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Interpal's letter to Haaretz newspaper

January 31, 2014 at 12:49 am

In response to a report in Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Wednesday 12th January that the State of Israel has “blacklisted 163 foreign charities suspected of supporting terrorism”, in which Interpal’s situation is cited as an example, the Chair of Interpal’s Board of Trustees sent the following letter to the Editor. To-date, the letter has not been published. Interpal is therefore publishing this letter as it believes that it is important for its voice to be heard on this matter:

Dear Editor,

I refer to Chaim Levinson’s article “Israel blacklists 163 foreign charities suspected of supporting terrorism” (12 January). Mr. Levinson uses Interpal as his example of a charity from which Israeli organisations are banned from receiving money. He claims that “after a number of investigations on suspicion of serving as a channel for funding for Hamas, Interpal was blacklisted in Israel and is no longer allowed to hold activities” in the country “or transfer funds to Israel”. Without defining “activists”, he adds that such people “belonging to the organisation will be arrested if they arrive” in Israel.

To give Mr. Levinson his due, he does mention that the British regulator, the Charity Commission, “found Israel provided no proof that Interpal was connected to terrorism, but ordered the charity to break contact with a number of other organisations”. I am happy to say that we have always followed Charity Commission instructions, regulations and guidance, as well as English Law, in the operation of our charity and believe that Interpal is much stronger as a result; we have what we believe to be “industry standard” policies for due diligence and risk management to which we adhere strictly. Like Hadas Ziv at Physicians for Human Rights quoted by Mr. Levinson, “we abide by the law” which governs us. 

The occasion mentioned by Mr. Levinson, when the Commission actually rejected unsolicited “evidence” from the Israeli Government was, in fact, the third time that our charity had been investigated following what we believe to be politically-motivated accusations against us. On each occasion, the Charity Commission found no evidence of illegal activity of any kind. This includes an investigation in the wake of Interpal being declared to be a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity” by the George W Bush administration in 2003 at, according to CNN, the request of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At that time, the US Treasury supplied “items in the public domain” – newspaper articles – as the “evidence” for the grossly-unjust designation. In the 2006-9 investigation, the US Treasury did not respond at all to the Charity Commission’s request.

Neither the USA nor Israel has ever “investigated” Interpal in a manner which follows any recognisably just due process and allows for the charity to offer a defence of any kind. Despite that rather glaring omission on the part of democratic states, Interpal was “Declared to be an unlawful association” by the Israeli Ministry of Defence on 6 May 1997, and then we were labelled “as a terrorist organisation according to Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance” by the Israeli Government on 17 January 1998, as well as the announcement by the US in 2003.

As the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Interpal, I suppose that I would be called an “activist” subject to arrest if I tried to enter Israel. Nevertheless, in summer 1998 I did indeed enter Israel through Ben Gurion Airport to escort two British Members of Parliament on a tour of projects we had funded in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The MPs were aware even then of attempts to smear Interpal through the British media which were removed following the threat of legal action; they were pleasantly surprised to find that, in fact, Interpal funds humanitarian projects openly and transparently with a very clear audit trail from donor to beneficiary. The trustees of Interpal have sought redress through the British High Courts of Justice on a number of occasions when we believe that we have been libelled by the accusation of funding terrorism or terrorist-related activities. Most notably, the Board of Deputies of British Jews asked us to settle out of court when we challenged the description of Interpal which appeared on the Board’s website. The Board published an apology in which it accepted that it should not have described Interpal as a “terrorist organisation” and undertook never to do so in future.

Interpal does not fund any projects in Israel nor does it “hold any activities in the country or transfer funds to Israel”. Hence, unless Mr. Levinson and the government employee responsible for the latest “blacklist” are describing the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip as “Israel”, then that particular ban is a meaningless gesture, echoing George W Bush’s claim in 2003 that his administration was “freezing” all of Interpal’s bank accounts and assets in the United States; Interpal has never had any such assets or accounts.

My fellow trustees and I believe that we have never knowingly or unknowingly had charitable funds from Interpal used for illegal purposes of any kind, let alone terrorism. It would be a symbol of your newspaper’s more balanced editorial policy if you print this letter in full and allow your readers to hear another voice on this issue.

Yours faithfully,

Ibrahim Hewitt
Chairman of the Board of Trustees