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Islamic Relief Partnered with Senior Hamas Officials, including Son of Terror Leader Ismail Haniyeh

ResearchInvestigationsIslamic Relief Partnered with Senior Hamas Officials, including Son of Terror Leader Ismail Haniyeh

As members of the European Parliament continued to question in January the European Union’s failure to disclose funding to a branch of the global Islamist charitable franchise Islamic Relief, Focus on Western Islamism has found that Islamic Relief Netherlands and Islamic Relief Palestine engaged in direct partnership with the Hamas regime in Gaza, with the son of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh personally attending the launch of an Islamic Relief project, just months before the October 7 attacks.

In February 2023, Islamic Relief launched a project in the Gazan city of Khan Yunis. The initiative was carried out by Islamic Relief Palestine and another terror-tied organization, the Bayader Association for Environment & Development, and funded with $200,000 from Islamic Relief’s branch in the Netherlands. The project included the construction of a park and sport facilities, and was organized in close cooperation with the Hamas government and the Hamas-controlled municipality of Khan Yunis.

At the ceremony to open the project, Islamic Relief official Muneeb Abu Ghazaleh was joined by senior Hamas members, including Abdul Salam Haniyeh, a senior Hamas government official and son of Hamas’s political leader Ismail Haniyeh, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under U.S. law, who was responsible for the October 7 terrorist attacks in which almost 1200 Israelis were murdered.

Such close cooperation with Hamas officials belies Islamic Relief’s frequent denials of cooperation with designated terror organizations.

Writing in the Guardian in 2020, Islamic Relief official Naser Haghamed stated: “In the past decade more than 500 audits of our programmes have been conducted, in many cases mandated by governments and other institutional donors. Not one has found a shred of evidence of links to extremism or terrorism, and that includes more than 20 audits in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Critics now wonder exactly what these audits actually entail. Evidence of the charity’s longstanding support of extremism and terror is overwhelming.

In 2016, Islamic Relief founder Hany El-Banna gave an interview (still freely available on El-Banna’s personal YouTube channel) to Hamas’s official radio station in Gaza, urging close cooperation between charities and the Hamas “government.”

El-Banna revealed that Islamic Relief has worked closely with the Gaza Zakat Committee (IZS) for decades. IZS is a leading charitable institution of Hamas whose own website describes its officials as “soldiers for Jerusalem,” and frequently runs events with senior Hamas officials.

Islamic Relief branches have also long supported the Al-Falah Benevolent Society in Gaza, which is labelled by intelligence analysts as one of “Hamas’s charitable societies” and described by journalists a “complementary arm of the [Hamas] government.”

Staff of Islamic Relief’s branch in Gaza, meanwhile, openly express support for Hamas leaders and have declared: “I ask god to paralyze the pillars of the Jews and cut their legs and paralyze their hands,” as well as: “O Muslim, O servant of Allah, behind me a Jew. Come and Kill him.”

Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) is one of the leading Islamist financial institutions across the globe, with branches, offices and affiliates in over 40 countries. Prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood established the charity, and leading Islamist activists continue to run the franchise today.

Islamic Relief branches serve as a conduit for other radical organizations. The accounts of Islamic Relief’s British headquarters have disclosed millions of dollars of income from dozens of terror-tied groups, including branches of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf, and terror-connected groups such as the Charitable Society for Social Welfare, which was founded by the Al-Qaeda terrorist and Bin Laden loyalist Abdul Majeed Al-Zindani.

In 2019, responding to parliamentarians from Germany’s centrist Free Democratic Party, the Berlin federal government expressed concerns about Islamic Relief Deutschland and the franchise’s U.K. parent organization, Islamic Relief Worldwide, declaring that both had “significant ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 2020, the U.S. State Department warned about the “blatant and horrifying anti-Semitism and glorification of violence exhibited at the most senior levels of Islamic Relief Worldwide.”

In 2021, after a media outcry that Islamic Relief Netherlands was to be among the recipients of an 825 million euro government grant program, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation declared that, after consultations with security services and the German government, Islamic Relief was recognized to be part of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, and would be barred from receiving the funding.

However, the published 2022 accounts of Islamic Relief Worldwide report at least 12,000 GBP of funding from one of the Dutch government’s embassies. Islamic Relief Netherlands is also one of the top contributors to Islamic Relief’s U.K. parent organization, Islamic Relief Worldwide – handing over almost 5 million GBP (6 million USD) in 2022.

Notwithstanding, despite the European Union’s continued support for the terror-linked franchise, across the West, government funding for Islamic Relief has, in general, declined sharply in recent years, following detailed investigative work by the Middle East Forum and other organizations.

Whether or not the uncovering of Islamic Relief branches’ close involvement with the Haniyeh family will finally end all Western government support for the Islamist charitable franchise remains to be seen.

Sam Westrop is director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

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