Monday, June 30, 2008

Why Are We Working With Orphans?

" He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing." Deut 10:18

" And they ask you concerning orphans. Say: "The best thing is to work honestly in their property, and if you mix your affairs with theirs, then they are your brothers. And Allah knows him who means mischief (e.g. to swallow their property) from him who means good (e.g. to save their property)." Baqara – 220

Christians and Muslims speak from the same tradition of loving peace and justice, and of caring for the weak and in need, especially for the children in our midst. Hand in hand, we are co-partners in serving people in need. Muslim and Christian charities offer vital services to local communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Without the work of our religious charities, the care and enormous resources we provide to suffering people would fall upon the shoulders of local governments which are unable to meet these needs.

The work of these charities is irreplacably in this society.
Islamic Charitable Society in Hebron

Briefing 27 June 2008

On 26 February, the Israeli Military issued 6 military orders declaring the confiscation and closures of facilities belonging to the Islamic Charitable Society (ICS) in Hebron.

Targeted facilities:
Two bakeries
One apartment building
One administrative building
A new shopping mall
A warehouse
Three schools
Two orphanages
Schools, kindergartens and other facilities in surrounding villages(Beit Ula & Shyukh)

As of 27 June Israeli Military has confiscated/shut:
The warehouse with over $300,000 worth of school supplies, clothing, and food
Two new school buses
The apartment building with thirty units
Two bakeries supplying 5,000 families with bread
Welded shut the gates of a school for 1200 students, scheduled to open on Sept. 2008 (Worth $2,000,000)
A sewing center where girls learned a craft and earned pocket money. (The sewing machines and bolts of cloth used by the students were thrown on the city dump as the soldiers left the city)
Schools, kindergartens and other facilities in surrounding villages(Beit Ula & Shyukh)
For further details, see the attached list of total costs to the Charities.

The Israeli measures in Hebron constitute a series of violations of International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law and International Law:
· The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, articles 6 and 7
· The Fourth Geneva Convention, article 39 of the;
· The Convention on the Rights of the Child, article. 38
· Article 50 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (which stipulates the duty of the Occupying Power to facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children)
· The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 26 (right to education of children), article 9 (guarantees protection against arbitrary arrest and detention)
· The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 9
· The Oslo Agreement
· The Hebron Agreement

New development:
These military orders also represents a new and worrying development as they refer to confiscation and transfer of ownership of private property in the H1 Area of Hebron (under Palestinian control) to the Israeli Army. The PA Minister of Social Affairs, Dr. Mahmud Al-Habbash, who visited ICS Hebron Wednesday, June 11, confirmed that "This is against all the agreements between the PA and them [the Israelis.]. It is a violation of all Human Rights Agreements. We have informed all internationals about these illegal actions''.

Affected beneficiaries:
A particularly vulnerable segment of the population, namely children from mostly impoverished families, is being deprived of specialized services that provide much needed support and fundamental coping mechanisms.

As of today:
The Israeli Army has yet to implement the remaining provisions of the orders, i.e. the eviction of the ICS and the orphans from the property and the transfer of ownership of the property.

While the world is watching the orphanages and schools, the Israeli Military is stripping the Charities of millions of dollars in assets, jeopardizing decades of work and investment by ICS to assure the support of the orphanages and other charitable services provided to the increasingly impoverished city of Hebron.

Charges against the Charities:
The Israeli Army claims that the Charities are a front or fund raiser for Hamas, and that some of the staff or board members are implicated in Hamas activities in one way or another. Yet, no proof has been presented to the Charities, the press or NGOs involved in protecting the orphans.
Charity accounts have always been open and are submitted to the PA as they were to the Jordanian Government before 1967. All sources and expenditures are fully documented and no one has raised any questions about the accounts.The only criteria for selection of orphans is that they are in need, there is no political agenda. The Israeli Military makes the generic charge that the Charity assists prisoner's families, and although the PA, most major UN groups and NGOs do provide such assistance, this Charity does not.

