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Terror Finance

This is a guest post by Sam Westrop

A complete version of this report can be found at the Gatestone Institute

Interpal 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”[1]. However, a number of Governments have accused Interpal of being 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.[2]

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.”[3]

Interpal was an inaugural member of the Union of Good (UoG)[4], a coalition of charities that manages the financial support required by Hamas for its terrorist activities[5]. 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.[6]

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 the car bomb attack in Jerusalem that killed 12 people and injured 180 more.[7] 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.”[8]

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”.[9]

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.”[10]

In response to the Charity Commission investigation, trustee Essam Yusuf publicly announced that he had severed all his ties with the UoG in 2009[11]. 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.[12]

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[13].

Additionally, since the Charity Commission’s instruction for Interpal to sever links with the UoG, Yusuf has recently granted[S1]  interviews to a number of UoG websites. In one such interview, Yusuf both announced his resignation and his future plans for the UoG:

“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.”[14]

Interpal and its supporters vehemently deny any ties to terrorism. And yet Interpal’s work appears to go beyond what charitable pragmatism requires: it includes meetings with leading Hamas terrorists.

In late August 2012, after leading a convoy to Gaza, Essam Yusuf joined with key Hamas leaders and visited the families of Hamas ‘martyrs’[15]. 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.”[16] 
  • 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[17].
  • 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[18].
  • 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.”[19]

 

mustafa martyrdom tour

 

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; also immediately below, on the left)

mustafa martyrdom tour 2

Here is the video of Yusuf’s ‘martyrdom tour’:

 

 

Featured dead terrorists include:

- Sheikh Yassin at the beginning, the spiritual leader of Hamas

- Khalil Al-Wazier, from 3:04.  Killed In Tunisia in 1988.

- Ibrahim al-Makadmeh, from 4:11.  ”Military” leader, killed by the IDF in 2003.

- Muhammad Shama, from 5:06.  Hamas founder, died in 2011.

- Saeed Siam, from 6:15. Interior minister, killed during Cast Lead.

- Ismail Abu Shanab, from 8:15.  Hamas leader, killed by the IDF in August 2003.

- Rantissi, from 10:24.  Leader killed in 2003.

- Riyyan, from 11:11.  Leader killed during Cast Lead.

- Mahmoud Al-Mabhou, from 13:50.  Killed in Dubai.

Interpal’s convoys and their association with senior Hamas figures is not a new development. In previous years, Yusuf also met with Hamas leaders, including Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who told the convoy’s participants: “Today, the armed resistance is stronger than before … Resistance is our strategic choice and it will go on. We will not recognize Israel and we will not make any concession on any of our people’s legitimate rights.”[20]

Despite all this publically available information, 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.”[21]

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[22], Zionism is a “threat to world peace”[23] 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?”[24] 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”[25].

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”[26].

Other Interpal officials continue to show a similar lack of caution. Zaid Yemeni (also known as Zaid Hassan) is the Birmingham contact for Interpal[27]. 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”[28].

Ibrahim Dar (also known as Abu Hana) has been the Bradford representative of Interpal[29]. Dar openly supports sharia law[30] and calls for an Islamist caliphate to replace democracy[31]. He also regularly voices his admiration for the late al-Qaeda terrorist Anwar Al-Awlaki[32], 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.

During Israel’s recent conflict with Hamas, Interpal representatives openly voiced support for Hamas.  Shihab Almahdawi, an Interpal staffer based in Birmingham, posted a picture of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, accompanied by a note praising Hamas terrorists.

 

156

 

Almahdawi also mocked Israelis forced to take cover from terrorist rocket attacks.

157

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.

 

158

 

Dar also appears to support the killing of homosexuals.

159

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).

160

 

Here is Yemeni at a large Hamas rally in Birmingham, surrounded by Hamas flags:
zaid hassan of interpal at a hamas rally in gaza 8 dec 2012

 

Leading figures in charities accused of collaborating with Hamas have defended their meetings with key terrorist figures by arguing that in order to accomplish their charitable work, they are obliged to work through the de facto rulers of Gaza, and that perceived collaboration with Hamas is an unavoidable consequence of practical process.

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.”[33]

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.”[34]

It is clear from these posts, however, that Interpal’s affection with Hamas goes far beyond the ineluctable bureaucracy 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. The Commission’s guidelines state that trustees must “avoid undertaking activities that might place the charity’s endowment, funds, assets or reputation at undue risk”[35]. 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”.  This clearly conflicts with the conclusion reached by 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.” ­­­[36]

 


[2] US Treasury Press Release – “U.S. Designates Five Charities Funding Hamas and Six Senior Hamas Leaders as Terrorist Entities”, 8/22/2003, #JS-672

[3] Special Information Bulletin – Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S) – Interpal, Part 1

[6]  US Treasury Press Release – “Treasury Designates the Union of Good”, 11/12/2008, #HP-1267

[7] ibid.

[8] BBC Panorama, “Faith, Hate and Charity”, broadcast on BBC One, Sunday 30 July 2006.

[11] Interview with Union of Good website – http://www.humanityvoice.net/news_details.php?id=3012

[13] Alquds.co.uk, May 17, 2011

[14] Interview with Union of Good website – http://www.humanityvoice.net/news_details.php?id=3012

[18] Fox News, ‘Israel shocked at Blast’s Child Toll’ – http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,95187,00.html

[19] Anti-Defamation League, ‘Hamas in their own words’ – http://www.adl.org/main_israel/hamas_own_words.htm

[23] Ibrahim Hewitt, Al Aqsa, Vol 3 Issue 1 – http://www.aqsa.org.uk/Portals/0/Journals/vol3_issue1.pdf

[26] Ibrahim Hewitt, What does Islam Say?, The Muslim Educational Trust, April 2004

[29] Interpal ‘About Us’ – http://hurryupharry.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Interpal-Trustees-and-Staff.jpeg

(Note: It is unclear whether or not, as of November 2012, Ibrahim Dar still works for Interpal’s Bradford office)

[34] George Stroumboulopoulos interviews George Galloway – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI8x_EZBIxg&feature=relmfu

[35] Trustee Responsibilities, Charity Commission guidance – http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/publications/cc3.aspx#d3