charity is suspected of criminal (including terrorist) activity, it will be referred by the Charity Commission to law enforcement agencies ... Where such suspicion arises, there should be reports to the police or Serious Fraud Office, who should lead any such investigation."  This conflicts with the Charity Commission's own mission statement, which advocates a more passive approach, promising that it will "work with charity trustees to put things right if they go wrong".
However, the foremost reason that charities such as Interpal continue to function with such ease is not due to any real deficiency in the Charity Commission's mandate; rather, it is the deprivation of political resolve. It seems clear that the Charity Commission has deliberately avoided properly examining the question of the trustees' personal meetings with Hamas leaders. This is despite the Commission's guidelines on trustee responsibilities, which instruct that trustees must "avoid undertaking activities that might place the charity's endowment, funds, assets or reputation at undue risk."
Looking at Essam Yusuf, many rational observers might suggest that accompanying the leaders of a terrorist organization to celebrate the martyrdom of terrorist operatives is cause for concern, and would certainly place the charity's reputation "at undue risk".
However, the political cover of legitimacy provided by leading politicians such as Andy Slaughter and Stephen Timms diminishes any incentive for the Charity Commission to investigate charities such as Interpal further. The pusillanimity of the political classes undermines the inquiries into terror finance and sanitizes charities' activities in a manner that will ensure a continuing lack of vigilance and accountability, and that encourages all those other organizations which -- as with Interpal -- are complicit with the financing of terrorism.
The disingenuous denials of both Government and the charities that support terror groups can only endure with the connivance of both. If both government and charities continue in the tacit collusion of burying the reality of terror finance, Interpal will continue its harmful work unchallenged. In return, the political classes convince themselves they remain appealing to a section of the population that is being deceived and exploited by champions of terrorism dressed as humanitarians and community leaders -- violent voices of a hijacked group.
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