Iqbal Jassat – Opinion | 11 January 2013
What explains the decision by First National Bank of South Africa (FNBSA) to close
the banking account of Johannesburg-based Al Aqsa Foundation?
What informs FNBSA to target Al Aqsa – this country’s foremost humanitarian
organisation engaged in charitable activities in Occupied Palestinian Territories?
What indeed is the rationale for FNBSA which boasts of being a leading platform for
the development of so-called “Shariah-compliant” banking to ruffle feathers in the
The answer lies in three words: “War on terror”!
Deceptive, immoral, racist, politically motivated and above all, illegal!
And despite being foreign, discredited, archaic and mainly arising from a bunch of
right-wing Islamophobic neocons linked to the settler-colonial state of Israel,
FNBSA seems to display no regret for having subscribed to its biased political
By its own admission FNBSA has confirmed that its decision is as a result of Al Aqsa
being listed by the Americans on certain sanctions list including the US Treasury’s
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklist.
It has also claimed that it appointed an independent body to verify that the Al Aqsa
listed is indeed based in South Africa and that it had no choice in the matter.
What it failed to address is the apparent contradictions stemming from such
compliance to a vague, invisible and undefined “international banking” regulatory
A further irony is that in proclaiming its so-called “obligation” to abide by the
listing, FNBSA has forfeited Al Aqsa’s right to due process resulting in it being
found guilty without being charged in any court of law!
Despite South Africa’s post-apartheid justice system being founded on values that
prevent rights violations and insists on innocence until proven otherwise, FNBSA
found preference in America’s kangaroo-type justice.
These fundamental values and rights as enshrined in South Africa’s constitution and
bill of rights cannot be cast aside by any power – let alone a bank, without causing
enormous social and economic instability.
A fundamental question therefore that FNBSA needs to respond to is whether it
favours America’s arbitrary suspension of civil liberties as the basis for its
discredited “War on Terror”, or South Africa’s rule of law that abhors such
Post-911 ushered an era of great hardship for Muslims in many parts of the world.
Besides two devastating wars that sought to dismember Afghanistan and Iraq, the “War
on Terror” unleashed a fury against Muslims reminiscent of the Crusades.
Many case studies documented by independent researchers found that the charge of
“material support” for terrorism has been used against people for a wide range of
reasons, from donating to charitable organisations to participating in antiwar
In her study on Islamophobia, author Deepa Kumar asserts that after 9/11 the Bush
administration shut down virtually all Muslim charitable organisations operating in
the US and froze their assets, allegedly to prevent the flow of money to
“In doing so, it equated this fundamental aspect of the Islamic faith with aiding
the ‘enemies’ of the United States.”
Clearly than the listing of Al Aqsa Foundation alongside numerous institutions that
carry the Al Aqsa name as a prefix, is no less than a political strategy designed by
pro-Israeli lobbyists to criminalise legitimate humanitarian aid as an act of
The link to Israel is overt and glaring.
Read this boastful claim by the OFAC that removes any ambiguity about how biased the
listing is in favour of Israel:
“By designating Al Aqsa Foundation we have deprived the Hamas terrorist organisation
of a vital source of funding and have shut off yet another pipeline of money funding
Does it leave you in any doubt about Israel’s footprints in the US Treasury
Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control?
Does it also not raise questions about the morality of low-intensity economic
sabotage against Palestine perpetrated via proxies in the banking industry?
As for the matter of “no choice”, its an absurd excuse to deflect criticism about
its faulty decision.
FNBSA does have a choice: it is to protect its integrity as a banking house by
refusing to succumb to foreign pressure that’s at odds with South Africa’s domestic
regulations governing all spheres of socio-economic life.
It has a choice to protect the integrity of its clients who like Al Aqsa have not
breached any law that would merit as a criminal offence.
It still has a chance to retract its decision and by doing so will have discharged
an obligation – moral and otherwise – to restore Al Aqsa’s honour and dignity.
*Iqbal Jassat is an executive member of the Media Review Network(MRN