|This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2014)|
|Focus||Medical, Education and Community|
|Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon|
|Method||Direct Aid / Program Funding|
|Slogan||"Helping Palestinians in need"|
Interpal is the working name for the British charity Palestinian Relief and Development Fund founded in 1994 which states that it is a non-political charity to alleviate problems faced by Palestinians, and focused solely on the provision of relief and development aid to the poor and needy Palestinians the world over, but primarily in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Jordan.
The US government has made allegations that Interpal is funding or supporting terrorism, but these have not been substantiated in the British courts or by the Charity Commission. United States citizens and permanent residents are however prohibited from doing business with them via a 2003 SDN listing. The British High Court in July 2010 found it is libellous to link Interpal and Hamas.
Mission and values
Interpal was founded in the wake of the Oslo Accords. It states that its “passion for justice and the preservation of human dignity commits [it] to helping Palestinians in need”. Interpal works closely with their partners in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan, with the aim of “moving the poor and needy in its areas of operation away from the culture of dependency and encourage a culture of self-sufficiency, and to promote peace and stability within the communities to which the beneficiaries belong”.
On their website, Interpal acknowledge that the volatile situation in the occupied territories means it is most effective for the organisation to transfer funds to local authorised partners and allow goods and supplies to be purchased within the area. In the past, however, this has led to accusations of Interpal funds reaching illegal and terrorist organisations. (See below).
Interpal works in the occupied Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank as well as the refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. It conducts the majority of its work through partner organisations that are based locally to “provide aid and revitalise the local economy at the same time”.
Interpal have four main areas of focus:
1) Emergency Humanitarian Aid: Interpal provide humanitarian assistance by delivering food, water, shelter, clothing and medical aid year round. They also run other schemes such as sponsorship of orphans and seasonal support during Ramadan and Qurbani periods of the Islamic year.
2) Medical Assistance: Support is provided to establish new health clinics and to improve existing facilities that are overstretched. Interpal also provides medical equipment and supplies to those in need.
3) Educational Support: Interpal dedicates significant attention and funds to keeping children and young adults in education as part of their commitment to educating and empowering individuals in Palestine. This involves financial assistance to schools and universities as well as support for the neediest of pupils.
4) Community Development: Interpal state that self-sufficiency is key to alleviating poverty and fostering community development; they support orphanages, welfare centres and the protection of sites of religious and cultural significance to aid the creation of a sustainable Palestinian community.
The charity organises several events throughout the year including charity bazaars, university talks, auctions, and fundraising dinners. Other annual campaigns include Ramadan and Qurbani appeals.
Interpal has a number of successful fundraising channels in addition to its mail and online campaigns. Tens of thousands of people in the UK make a regular financial contribution towards its work and many thousands more sponsor orphans and needy children on a regular giving scheme. Vital funds are received from mosque and street collections and through live TV appeals. Interpal also receives funds in return for providing and organising volunteer stewards at events such as IslamExpo and the Global Peace & Unity events. As a seller of fair trade products, Interpal helps developing communities in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Administration costs and policies
Interpals policy is not to deduct administration costs from specified donations. Administration costs for the past 7 years have been less than 10% of the total annual budget, and they are met from the following sources;
- Donations into the administration account
- Unwanted interest (riba) money
- Tax reclaimed from British HM Revenue and Customs schemes such as Gift Aid.
Interpal is chaired by Ibrahim Hewitt. The other trustees are G Faour (also a trustee of the Palestinian Return Centre), Dr E Mustafa, I Y Ginwala MBE, M Rafiq Vindhani and Dr S Husain.
Allegations against Interpal
Interpal has on three occasions, following allegations, been the subject of investigations by the Charity Commission for England and Wales. In all three investigations evidence was not found to prove alleged links between Interpal and organisations involved in terrorism.
In 1996 allegations were made against Interpal and its Trustees in the Sunday Telegraph. A Charity Commission inquiry found no evidence that donations could not be accounted for or were made for political reasons. Subsequently the Telegraph issued the following apology and retraction on 29 November 1997:
"On 26 May 1996, in an article entitled "London fatwa backs suicide bombers", we suggested that the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund (INTERPAL) was run by Hamas activists who encourage and support terrorist activities in Israel. We also reported claims which were being investigated by the Charity Commission that INTERPAL was used to raise money to fund the training of suicide bombers in Gaza and the West Bank. We now accept that the Trustees of INTERPAL are not Hamas activists. We also accept that the Charity Commission's investigations found there to be no evidence of any pro-terrorist bias in the charity or of any channelling of its funds towards the training of suicide bombers. The Commission concluded that the charity is a "well run and committed organisation which carries out important work in a part of the world where there is great hardship and suffering" and that INTERPAL takes every possible step to ensure that its donations go only to charitable purposes, helping the poor and needy. We withdraw the allegations that appeared in our article and apologise to the Trustees of INTERPAL for the embarrassment caused."
