Islamic charities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories play an important role in helping the poor and needy who are suffering from poverty and unemployment. The siege of Gaza – now in its fourth year – is making life particularly difficult as all aspects of life are virtually paralyzed. Despite their humanitarian role, these charities are the subject of a Zionist campaign in the West intended to stop their charitable work; assets have been frozen, officials have been targeted and offices have been closed, particularly in the occupied West Bank.
According to the Office Director of the Charitable Organization for the Relief of the Palestinian People in Gaza, Omar Shallah, "Charity work in Palestine is going through a critical period because of this spiteful campaign led by America and the Zionist lobby." Post-9/11, charities were accused of "supporting terrorism and illegal activities" even though it was clear that their funds were used to support orphans and the needy.
"All of these charities work very transparently," said Mr. Shallah, "using funds from known sources sent for specific purposes: orphans, financial support and food parcels." Such support, he added, is vital for the people of Palestine living under Israel's illegal occupation and siege.
When asked about the degree of cooperation between charities and government institutions, especially the Ministry of Social Affairs in Gaza, Mr. Shallah said "There is cooperation but it does not reach the level required for a truly complementary relationship between NGOs and government; we hope that there will be a programme to maximise cooperation to meet the needs of the people."
The President of Al Falah Association, Ramadan Tanboura, said that because of the siege charitable associations across the Gaza Strip are facing many difficulties. "The suffering of our people has increased since the war," he said. "The ongoing siege and the effects of the international economic crisis on donors outside Palestine are hurting everyone, especially the unemployed." The difficulty of transferring money to Gaza is also having a negative impact, added Mr. Tanboura.
The Undersecretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Subhi Radwan, explained that his ministry "has many plans to enhance integration between the government and community in order to develop Palestinian society and provide services to the needy". The ministry is working hard to strengthen civil society because of its significance in helping and developing the Palestinian people during this time of suffering, he said.
Commenting on the charges levelled against charities, especially those run by Muslims, Mr. Radwan said, "All of these charges are baseless, and are intended to deprive the Palestinian poor and needy caught up in this humanitarian catastrophe."
The United States has recently intensified its actions against many of the charities and institutions which support Palestinians in their time of desperate need, particularly those organisations working in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Source: Palestine News