Politics & Policy

Bank of the Intifada to Join the U.N.

The U.N.'s legal body has recommended that the Islamic Development Bank be granted observer status.

The United Nations’ nourishment of terrorism (a concept it has yet to define) reached a new low last Friday. On March 23, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly’s Sixth Committee — its lead legal body comprised of all 192 member states — recommended that observer status be granted to the Islamic Development Bank Group (IDB), an entity that has been directly involved in paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Back in August of 2001, Ahmad Muhammad Ali, president of the bank, was questioned by the publication Asharq Al-Awsat about payments to the Palestinian Authority for the sake of carrying out the intifada. Ali told the publication that “there was no delay in paying financial assistance to the families of Palestinian martyrs,” assuring it, “We have started paying them soon after receiving the money.”

An Arab Summit in Cairo in late October of 2000 created two funds, the Al-Quds Intifadah Fund and the Al-Aqsa Fund. According to Ali, the IDB is responsible “for the smooth functioning of the two funds.” The final communiqué of the summit made no attempt to conceal the purpose of the funds: “the Al-Quds Intifadah Fund will have a capital of 200 million dollars to be allocated for disbursement to the families of Palestinian martyrs fallen in the Intifadah.”

The creation of a fund dedicated to making suicide-bombing financially appealing was the brainchild of then Crown Prince, now King, Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. He announced the move at the Arab League Summit thus:

[W]e propose the establishment of a special trust under the name of ‘The Jerusalem Intifada Fund’ with a capital of 200 million US dollars. This amount will be allocated, to the families and the education of the children of the Palestinian martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the struggle.

(That “education” is one that will certainly include the glorification of the violent and racist goals of the children’s parents.)

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has reported on some of the details of the financial connections between the IDB and terrorism. According to a 2003 report:

Saudi funds which originate in the Jeddah based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) reach the Palestinian Authority Treasury Department via Account 98 of the Saudi Development Fund (SDF). All funds for Prince Salman Ibn Abd Al-Aziz’s Popular Committee for Assisting the Palestinian Mujahideen go directly to the PLO, while Prince Nayef’s funds from the Support Committee for the Al-Quds Intifada and Al-Aqsa Fund go to the Palestinian Authority.

In June of 2006, the foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the 56-member voting bloc that drives the majority “non-aligned” movement in the U.N., praised the contribution of the Islamic Bank in forwarding the OIC’s hateful agenda. It adopted a resolution explaining its goals and the IDB’s role in achieving them, “Commending the just and legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people…[and] Commend[ing] the efforts of the…Administrative Committee of the Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds funds and the Islamic Development Bank…with respect to the management of the Funds.”

As recently as March 9, 2007, Arab foreign ministers concluded a meeting in Cairo and “decided to upgrade the ceiling of [the] Al-Aqsa fund and Al-Quds uprising by $300 million.”

None of this made the slightest difference at the U.N.

Saudi Arabia, where the bank is headquartered, put forward the application of the IDB for observer status, announcing in accompanying documentation that the IDB works “to promote social progress in accordance with the ethos of Islam.”

Nowhere in the six-page Saudi “explanatory memorandum” does it mention the bank’s administration of the Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds Intifadah Funds. It does make passing mention, without explanation, of a program in partnership with the U.N. Development Program “currently providing special assistance in…the Palestinian territories,” but “special assistance” is most likely not a U.N. euphemism for “funding of suicide bombings.”

One item apparently not a priority for the Islamic Development Bank and its “ethos of Islam” is the liberation of the millions of women living under the most repressive regimes on the planet. According to the IDB’s U.N. observer application: “As of October 2006, the IDB Group’s cumulative commitments reached $44.7 billion covering some 5,200 operations,” and, among these commitments, the bank “currently provides 0.7 million annually [for]…women advancement programs.”

The criterion for granting observer status to intergovernmental organizations at the U.N. is deliberately vague — its activities must “cover matters of interest.” Not surprisingly, the same U.N. General Assembly Committee that believed the work of the Islamic Development Bank was “of interest” also believes a comprehensive convention against terrorism is not. Last month, the U.N.’s Legal Committee once again failed to adopt the draft terrorism treaty due to a definitional glitch. The Organization of the Islamic Conference insists that blowing up Americans and Israelis doesn’t count.

The U.N. Charter says membership in the United Nations is open to “peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter” — among them the commitment to “fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of the human person.” This principle, which is supposed to apply equally to any other entity formally accredited by the U.N., didn’t seem to matter in this case to the U.N.’s member states. Instead, the recommendation that the IDB be granted observer status was adopted, by consensus, in the form of a draft resolution. The United States looked the other way. Only Israel registered a concern that the bank had relations to Hamas and pointed out that its “organizational chart showed that it had operated Al Aqsa and Al Quds funds, which had known ties to terror groups.”

Although the recommendation must now be formally ratified by the plenary of the General Assembly, it is expected to be rubber-stamped before June. The Islamic Development Bank will then join the ranks of the 64 other U.N. observers, on a par with the Holy See, the Council of Europe, and the Organization of American States. It will have a standing invitation to participate as an observer in all of the sessions and work of the General Assembly — extraordinary global access to policymakers for an entity linked to terrorists.

Anne Bayefsky — Professor A.F. Bayefsky, B.A., M.A., LL.B., M.Litt. (Oxon.), is a Professor at York University, Toronto, Canada, and a Barrister and Solicitor, Ontario Bar. She is also an Adjunct Professor at ...

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