International support:
Due primarily to the efforts of the Christian Peacemakers in Hebron a wide variety of supporters, including Nobel Peace Laureates Mairead Maguire and Jimmy Carter, the Desmond Tutu Foundation, the UN Commission on Human Rights, Rabbis for Human Rights, and the YMCA's, have rallied to help, and internationals have been sleeping in the Orphanages to comfort the frightened children and to deter invasion when the risk seems high.

Mairead Maguire, Irish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, recently visited the Orphanages of Hebron while on a visit to the Occupied Territories to support non violent resistance there. She said she was shocked and disheartened by the havoc and ruin being created by the Israeli Army in the lives of the poorest and weakest of Palestinian society, the orphans and the children of the poor. The orphanages, she said, are at the heart of programs run by the Islamic Charitable Institutions (ISC) in Hebron, who have served the needy of that city since 1962."

We ask that:
The Israeli Government be held accountable by the International Community for its abuse of the rights of the children to protection and education. As an occupying power Israel has legal obligations (under the Geneva Convention) to protect the population in the occupied territories, especially women and children.

Palestinian Authority and the Charities:
We are grateful for the steps taken by the United Nations (UNSCO) , and the information given it by the assistant to the PA Prime Minister, stating that “the PA has not received any information that benefits have stopped reaching beneficiaries and that they should let him know if they heard otherwise." We appreciate their support. We are now pointing out that, as our summary of the impact of Israeli confiscations to date has made clear, the infrastructure and fund raising mechanism that supports these children and their services has been badly and possibly permanently damaged. Services to the orphans and other needy groups, and staff salaries, have already been cut.

The PA Minister of the Interior has appointed nine board members who are not affiliated with any party. The board, however, refuses to take responsibility until it receives guarantees from the PA and the Israeli Authorities that they and the board will not be targeted, and that the Army will stop any further actions against the Charities. As a result of this lack of a functioning board, the Charities can no longer access their own bank accounts or reach their own funds.


On 5th June, 2008 whilst attending Conference in Bil’in on Nonviolence, I Was invited by friends, who are members of Christian Peacemakers’ team based in Hebron, to go with them to see what is happening in Hebron.

On arrival in Hebron we met with the Administrator of the Hebron Orphanages. He explained that the Israeli army is threatening to close 14 schools and orphanages in the Hebron district. Eight of these schools and orphanages belong to the Islamic Charitable Society, while the remaining six belong to the Muslim Youth Society.(On 26th February the Israeli army forces handed over military orders of closures and confiscations of two bakeries, administrative buildings, a warehouse, three schools and two orphanages. All of these owned by the ICS.)

He took us to see a newly built school owned by ICS , (cost of two million) which was due to be opened in August, but is now closed. The Israeli Military has welded the gates of the school closed and the reason given, as for all these closures are, ‘security’. Beside the school we visited a large warehouse and met the caretaker. He explained that in March the Israeli Military arrived at 3 a.m., and left at 9 a.m., they tied him up and proceeded to pack and removed all the food and clothing in the Warehouse and destroy the interior of the buildings, smashing everything in sight. The contents of the warehouse were for the orphans and the poor and the premises run by Islamic Charitable Society. We then visited a burn’t out bakery (there was another destroyed Bakery but time did not permit a visit). Again the Israeli military destroyed the entire interior, burning completely the huge baking oven. This bakery cooked over 3,000 loaves of bread, and were subsidized by charity, to feed the orphans and poor. The jobs created by these Islamic Charitable projects, are gone and in the short time not able to be replaced. We also visited a Boys’ and Girls’ Orphanage both under military orders of closure. The ICS will challenge these closures in court, but in the meantime the Israeli military are systematically during the night, raiding and destroying the buildings. The fear now is that the Orphanages and school will be raided and destroyed. In an attempt to stop this Islamic Charitable Society have invited people, including Internationals to sleep overnight in these buildings in the hope that the presence of Internationals might deter the Israeli military nightly raids of destruction. I join 4 friends in sleeping overnight in the Girls’ Orphanage, and we were alone in this building, as the children have gone to friends for the Summer school period. Luckily the Army did not arrive, but what Will happen when there are no internationals to sleep over? And the world sleeps
While this destruction takes place. Before our sleep-over we met local Muslims and were hosted to a beautiful meal and great kindness and gratitude for our presence.

