UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Medical Aid for Palestinians stops funding designated NGO “Health Work Committees”

The Charity Commission has confirmed that Medical Aid for Palestinians has stopped funding an Israeli designated NGO,  “Health Work Committees”(HWC).  This follows  letters to MAP, and complaints to the Charity Commission from UK Lawyers for Israel over the past two years.

HWC is an NGO in the Palestinian Territories that provides healthcare services to the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank.  MAP sent around 113,000 dollars every year to HWC from 2016.

UKLFI originally wrote to MAP in October 2020 highlighting links between HWC and the terrorist organisation the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).  UKLFI pointed out that HWC was designated by Israel as an “unauthorised organisation” on 18 June 2015  and that HWC’s financial and administrative director, Mr Walid Hanatsheh AKA Walid Abu Ras, had been arrested in October 2019 and indicted on charges including  involvement in shooting attacks as well as the 2019 bomb attack in which 17 year old Rina Shnerb was murdered.

In November 2020 Dr Aimee Shalan, then chief executive of MAP, confirmed that MAP funded a breast cancer project in partnership with Dunya Women’s Cancer Centre in the West Bank which is part of HWC. Dr Shalan stated: “We do not intend to end our partnership with the Dunya Women’s Cancer Centre. Moreover, MAP is ready to robustly defend support for this vital project providing life-saving breast and gynaecological cancer services from any further action by UKLFI.”

MAP pointed out that HWC was registered with the Palestinian Authority, and was not on the UK Home Office list of proscribed organisations or HM Treasury’s sanctions list. MAP said it was “among a range respected international NGO’s, UN agencies and governments that have continued working with HWC after it was designated by Israel as ‘an unauthorized organisation’ in June 2015”.

On 21 April 2021 UKLFI  sent a complaint to the Charity Commission regarding MAP’s partnership with and funding of HWC.

On 6 May 2021 UKLFI sent MAP further news that had emerged  regarding HWC when the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a video on Twitter revealing that millions of dollars of funds had been siphoned by HWC to the PFLP.   On the same day the  Jerusalem Post reported  that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) had announced that four Palestinians, all associated with the HWC,  were expected to be indicted for funnelling European humanitarian aid to the PFLP.    The Israel Foreign Ministry’s video indicated that HWC had systematically cheated its foreign donors and diverted money to the PFLP terror group.

UKLFI asked MAP whether, in the light of this new information, they would now confirm that they would  cease funding HWC.    The response from MAP on 20 May 2021 was that UKLFI’s email was noted and “We are taking appropriate steps.” However, MAP did not reveal to UKLFI what these steps were, and it did not appear that funding to the HWC ceased at this stage.

In April 2022 leaked Israeli Government documents were published containing  allegations of forgery of documents and defrauding of donors by HWC.  On 7 April 2022 UKLFI sent another letter to the Charity Commission referring to these documents.

In particular the documents indicated that MAP sent HWC funds to pay for a sterilisation device that was never purchased, and whose invoice for 14,700 shekels was forged. There is no suggestion MAP had any knowledge of or involvement in this.

MAP has now informed UKLFI that it made a serious incident report to the Charity Commission about this and subsequently investigated the purchase of the device in late 2018.  MAP located the invoice sent by the supplier to HWC for purchase of the sterilisation device, and  obtained from the supplier’s files a copy of the invoice as well as the delivery/installation note and HWC’s cheque. The invoice matched the one already seen by MAP and the  delivery note confirmed the make, model and serial number of the device  matched that of the  machine in use at the Dunya health clinic, which MAP inspected.  MAP said “We therefore cannot find any evidence to support the allegations made in the leaked document.”

The leaked Israeli  documents also alleged  that MAP had donated around 200,000 dollars to HWC every year since 2015. MAP has since stated that MAP donated 113,000 dollars per year to HWC, but only has figures to hand since 2016. 

The charity commission replied on 26 May 2022 saying: “Please note that the Charity’s funding of the HWC ceased on 6 May 2021, following the allegations levied by the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs. The Charity’s position in relation to its funding of HWC remains unchanged.”

MAP’s interim  chief executive officer, Iain McSeveny​​, has now confirmed to UKLFI  that no  more funds have been provided to HWC since 6 May 2021 and a formal decision to cease funding HWC was made by the Trustees on 19 May 2021.

Caroline Turner, director of UKLFI commented: “It has taken a long time but at last we have confirmation that MAP is no longer funding an organisation that is alleged to be defrauding its donors and siphoning money to a terrorist group.”