A British parliamentarian last week concluded a tour of the United States, which included a stopover in northern New Jersey, to raise money for what he called a humanitarian mission to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The Anti-Defamation League had written to the U.S. Department of Justice in May to urge an investigation into George Galloway’s efforts to raise money here for his Viva Palestina campaign to bring aid to Gaza.
Galloway’s speaking tour brought him to Garfield on June 21, drawing ire from local ADL officials. He continued with a handful of engagements in New York last week, culminating with a large event in Chicago Saturday night.
“The hope is the local Jewish community is going to be concerned by this type of activity in our neighborhood,” Etzion Neuer, director of the ADL’s New Jersey office, told The Jewish Standard. “One need not be an Israel-supporter to be disturbed that an open supporter of a terrorist organization is conducting fund-raising in our backyard.”
About 540 people attended Galloway’s lecture in Garfield, according to Yousef Shahin of the Passaic County chapter of American Muslims for Palestine, the sponsoring organization. Shahin told the Standard last week that Galloway spoke of his experiences in Gaza and that the crowd reacted positively.
“He’s not taking money for terrorists,” Shahin said. “He’s buying medical supplies for the hospital. He’s not dealing with a terrorist organization. We were assured by him; he’s going to give everything to the hospital.”
The State Department lists Hamas as a terrorist organization and prohibits U.S. nationals from raising money for or donating supplies to the group. Shahin argued that Galloway is helping the people of Gaza and that’s as far as AMP’s interests go. AMP, Shahin said, usually concentrates on education and does get involved with fund-raising. As for the accusations against Galloway, Shahin focused on the Briton’s work for Gaza’s civilians.
“We know he’s doing the right thing to help Gaza and they need the help, especially American medicines, supplies,” Shahin said. “We’re going to help him with that. Other than that, we don’t have relations or ties with him.”
Galloway is a member of Britain’s far-left Respect Party and the leader of Viva Palestina, a campaign to deliver aid to Gaza. He led a European convoy of trucks and cars carrying supplies earlier this year and is working on launching a U.S. version of the trip.
|British Parliamentarian George Galloway toured the United States last week to raise money for a Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza.|
American Viva Palestina campaign organizers have told the ADL that they would comply with U.S. law and money would go to non-governmental organizations, but Neuer believes those funds will ultimately go to Hamas.
“By going public with this issue, we’re hoping we’ll get assurances that any money raised will not find its way into the hands of a terrorist organization,” he said. “There are no safeguards that the NGOs will function independently of Hamas.”
According to the ADL’s May 19 letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Galloway’s Viva Palestina passed more than 1 million British pounds and 100 vehicles to Hamas earlier this year. The ADL also accused Galloway of donating 25,000 pounds ($41,000) of his own and three cars to the terrorist organization. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh reportedly presented Galloway with a Palestinian passport in gratitude for his work.
“This is who Galloway’s helping,” said Deborah Lauter, director of civil rights in the ADL’s national office in New York. “We’ve been concerned that more attention hasn’t been paid to his activities here.”
A Viva Palestina convoy from the United States with more 200 participants is set to travel to Egypt tomorrow to buy materials and enter Gaza by July 13, according to the campaign’s Website. Organizers are hoping to bring 500 vehicles and $10 million to Gaza.
“Most Americans, if they knew what he stood for, would reject him,” Lauter said. “He’s stressing the humanitarian aspect but in fact what we believe he’s supporting is major terrorists who fundamentally reject Israel’s right to exist.”
A March 24 article in the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper reported that the U.K. Charity Commission was investigating Viva Palestina. Canada reportedly has barred the parliamentarian from entering the country.
In response to the ADL’s campaign, Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, told this newspaper on Monday that he is familiar with the letter. He cited “long-standing policy” that the department “never discloses publicly whether or not it intends to investigate a particular person or entity.”