France: Money for Hamas

France: Money for Hamas

See also: CBSP on Wikipedia.


Checks, donation pledges, postal transfers.. the start of the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip had an immediate effect, in France:  The Committee for Charity and Support for the Palestinians (CBSP) saw its fund-raising increase faster than usual.

For at least the past three years the association, based in Paris, collected about 5 million euros a year.  The money is then transferred to Egypt, where another association is tasked with  allocating it for humanitarian projects in Gaza, as well as the Palestinian camps in Lebanon.

However, neither Israel nor the US believe this version.  For the two allies, the CBSP is a hidden financier of the Hamas, now at war with the Jewish state.  It's classed as a terrorist organization.  George W. Bush named the organization as such in an official speech in 2003.

On this side of the Atlantic, the CBSP is also under suspicion.  But it's never been confirmed.   Founded in 1990 in Nancy by two Palestinian students, the Committee has offices in Lille, Lyons and Marseille.  In 2001 Credit Lyonnais, its bank at the time, was reported twice to Tracfin, the anti-money laundering branch of the Economy and Finance Ministry, for suspect fund transfers.  Checks did not reveal the more minor infraction.  They did have one consequence, though: the CBSP left Crédit lyonnais for the postal bank of La Poste.

"These accusations are incredible," says the spokesperson for the committee, Youcef Benderbal.   "We've never had any direct link with Hamas or Fatah.  We do humanitarian work.  We're going to release 500,000 euro for hospitals in Gaza.  And trucks of medicines are stopped at the Egyptian border, while the situation is catastrophic."

Since the beginning of the decade the French intelligence services has expressed more interest in Muslims aid charities for Palestinians.  When, in 2001, George W. Bush, froze their assets in the US, Europe - the UK and France, primarily - became the principal area for collecting funds.  According to Antoine Sfeir, editor of Les Cahiers de l'Orient, "After the Gulf War, in 1993 and 1994, close to 30% of funds raised by Hamas came from France."

However, Hamas, as well as the rest of the Palestinian groups in conflict with Israel, aren't considered a direct threat to France.  "They don't advocate a global jihad, like al-Qaeda," explains a specialist of the intelligence services.  "Their struggle is primarily national.  Their suicide attacks are aimed only at Israeli territory."

Despite the images from the conflict in Gaza, the Palestinian cause doesn't appear to arouse a 'war objective' in France, unlike Afghanistan and Iraq.  In the past months, the French intelligence services, were aware of a single case: that of two brothers arrested in Egypt in March, 2008.  One was suspected of having wanted to join the Palestinian fighters in Gaza.  He was deported.  But, upon his return to France, he wasn't prosecuted.

Source: L'Express (French), h/t Philosemitisme

No comments: