Monday, July 14, 2008

Closure of Charities: Details Revealed


This past week, I've written about the IDF closing West Bank Charities and an orphanage in Hebron and many of you asked me why. I couldn't answer because the contributing information was given by one-sided sources.

Yesterday, Haaretz published an article that discusses the reasons the organizations were shut down, the possible repercussions for all involved, and the limitations of these types of tactics. I will do my best to sum up here.

The only information I had before this article about why the IDF shut the charities down was that they were somehow related to Hamas, either being funded by them or were funding them. This article reveals that the strongest connection they have to Hamas is probably secondhand:
Legally, the technology incubator is also criminalized by the fact that it takes money from an organization that aids charities run by Hamas. An educational institution in Hebron that helps underprivileged children via money from an United Arab Emirates charity fund, and the Hamas summer camp which that fund also aids, both have become criminal institutions.
In other words, if you accept donations from a fund that also aids Hamas, your organization is now illegal. And this is what has happened to most of the 36 organizations that Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared illegal on May 26.

Next, let's pretend that Hamas does not have roots all the way into the core of the Palestinian territories and that this economic blacklisting will actually stop them. Where will the Palestinian people then receive these services?
For those who believe Hamas' development and expansion can be delayed, finding the money source is an important means...Hamas' civil activity has no substitute in the Palestinian Authority. The small clinic in Gaza, the summer camps for children, the food distribution stations in the refugee camps, the enrichment classes for youth ¬ the PA and the municipalities are having difficulty offering alternatives. Hamas' civil activity often takes place in private homes and even in schools administered by the PA Education Ministry.
In effect, by hindering Hamas' power to offer constructive assistance to its people, Israel is causing the realization of its own fears. Without its "civil activity" Hamas is no more than a bunch of rogue revolutionaries.

And I wonder if it's better to prove this or to make its opposite true.

In any relationship, there must be compromise. And a prime example of this type of compromise is the struggle between being right and being happy. You cannot have both all the time. Perhaps it would be better for the couple if Israel would stop trying to prove that Hamas is up to no good, and start encouraging Hamas in its non-violence enterprises.

As for the limitations of this tactic, Haaretz says:
Israel has an even more difficult problem ¬ its ability to supervise the cash flow to these associations is much more limited. Monies transferred from Arab countries to the territories go through an Israeli clearinghouse by means of three banks, and each time the name of one of the organizations appears, the computer spits out the data, but it is very easy to rename the organizations or transfer money in cash.
So, realistically, this move has made a lot of people angry with Israel but the actual benefits could be minimal.

Haaretz offers an improvement to the plan:
Banning these organizations does have declarative importance and it does open a front against Hamas, but it appears that practically speaking, it will be difficult to realize...In order to succeed, Israel needs to cooperate closely with the PA, which can at least supervise the movement of money in banks or establish a "clean fund" that receives money from permitted sources. However, the PA is yet to establish such a fund.
But Israel can no more cooperate with the PA than the PA can cooperate with Hamas:
The PA does randomly strike at Hamas institutions in the West Bank (in Gaza it cannot do anything), but it also cannot appear to be damaging charities and welfare groups, especially when reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is on the agenda.
These three entities are all weakening each other. And if they succeed in breaking each other, nobody will benefit. They will each be the subjects of someone else's occupation- perhaps Jordan and Egypt again. Or perhaps the United States.

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