Israeli NGO comes under scrutiny over donations for Syrian refugees

Alkalub Alrahima

Hanan Greenwood | Israel Hayom


 Tens of millions of donated Shekels allegedly make their way from Israel into Syria through Turkey after being sent through an NGO run by a former activist of the northern faction of the Islamic Movement, which was declared illegal in 2015, pro-Israel watchdog group Ad Kan says.


The funds are supposedly transferred by a Turkish movement into Syria, an enemy country with which there is a strict prohibition against engaging in any financial activity, and where they are claimed to be used to build villages for refugees – according to the investigation conducted by Ad Kan.


The investigation describes the route through which Alkalub Alrahima supposedly transfers the money and raises concerns that the local authorities have no suitable supervision over the movement, which is registered in Israel as an NGO. Ad Kan has demanded that the movement's activities are halted until the matter is investigated. In addition, it was claimed that as the investigation supposedly found that only one percent of the movement's donations are used for activities within Israel – it must not be recognized as a nonprofit organization, based on a Supreme Court ruling.


Alkalub Alrahima, meaning the Merciful Hearts in Arabic, was founded in 2016 and officially works to fundraise for humanitarian purposes, including providing assistance to orphans and widows, emergency support, assistance to Syrian refugees, etc. In recent years, it has raised tens of millions of shekels from Muslim residents in Israel and its main activity, according to its financial reports, is granting aid for projects within the Palestinian Authority territories and in Turkey and Syria – through an association in Turkey. Only six months ago, Alkalub Alrahima raised NIS 32 million ($9.4M) for aid to refugees. A month later it signed a partnership agreement with the Turkish movement ATAA for the construction of two new villages in the Idlib province in northern Syria and will finance the construction of 4,500 housing units.


It should be noted that the association does not hide the fact in its publications that it is raising funds from supporters in Israel and the Palestinian Authority for Syrian refugees.


Where does the money end up?


An Ad Kan investigation claimed that the association director, Raid Bader, a resident of the village of Tur'aan in the Upper Galilee, has a long history of activity in the Islamic Movement's northern faction. The investigation also claimed that movements operated by the faction allegedly raised funds for Hamas infrastructure and that in 2002, the minister of defense issued a confiscation order for property and equipment belonging to the aid committee of the northern faction, and a police raid on Raid's house seized two safes containing NIS 932,000.


Before the northern faction was declared illegal, the investigation claimed that Bader operated for several years in movements with a similar pattern of operation, under the auspices of the northern faction. These were defined as humanitarian associations and were eventually closed. In 2016 Bader led legal proceedings to enable the continuation of the movement's activities and finally set up a new organization – Alkalub Al Rahima. The Ad Kan investigation also supposedly found that most of its activities are identical to those of the original movement, although Bader was careful to make clear that it is an independent movement and has no connection to the one that was outlawed.


There is concern that funds collected by the movement in Israel might indirectly end up in the hands of terrorist groups. Bader was previously questioned about this in an interview he conducted with the A-Sonara newspaper, as there were suspicions that the money was not reaching the refugees but finding its way to ISIS. Bader replied that the Turkish ATAA movement is strictly supervised by the Turkish government and responded to this article in a similar manner.


According to Ad Kan, a Ministry of Finance investigation showed that the movement was not given any irregular permit to transfer funds to Syria and that no such request was even submitted. As stated above Ad Kan is now demanding that the movement close down as a non-profit, in light of a Supreme Court ruling that most of its activities in Israel must be performed in Israel. "In regard to the NGO's overall activities, it seems that huge amounts of money are transferred to recipients over which authorities in the State of Israel do not have proper supervision and some of which are prohibited by law. It seems that there is no way out other than stopping the movement's activities and the flow of its funds until the matter is clarified," CEO of Ad Kan Gilad Ach said.


"The work of the movement must be endorsed"


Alkalub Alrahima sent the following response: "The movement provides services to needy families in Israel, in the Palestinian Authority, and also to Syrian refugees through a Turkish organization recognized by the UN called ATAA. The movement collects donations from Israeli residents and citizens only and does not accept donations from abroad and/or from donors who are citizens of foreign countries. The director of the movement, which has been operating since 2016, dictates its policy. Mr. Bader is a well-known figure in the Arab world, as a social activist with extensive experience in humanitarian activities. Including him in the association's activities over the past two years has been an achievement and opportunity to develop the association's commendable work. The allegations regarding the funds he held are baseless, both in terms of the amounts and of their destination. The donation funds that are transferred to Turkey are used exclusively to support refugees. The fundraising operation was launched in the winter after seeing the heart-wrenching photos of women and children freezing to death. Thousands of members of the Arab society in Israel helped in many ways – from providing warm clothing, winter blankets, stoves for heating and food, through setting up tents and building housing units. The movement's choice to benefit from the services of ATAA, which also operates under full recognition from the UN, stems exactly from its consistent endeavors to ensure that the donations it collects reach their humanitarian destination in the safest and most transparent manner possible."