On August 22, 2003 the United States Department of the Treasury published a list of six individuals and five charities it alleged to have links to Hamas and terrorism. The list included Interpal. It described all as "Specially Designated Global Terrorists." The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control put them all on a list of individuals and organisations with whom United States citizens and permanent residents are prohibited from doing business. A few weeks later, after a full investigation, the British Charity Commission cleared Interpal of any illegal activities, finding the U.S. Treasury did not provide evidence to support their allegations, and unfroze its assets.
After the Board of Deputies of British Jews repeated this allegation, it was sued by Interpal. The parties settled out of court, with the Board of Deputies making a public apology and posting the statement on its website for 28 days. The statement on their Web-site concluded:
..We referred to “terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Interpal”. We would like to make it clear that we should not have described Interpal in this way and we regret the upset and distress our item caused.
2006 to 2009 inquiry
In July 2006 the BBC broadcast a Panorama programme, "Faith, Hate and Charity", alleging that Interpal donated funds to voluntary organisations in the Palestinian territories that supported the ideology of Hamas.
The team later pointed out in a 2009 article in response to the Charity Commission investigation that among the material that Panorama had passed to the Commission was a video of young girls attending an event organized by one of Interpal’s partner charity being encouraged to sing “We all sacrifice ourselves for our country" and "... we answer your call and make of our skulls a ladder to your glory, a ladder.” In another clip submitted by Panorama, another girl was showed while dancing to a tune with the lyrics “Fasten your bomb belt oh would-be martyr and fill the square with blood so that we get back our homeland.”
The Commission’s investigation also revealed that Interpal had consistently supplied at least five members of the Union of Good, an umbrella organization including over 50 charities which the U.S. Treasury had designated as “an organisation created by Hamas leadership to transfer funds to the terrorist organisation.” The five members mentioned by the Commission report had been listed as terrorist entities by the UK authorities.
Furthermore, among the founding members of the Union of Good and former partners of Interpal was the U.S.-based Holy Land Foundation. According to the FBI, in 2000 the Holy Land Foundation had sent Interpal $66,000. In November 2008 a Dallas jury had unanimously convicted seven members of the foundation for supporting Hamas
The head of the Charity Commission said on the Panorama programme that the presenting journalist had raised some "pertinent" issues concerning the organisation's links to Hamas that should be investigated. On 4 January 2007 the Commission "reiterated its 1996 conclusion that Interpal is 'a well run and committed organisation which carries out important work in a part of the world where there is great hardship and suffering'."
After an extended investigation, in February 2009 the Charity Commission report dismissed allegations by Panorama that Interpal was funding organisations involved in terrorism. Again the U.S. Treasury did not supply any evidence to the Charity Commission inquiry, though the Israeli government did provide an outline of its concerns. However the inquiry concluded that Interpal “had not put in place adequate due diligence and monitoring procedures to be satisfied that these organisations were not promoting terrorist ideologies or activities. Where procedures were in place, they were not sufficient nor fully implemented”. The inquiry concluded that they "could not verify that the material it examined suggesting certain partner organisations funded by the charity may be promoting terrorist ideology or activities."
Interpal has been ordered by the Charity Commission to end its links to The Union of Good, which had been designated by the U.S. Treasury as “an organisation created by Hamas leadership to transfer funds to the terrorist organisation.” In May 2010 the Charity Commission found Interpal to be in full compliance with directions.
The Charity Commission also stated that Essam Mustafa (also known as Essam Yusuf), the former vice-chairman of Interpal, could not continue as General Secreatary of the Union of Good. In addition, the commission urged Interpal to publish guidelines about its activities with local partners in the MiddleEast.
Essam Mustafa is closely affiliated to Hamas senior members. According to the U.S. Treasury, Mustafa served on the hamas executive committee with Hamas’ political leader Khaled Mashal. Samuel Westrop reported that Essam Mustafa managed on behalf of Interpal a program for aid convoy (“Miles of Smiles”) which supplied the Hamas-led welfare programs in Gaza.
