'Galloway misled public over sum raised for Gaza'

UK Charity Commission says charity run by controversial MP did not raise over £1 million but rather only £180,000.

LONDON – The UK’s Charity Commission this week accused a charity run by controversial MP George Galloway of misleading the public over the amount of money it had raised for Gaza. But it found no evidence that the charity had given money to Hamas.
The commission, the regulator for charities in England and Wales, opened an investigation into Galloway’s group Viva Palestina in March 2009 following various public fundraising events, which it called the “Lifeline for Gaza Appeal.” The group had been trading as a charity, but hadn’t complied with its duties to register with the commission.
The 22-page report on the group stated that Viva Palestina had claimed it had raised over £1 million for humanitarian aid to Gaza between January and April 2009, but following the investigation by the Charity Commission, it was found to have raised only £180,000.
“The charity’s Web site stated the appeal had raised over £1m. in aid to provide humanitarian relief to Gaza. The inquiry found that the charity had raised approximately £180,000 in cash by March 17, 2009 and not £1m. The charity explained that the £1m. figure represented the total worth of the aid that had been raised for the convoy and that it was common for people to donate medical supplies, goods and vehicles instead of cash,” the report stated.
The inquiry report also said it had been informed that the vehicles and aid donated in Gaza as a result of the convoy did not belong to Viva Palestina, but remained under the individual ownership of the volunteers participating in the convoy.
The report concluded that “it was misleading to the public for the charity to claim on its Web site to have raised over £1m. during the first convoy, as this was not a monetary sum raised by or under the control of the charity’s trustees.”
The group’s initial activity was to launch an appeal for, and to facilitate, a convoy of vehicles carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza in February 2009. The convoy left the UK on February 14 of that year and arrived in Gaza the following month. The charity’s second aid convoy left the UK for Gaza on December 6, 2009.
When the convoy reached the area in the first week of January, violence broke out in El-Arish and Rafah between members of the convoy and Egyptian police after Egypt barred part of the group from entering Gaza. Galloway was eventually deported and declared persona non grata by Cairo.
In response to the commission’s decision to implement an inquiry last March, Galloway wrote to the body in April, accusing it of double standards.
“I have become increasingly concerned about the abuse of your powers displayed in your brazenly obvious political double standards,” Galloway said. “About your attempts, under the guise of regulating British charities, to police the democratic efforts of political activists in Britain in a way never envisaged by parliament; about your preparedness to waste large sums of public money in political stunts, either at the behest of others or in the hope that you are properly anticipating their wishes; and above all, in the context of this issue, your almost laughably obvious prejudice against the Palestinian cause and against Britain’s two-million-strong Muslim community.”
Galloway also gave Hamas £25,000 in March 2009. Presenting the money, Galloway said: “To the Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh: Here is the money. This is not charity. This is politics. The government of Palestine is the best people to decide where this money is needed. And if I could, I would give them 10 times, 100 times more.”
The inquiry found that the charity had not given money to Hamas – a move proscribed by the US and European Union – and that it was “personal money” that had been handed to the Islamist group.
Britain, the EU and US deem Hamas a terrorist group and have pledged to isolate it until it adopts the Quartet principles – recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and accepting previous interim peace accords.
Last year, US Congressman Rep. Brad Sherman called on the US Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to investigate whether Galloway had been raising money for Hamas on US college campuses.
The Zionist Organization of America and Anti-Defamation League also called for an investigation after Galloway and Viva Palestina members appeared at the University of California in Irvine last May.
“Clearly, people and organizations in the US cannot be allowed to solicit funds for foreign terrorist organizations,” Sherman said in a letter to US Attorney-General Eric Holder last December. “That such solicitation is occurring during the middle of the day at a public university is truly frightening.”
In his letter, the congressman cited evidence from a videorecording, received from the ZOA, of Galloway allegedly solicitingfunds at the university on behalf of Viva Palestina.
In thevideo, Galloway allegedly said, “The convoy is the first thing... Ifyou can’t come, then help those who are fundraising to send others.There are many ways that you can do it... Please take it. It’s a smallcolored leaflet, Viva Palestina USA, which tells you how you can raisethe funds, how you can help this great cause.”