At What Price is the Special Relationship Maintained?
The US has demanded that the assets of five charities, including UK-based charity, Interpal, be frozen on Aug 22. An ugly campaign has been launched against Interpal, claiming that it has links with Hamas. These allegations have been denied by Ibrahim Hewitt, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, who said we only distribute to charitable organizations that are registered with the appropriate local authorities, we do not give funds to individuals.
Yet this isn’t the first time that Interpal has come under close scrutiny. The Sunday Telegraph in May 1996 featured an article entitled ‘London Fatwa backs suicide bombers,’ which alleged that Interpal was run by Hamas activists and that it was raising funds to train suicide bombers in Gaza and the West Bank. These claims led to an investigative search led by the Charity Commission, affirming that Interpal is ‘a well run and committed organization which carries out important work in a part of the world where there is great hardship and suffering.’ Since then, stringent control has been put on Interpal’s operations. Hewitt is confident that his organization has successfully complied all along within the bounds of English law and within the guidelines of the Charity Commission.
The Muslim community in Britain, numbering 1.6 million, is confident that the British government will not bow down to US pressure through freezing the assets of Interpal. Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said “What disturbs is that a foreign government, albeit a close ally, should not try to impose its own determination on an independent state. It would be most serious if the British government acquiesced to this demand, knowing as we do that this decision is primarily influenced by the Israeli lobby.”
Muslims here feel attached to Interpal, in that it is reaching out to an area of great suffering. The ongoing occupation, violence, and injustice has left “ 53% of the workforce unemployed, 72 homes demolished per month in Gaza, and a major decline in cash assistance from $3.8 million to $960,000 and of the $3.3 million required in the West Bank only $2,600 came in, in the first half of 2003” according the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA report dated April-June 2003.
Hewitt has reassured his donors that all their funding has been channelled legitimately to those in dire need. He is outraged by the false accusations, as they have no substantial ground. Yet he asks for the Muslims to do duaa for Interpal so that it may continue to reach out to the needy Palestinians.