According to Westrop “Essam Yusuf is regularly photographed with Hamas leaders in Gaza who welcome each convoy with a ceremony and series of celebratory events.” Moreover, in late 2013 Mustafa appeared in a video next to Ismail Haniyeh, a senior political leader of Hamas and disputed Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority. On that occasion, Mustafa was allegedly participating in a song praising martyrdom as well as the Izz Ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing.
Both Essam Mustafa and Ibrahim Hewitt, Interpal chairman, are barred from travelling to the United States, to Israel, to Canada and Australia. Hewitt has a consolidated reputation as a radical Islamist speaker and pro-Palestine activist who has often publicly advocated death for apostates and adulterers, as well as severe punishments for homosexuals.
The media, banks and Interpal
- On 6 January 2006 the Wall Street Journal reported that a suit was filed by an individual in the Brooklyn Federal Court in New York against the NatWest, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland for providing banking services to Interpal, claiming that the group has been identified as linked to terrorism. NatWest is hoping to have the charges, which it claims are spurious and absurd, dismissed.
- On 15 January 2006 The Sunday Telegraph  reported that Zvi Heifetz, then Israel's ambassador to London, would hold urgent talks with Ivan Lewis, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and a Vice-Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, in order to demand action be taken against Interpal after George Galloway entered the reality television show Celebrity Big Brother UK to earn money for his charity of choice, Interpal. Interpal reacted to the claims by issuing a statement saying "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".
- On 2 July 2006, The Jerusalem Post also issued an apology to Interpal regarding a defamatory article it published.
- On 29 July 2006 the BBC Panorama programme investigated to find out how Interpal's donations have allegedly helped build support for Hamas, the elected government of the Palestinian people. It claimed that Interpal was funding organisations that proclaimed a "jihadist ideology", and that there were personal links between Interpal's chief trustee and Hamas figures.
- On 20 March 2007 Interpal’s bank accounts with British bank NatWest/Royal Bank of Scotland (who Interpal have had a mutually beneficial banking relationship with for over a decade) were closed by the bank, which cited pressure from the US legal system as the reason. The suit, filed in the federal court in Brooklyn in January 2006, made claims on behalf of 15 families of Americans wounded in attacks. It said NatWest, owned by RBS, allowed Interpal to raise funds on its website knowing the US government identified the charity as a fundraiser for Hamas, violating US anti-terrorism laws.
- Interpal was being investigated in Australia as of September 2008 for its alleged links with Hamas.
- The Islamic Bank of Britain has been put under pressure from its clearing bank, Lloyds TSB, been forced to cease all dealings with Interpal and will close the charity’s bank account as of 8 December 2008. IBB has expressed full support for Interpal. No explanation has been given for this action by Lloyds TSB and Interpal’s work is under threat of closure unless the decision is reversed.
- On 22 July 2010, Interpal’s lawyers, Carter-Ruck issued a press release to mark the close of the charity’s libel case against the Sunday Express. A statement read in the High Court before Mr. Justice Eady confirmed the paper’s acceptance that the allegations it made that Interpal supported Hamas were false, to make an apology, and to pay Interpal £60,000 plus legal costs in settlement.
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- Interpal "had not adequately managed the charity’s relationship with the organisation the Union for Good. The Inquiry concluded that the charity’s continued membership of the Union for Good was not appropriate for a number of reasons set out in the report, including the involvement of designated entities in projects co-ordinated through the Union for Good, that designated entities had been amongst the Union for Good’s membership, and that one of the charity’s trustees was closely linked to the organisation. (Paragraphs 69–114) As a result of the inquiry, the Commission has used its statutory powers to direct Interpal’s trustees to review their due diligence and monitoring procedures relating to their partner organisations, end the charity’s relationship with the Union for Good and ensure that no trustee holds office or has a role within the Union for Good. The Commission will be reviewing with the trustees the implementation of these requirements."
- "Interpal in Full Compliance". Interpal. 28 May 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
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- Kettering Town chairman to return award as bank shuns shirt sponsor's accounts, The Telegraph, 16 December 2008.
- "Express Newspapers apologises and pays £60,000 to the Trustees of Interpal over untrue allegations of support for Hamas and terrorism" (PDF). Carter-Ruck. 22 July 2010. SRA No. 44769. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
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- Interpal Website
- Palestinians Relief and Development Fund, Registered Charity no. 1040094 at the Charity Commission
- US Designates Five Charities Funding Hamas, including Interpal
- Bond: advocacy for interpal
- epolitix: Interpal
- IHRC – Interpal
- Intelligent Giving profile of Interpal
- From the BBC:
- Interpal have no case to answer, Rolled-up trousers blog