Wednesday, July 02, 2008

COMMENT: Muslim Aid Australia and Interpal

Richard Kerbaj writes in The Australian today of an Australian aid agency which has allegedly breached Australia’s anti-terror laws. Muslim Aid Australia (MAA), in conjunction with Muslim Aid UK, has been raising funds for Palestinians in Gaza caught up in the Israeli-enforced blockade arising from Gaza’s takeover by HAMAS. That aid has been allegedly channelled through another UK-based charity called Interpal, a proscribed organisation under Australia’s anti-terror laws.

The current Consolidated List of proscribed terrorist organisations and individuals has over 1,000 persons and entities listed. It’s an offence to hold assets on behalf of anyone on the list or to make assets available to them. This is all part of the terrorist assets freezing regime, details of which can be found here.

Interpal, also known as the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, is number 462 on the list. It was proscribed by former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on 21 November 2003, well before the HAMAS takeover of Gaza in June 2007 and the Israeli-enforced blockade. Kerbaj claims that MAA has channelled funds to Gaza via Interpal, an organisation proscribed under US and Australian legislation but not proscribed under UK legislation. Interpal is known to work with mainstream organisations working on the ground in Gaza such as the United Nations Relief & Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNWRA) that works with Palestinian refugees living in camps in the Occupied Territories, Lebanon and other places.

Kerbaj provides a list of MAA “principal directors”. Curiously, he mentions where each director was born. I’m not sure how this is relevant to the story, especially since all directors are known to be Australian citizens (or, at the very least, Australian permanent residents).

It’s unknown how many other Australian aid agencies have channelled funds and other forms of aid to Gaza through Interpal. However, the fact that UNWRA works with Interpal raises some interesting issues. Such as how any aid organisation is expected to deliver aid to Palestinians without involving Interpal in some way, shape or form.

The other problem is with the legislation itself, which relies on the executive adding an individual or organisation to the list. Interpal was listed in 2003, allegedly because it was linked to HAMAS. Yet the reality is that HAMAS has been running various health and welfare-related projects (such as clinics and schools) since even before the Palestinian authority was established. Indeed, Israel encouraged HAMAS in these activities in the hope that HAMAS would act as an effective counter to the Fatah-led Palestine Liberation Organisation which Israel regarded as its enemy.

Given that HAMAS is now ruling Gaza, how can any organisation deliver aid to Gaza Palestinians without in some way involving HAMAS or a HAMAS-related entity? The listing of Interpal by former Foreign Minister Downer on the Consolidated List now effectively means that Australian aid agencies cannot donate to help the people of Gaza at all. I doubt this is what Downer intended when he made the directive in relation to Interpal.

Further, Australia has chosen to follow the lead of the United States instead of the UK, which has twice found Interpal having little or no substantive link to HAMAS. The United States doesn’t exactly have a brilliant record in proscription of individuals and groups as terrorists. ABC reported that the US only recently removed former South African president Nelson Mandela from its terrorism watch list.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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1 comment:

Yahya said...

Yet another example of Richard Kerbaj's one-man jihad against the Australian Muslim community, one suspects.

While I personally would rather my donations go elsewhere - Islamically I believe that your first responsibility starts with your neighbours i.e. Australian Aboriginies or even Indonesians rather than those further afield - I also wonder how many other, Non-Muslim organizations have interactions with Interpal. If Kerbaj was a better journalist he would be investigating these too.

Good on you Irfan for continuing to stage a lonely fightback against this agent for community disharmony masquerading as a journalist.