The outside world, for the most part, is unaware of this Israeli Government’s Policy of demonization, wilful destruction, of the Muslim Institutions, one by one, in an Attempt to destroy the spirit and resilience of the Muslim Communities, not only in Hebron but throughout the illegally occupied Palestinian terrorities. It was for me horrific to witness, the Israeli Government, (and the USA/UK Governments’ War on terrorism), come to be played out on the streets of Hebron, against Orphan children. (If the schools and orphanages continue to be closed down, and the military continue to destroy completely these institutions, then 7000 children will be without school and 4,500 children will be without homes). The excuse given is that these Islamic Institutions are a front for ‘hamas’ but the Islamic Charitable Society was established In l962, and all their financial dealings and accounting are completely open. The money for the school and orphanages comes from local investments (they have their own businesses) from donors abroad and from Arab and Western countries (Prince Charles, through a UK Trust has donated towards these orphanages).

I was shocked and horrified to see the destruction of these Islamic Institutions. The threats of the Israeli Army (and Government) against Orphans must be loudly Resisted by all of us concerned for a violent free and peaceful world for Muslim Children, indeed all our children. This behaviour is immoral, unethical and illegal And the Israeli Government should be held accountable, by the International Community, for its abuse of the rights of the children to safety and education. As occupiers of this country they have legal obligations to protect the occupied, especially women and children.

The United Kingdom has many questions to answer here too. Tony Blair is based In East Jerusalem, (a few hours from Hebron, so he is well aware of this systematic Wilful destruction of Islamic charitable institutions) and his brief is to help Palestinian economic reconstruction. How ironic whilst he is suppose to be helping businesses etc., the Israeli military are in the dead of night, spreading terror and destruction of the Islamic communities. What is Mr. Blair and the UK governments doing about this?

One of the things that struck me during my visit to the illegally occupied terrorities Was the courage, friendliness and resilience of the Palestinian people. But I was Also conscious of the fact that so many of them are traumatized by what is happening, and in bewilderment that the outside world, is silent and inactive in face of their Tremendous suffering, and blatant dispossession and persecution. The World must act against this ongoing destruction by Israel of the Palestinian people and their institutions, and by Israeli racist and apartheid policies, in the villages and cities of occupied Palestine, including the siege of Gaza.

All Occupations come to an end, as this one surely will, but if this occupation continues, it will begin to destroy the very soul of the Jewish people, and leave a legacy of anger and resentment within some the Arab people, especially the young, which will take generations to heal.

It behoves the Israeli (and International community) to awaken now to the urgency of Justice for the Palestinians, by ending the Siege of Gaza, the Occupation of Palestine, And moving to build justice and reconciliation, whilst there is still time to turn this around, and before more blood of Israeli/Palestinians brothers and sisters is shed.

Mairead Maguire (Nobel Peace Laureate)
Hebron, in the Palestinian occupied terrorities.
5th June, 2008.


Statement from the ICS accountant

· Al Huda School and furnishings, padlocked and inaccessible, $2 million
· Warehouse, $500,000 for the building and $300,000 for the confiscated materials
· Bakeries: $48,000 for buildings and $56,000 for the equipment
· Al Huda Mall and Al Qasimi Apartment Building, $140,000 lost in annual rent
· Ten families out of 30 have left the Al Qasimi Building and another 4 are planning to leave. All but three tenants in the Al Huda Mall have left; 11 shops of 13, 10 offices of 12.
· Workers of the sewing workshop, warehouses, and bakeries (42) are at home, unpaid.
· Daily pocket money for orphans reduced from 3 to 1 NIS a day
· Three projects canceled, each for 1070 families.
· Cost of rental buses to finish out the school year, to replace those taken, NIS 18,000
· From the time the second bakery was closed, NIS 12,960 to provide bread for the orphans and school children.
· Staff have not been paid for 45 days. They took only 40% of their salaries the last month they were paid.