UNWRA and Friends

This is a cross post by Rachel Blain from the  Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy

Human Appeal International (HAI) is a “British International development and relief charity”, founded in 1984. According to the United Kingdom Charity Commission, the charity’s goals are “The relief of poverty and sickness and the protection of good health and the advancement of education of those in need or from impoverished countries overseas and in particular Sudan, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Afghanistan.” Most recently HAI has teamed up with the UN agency that deals with Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, to launch an education project in Gaza. Should we be surprised that a United Nations body is taking part in a joint venture with a charity the USA has deemed complicit with terrorism?

Human Appeal International is accused of a number of Hamas connections. In 2005, Hamas openly admitted receipt of funds from HAI on their website. Later that year, HAI was named on the charge sheet against Ahmed Saltana – a Hamas activist from Jenin, and head of the Jenin Zakat Committee – who was imprisoned after being found guilty of providing some £6.2 million of funds to Hamas suicide bombers and their families in order to glorify their actions. Saltana has previously been involved in transferring bomb making materials in 1992, a car bombing in Jerusalem’s Sbarro Restaurant in 1993, and recruiting young men working for his charity committee into Hamas. This is not the first time Human Appeal International has been accused of funding terrorist actions: a 1996 CIA report identified Human Appeal International as one of a number of Islamic charities used as conduits for funds to terrorist organizations, and tied it to the Saudi-based Muwafaq, an Al-Qaeda front group.

Not only is Human Appeal International accused of transferring funds to Hamas; but here in Europe, it also has close relations with extremists who openly support Hamas. One of the Human Appeal’s current trustees is Dr. Nooh al Kaddo, who also serves as the executive director of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI), and is a member of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe. Both of these are considered to be part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s European network, with the ICCI hosting the European Council for Fatwa and Research, which is headed by the notorious anti-Semitic hate preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. Qaradawi is a supporter of suicide bombings in Israel.

Recently, HAI hosted an event with the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), featuring the hate preacher Dr. Haitham al-Haddad as a guest speaker. Al-Haddad regards Jews as “enemies of god, and the descendants of apes and pigs”, and disregards any form of peace until “Allah’s law [will] govern the whole earth, and for no other law to remain.” Haddad deems homosexuality a crime and supports the subjugation of women,telling them: “you must obey [your husband].”

But perhaps we should not be surprised at UNRWA’s choice of partner. UNRWA itself is also accused of forging links with Hamas. With UNRWA’s headquarters now in Gaza, Claudia Rosset, the American writer, notes that“UNRWA’s interests in Gaza are by now so entwined and, in many ways, so aligned with Hamas’ interests that it is often hard to tell them apart.”

In 1997, UNRWA-run schools were exposed by Washington Jewish Week of teaching Hamas ideology to pupils. Hamas graffiti adorned classroom walls, as well as maps of Palestine that ran from the Jordan to the Mediterranean (removing Israel altogether) pictures of machine guns symbolising the use of violence to achieve the goal of ‘right to return’. It is claimed that UNRWA schools are a primary place for indoctrinating and recruiting Hamas militants.

Furthermore, the refugee camps set up by UNRWA are also considered to be instruments of Hamas. In 2007, The UNRWA Nuseirat refugee camp was identified as a site for launching Kassam rockets at civilians in Israel. There are not just institutional ties between UNRWA and Hamas, but also mutual staff. Nahd Rashid Ahmed Atallah, a senior official of UNRWA in the Gaza strip, transported members of the Popular Resistance Committees to carry out sniper attacks. Additionally, he has helped to distribute financial aid to the families of terrorists.

UNRWA is a project of a putatively democratic body, and the apparent associations with terrorist organisations is cause for great concern. UNRWA denies these allegations, but partnering with Human Appeal International suggests otherwise and reflects the urgent need for real reform of this refugee organisation. Hamas elements must be removed and the partnership with HAI must be terminated, so that UNRWA can become an accountable and transparent body that genuinely works to help Palestinians rather than facilitate and even promote an violent ideological movement that works to exacerbate bigotry and violence.

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