Ebrahim Moosa – Cii News | 17 January 2013
As deliberations concerning the fate of the Al Aqsa Foundation of South Africa(AFSA) within the local banking system continue, a seasoned Palestinian solidarity activist abroad says ordinary justice-loving clients of financial institutions should not underestimate their clout in extracting significant concessions from their service providers. Ibrahim Hewitt, Chair of Trustees at Interpal, a UK-based charity that works to alleviate poverty and humanitarian challenges faced by Palestinians, told Cii Radio that banks have been known to reverse controversial decisions previously when their financial interests were perceived to be in jeopardy.
Citing the case of another pro-Palestinian charity in the UK – Friends of Al Aqsa – Hewitt said a threat by the Royal Bank of Scotland to close the organisation’s account due to external pressure was nipped in the bud when civil society mobilised behind the charity’s plight. “Whilst the bank had ordered the closure, it was coincidentally also busy negotiating a big deal with some of the big trade unions in this country(UK), and they swung behind (Friends of) al Aqsa, threatening the bank: ‘If you close those accounts, we will take this business elsewhere’ “. The spectre of a major financial loss, according to Hewitt, forced the bank to abandon its earlier decision.
“Banks are also there to do business,” he explained. “If they are made to understand that there is likely a huge commercial loss, that they are going to lose a lot of goodwill and a lot of accounts, (and if) people close their accounts and tell them why they closed their accounts – because of such treatment of Muslim charities – then maybe they’d think again.”
Hewitt advised a grassroots community mobilisation to impress on uncompromising banks the potential financial repercussions of their actions.
“We have to work together as a community on this matter. In South Africa you have strong Ulama organisations – they have to seek meetings with the banks, and tell them that this is going to have an effect. The community will be told, and the community will fight back.”
Hewitt also said the current momentum on the matter must not be squandered, warning of the grave consequences for other justice-loving organisations should the closure of the Al Aqsa Foundation account be allowed to set a precedent.
“The community needs to keep the pressure on. Because if it is the Al Aqsa Foundation today, who is it going to be tomorrow? Channel Islam? It could be any organisation that is saying, doing or working for the benefit of Muslims or for the benefit of oppressed around the world, that the powers that be could take a dislike to. It could be anyone of us