Standing orders for donations to British charity Interpal, which has been providing humanitarian and development aid to Palestinians since 1994, have been cancelled by HSBC Bank.
Donors have been instructed that their standing order payments to the London-based charity will no longer be processed. HSBC has provided no explanation for cancelling the payments, and admitted that such donations to the charity do not contravene "local" — British — law.
The bank's move came to light when one donor used social media to publicise the letter that he had received.
It is the latest in a series of attacks by the financial and media sectors against Interpal, whose chair of trustees is MEMO's senior editor, Ibrahim Hewitt. The only bank account that the charity has is being closed by Al Rayan Bank at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in under four weeks.
HSBC's decision was met with dismay. "This is more than disappointing for us, our donors and indeed our beneficiaries in the field given that HSBC has chosen the middle of a deadly pandemic and the month of Ramadan to block these payments" said Interpal in a statement. "Ramadan is a time when British Muslim communities are at their most generous and ready to help people in desperate need who need even more support due to the coronavirus Covid-19." The charity said that it is "a disgrace that a major bank should take such a decision at this time."
Commenting on previous attempts to discredit Interpal's work and tarnish its reputation, the charity repeated for the umpteenth time that "allegations of wrongdoing have been shown to be false following several independent investigations." It went on to express "extreme disappointment" at the decision to attack a British charity in order "to appease those who act on behalf of an alien state to prevent humanitarian aid getting to the Palestinians. Such efforts to politicise the charity sector are immoral and harmful to poor people at their most vulnerable."
While no explanation has been provided, the charity has told MEMO that HSBC probably took the decision due to the 2003 US designation of Interpal as a "global terrorist entity". Pro-Israel groups have also been lobbying the financial sector to close down all of the charity's access to the international banking system.
The US designation was made at the request of the Israeli government, which alleged that Interpal funds the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas. The trustees of Interpal deny this. There was no due process, and US officials have said subsequently — off the record — that the decision was "entirely political". The allegations were found to be baseless after a number of investigations and inquiries by Britain's charity regulator found no evidence of illegal activity by Interpal.
The "terrorist" tag is used widely by pro-Israel lobby groups to target charities like Interpal and pro-Palestinian activists. The allegations generally collapse under legal scrutiny. For instance, last year a British high court judge ordered World-Check, a subsidiary of Reuters, to pay compensation to a pro-Palestine organisation listed as a terrorist group on its global online database. Interpal has been paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in libel damages over the years from pro-Israel media and community institutions.