On June 19, 2014, Israel’s Defense Minister declared Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), a British-based non-governmental organization (NGO), as illegal and banned it from operating in Israel and the West Bank. This decision was based on information regarding IRW’s alleged fundraising for Hamas, a designated terror organization by Israel, the U.S., EU, and Canada.
According to news reports, the decision was made after “the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), the coordinator for government activities in the territories, and legal authorities provided incriminating information against IRW.” Specifically, IRW is charged with channeling funds to Hamas.
IRW works in over 30 countries, claiming to “promote sustainable economic and social development by working with local communities to eradicate poverty, illiteracy and disease.”
Its website states that it “has been working in the Palestinian Territories since 1994, and opened an office in Gaza City in 1998.” While most of the projects and statements listed on the IRW website appear to be humanitarian in nature, the Israeli government’s conclusions indicate that this does not represent the entirety of IRW’s agenda.
IRW is funded by European governments and non-governmental foundations.
Donors for 2012 include the UK (£1,400,000), the EU (£2,169,340), Spain (£243,942), Sweden, Switzerland (£52,942), Oxfam (£1,800,671), CAFOD (£235,846), UNDP (£919,350), UNHCR (£8,841,287) and UNWFP (£289,373).
In light of the Israeli ban, NGO Monitor has written to these funders to determine what mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that funding or cooperation with IRW has not been linked to terrorist activities or incitement to violence.
Indeed, the evidence from numerous previous cases suggests that European governments do not generally employ sufficient due diligence before entering into a financial relationship with NGOs. The intense secrecy surrounding European grants to NGOs highlights these concerns. The allegations regarding funding to IRW demonstrate the need for an independent, immediate, comprehensive, and transparent review by IRW’s donors and supporters.