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Statement by Islamic Relief on operations in the Palestinian territories

On 19 June 2014 the Israeli Defence Minister declared Islamic Relief Worldwide an “unauthorised association” and added it to a list of organisations on the Ministry of Defence website, preventing us from operating in Israel and the West Bank and citing links with Hamas. Islamic Relief Worldwide is extremely surprised and concerned by this, and categorically denies any links with Hamas.

Islamic Relief Worldwide is one of the world’s most respected relief and development organisations. It receives support from various UN agencies including UNICEF, WFP, FAO, UNDP and UNHCR and other institutional donors such as the European Commission Humanitarian Office and numerous government aid donors. Islamic Relief Worldwide’s aid programme in the Palestinian territories is one of the biggest apart from those of UN agencies. This ban, if confirmed, will have a significant impact on the life and well-being of those most in need not only in the West Bank but also in Gaza. We intend to do everything we can through all legal means available to carry on serving our 535,000 beneficiaries in both Palestinian territories – 80,000 in the West Bank and 455,000 in Gaza.

Islamic Relief Worldwide is regulated in the UK by the Charity Commission and has rigorous internal control and compliance systems in place to ensure we uphold our humanitarian principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality. This includes using one of the most robust and sophisticated screening software solutions available to screen every employee, contractor, supplier, local partner organisation and recipient of funds against over 540 national and international ‘watch lists’ of proscribed entities and individuals, including four Israeli lists. Our investment in this system reflects the seriousness of our commitment to fulfilling all our obligations under international regulations and standards, including our determination to ensure donations entrusted to us come from legitimate sources, and are spent only on those who require humanitarian assistance.

We also exercise the utmost prudence in how we operate and how we conduct financial transactions, ensuring that all money flows through the regulated financial sector. Our operations and offices in both territories have been subject to full statutory audits for the past five years, including a full external audit of our Gaza programme by an independent auditor mandated by a donor in 2013. We are acutely aware of the political circumstances in the region, and we take pride in the fact that we have been able to work in both territories for 16 years fully legally and with no impediment from the Israeli authorities.

For further enquiries, please contact Martin Cottingham on martin.cottingham@islamic-relief.org.uk / 07702-940982.