The unilateral decisions by First National Bank (FNB) and Al- Baraka Bank to close the bank account of the Al Aqsa Foundation of South Africa (AAFSA) concern the Coalition for a Free Palestine.

The foundation is involved with charity work primarily with orphans and refugees in Palestine. To date, more than 1500 Palestinian orphans have received assistance from South African citizens via the foundation. While Gaza remains under a crippling, blockade that is illegal according to international law, the foundation aims to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable.

Despite the foundation having no political ties or allegiances since its inception in 2002, the US Treasury has listed it on a list of global entities it suspected were involved in, or funded, “terrorist” activities. It is important to note that none of these listings are supported by bona fide evidence and the treasury reserves the right not to disclose any proof. Furthermore, the name on the list by Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is different to the name of the AAFSA.

The foundation has fully complied with South African and international legal requirements yet FNB and Al Baraka Bank are choosing to close the charity’s bank account thus disabling its mandate to help the most vulnerable in Palestine. It is clear that the banks are not acting in accordance with South African and international law. Indeed last week, FNB’s Commercial CEO, Michael Vacy-Lyle, admitted that AAFSA had “done nothing wrong”.

It is concerning that a charity with an excellent reputation like the AAFSA can be hounded and threatened in South Africa. As witnessed since the United States declared its “war on terror”, the targets of this war are often arbitrary, innocent and are used as a means to pressure institutions and sovereign states into political compliance. Anti-apartheid icon and first South African democratic president, Nelson Mandela was removed from the US “terrorist list” as recently as 2008.

We call on FNB and Al- Barak Bank to review their decisions as a matter of urgency and stand up to foreign interference that threatens South African sovereignty. Thousands of orphans and refugees in Palestine rely on the foundation for their daily survival. Political games should not be allowed to endanger their lives.

*The Coalition for a Free Palestine is the largest South African Palestine solidarity umbrella body, which includes youth groups, trade unions, human rights organizations, faith based groups, artists collectives, student organizations and political parties. Some member organizations include the South African Council of Churches, Congress of South African Trade Unions, African National Congress, South African Communist Party, Muslim Judicial Council, Muslim Students Association, Palestine Solidarity Alliance, Palestine Solidarity Committee, Palestine Solidarity Group, Media Review Network, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in SA and the student society.

For further details contact CfP Convener Tahir Sema on 082 9403 403 or tahir.sema@samwu.org.za

MRN

Author: MRN Network

The aspiration of the Media Review Network is to dispel the myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims and to foster bridges of understanding among the diverse people of our country. The Media Review Network believes that Muslim perspectives on issues impacting on South Africans are a prerequisite to a better appreciation of Islam.