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Page last updated at 10:19 GMT, Friday, 28 July 2006 11:19 UK

Faith, hate and charity

Shield inside Dura Islamic Society for the Care of Orphans in Hebron
JOHN WARE: I'm curious about that little sign up there. What exactly is it?

HASHEM RJOUB, ORPHANAGE DIRECTOR: 'Do not disappoint the orphan.' This is a Koranic verse. The Koran encourages us to protect the orphan.

JW: And that red colour coming down the arm and spilling over the world? What does that signify?

HR: By God... It's not clear whether it's blood or not, but in truth it looks like it might be.

JW: It conveys to me a picture of Islam dominating the world, and if necessary through bloodshed.

HR: It's true. This picture expresses the vision of the person who drew it. This doesn't necessarily mean that these things exist. I want to stress that Islam has ruled most of the world without blood. There was no blood, it was through persuasion.

Panorama explores out how a UK charity's donations have helped build support for Hamas, which is regarded by Europe and America as a terrorist organisation.

John Ware investigates the London-based charity Interpal which gives funds to charities on the West Bank which help needy Palestinians.

Panorama reveals some of these charities are linked to Hamas and help build support for the movement by spreading its Islamist ideology.

Following elections in January, Hamas is the Palestinian government.

John Ware visits two charities in the Hebron area which get funds from Interpal, including the Dura Islamic Society for Orphans, whose director Hashem Rjoub is a Hamas supporter.

Interpal categorically denies it is helping to build support for the Hamas movement behind the banner of humanitarian aid.

Interpal has been investigated twice by the Charity Commission in the UK which found no evidence of inappropriate activity.

Since the transmission of Faith, hate and charity the Charity Commission has now opened a case to look at the issues highlighted in the programme. You can see what the commission has said by clicking here

Some of your messages about the film

Panorama received a large number of messages about this film and have tried to put up a selection reflecting the views we received. The comments start with a letter from Dr Phyllis Starkey MP and a response from Panorama.

Letter from Dr Phyllis Starkey MP

I am writing to protest strongly about Sunday night's Panorama programme by John Ware. It was a disgraceful piece, recycling allegations that have been found by the Charity Commission to have no validity and it was clear from the start of the programme that Mr Ware had approached the "investigation" with a pre-set agenda which he then sought to bolster with evidence which was largely "guilt by association".

1. Mr Ware's introduction talked about the events of January when "Hamas took power". An extraordinarily pejorative way of describing the fact that Hamas won the Palestinian election; an election that was monitored by international observers and was widely reported to be free and fair.

2. The only "evidence" that Interpal was funding the growth of Hamas came from the Israeli secret service, hardly an unbiased source, and in any case it was old and largely guilt by association. Mr Ware did not clarify that all of this information was already available at the time when the Board of Deputies of British Jews and others complained to the Charity Commission and presumably was given to the Charity Commission if it was thought relevant. Given that the Board of Deputies subsequently had to settle in a recent libel case brought by Interpal and published an apology and retraction on their website, it seems pertinent to ask how reliable the Israeli information is when those accusing Interpal clearly did not believe it credible enough to stand up to court scrutiny.

Similarly, the US government has not given to the Treasury any information that would justify the allegations against Interpal which is why there are no restrictions on Interpal in the UK.

3. The guilt by association is extraordinary. Hamas won 60% of the vote in the recent Palestinian elections it is therefore more or less inevitable that some of the individuals involved in running the various Islamic charities in Palestine are likely to be Hamas members, candidates or supporters.

4. The incident in the classroom where he asked the children the leading question of whether they wanted to be fighters was absolutely disgraceful. Apparently when he visited one of the hospitals he questioned the doctor on film for 90 minutes to try to get him to say there were links between Hamas and Interpal - he wasn't interested at all in the work the hospital did or how Interpal had made that possible.

I have visited many of the schools, orphanages and schools funded by Interpal and others in the Occupied Territories. I know that they complement the facilities of the Palestinian Authority since the PA just does not have the resources to meet everyone's needs. The schools follow the Palestinian National Curriculum and the hospitals are supervised by the Ministry of Health. If Panorama's disgraceful journalism means that funding for any of these institutions is held up then frankly I hope Mr Ware goes back and explains to those affected why he is happy to be responsible. It was particularly nauseating to watch your programme at a time when the humanitarian need in Palestine and Lebanon is escalating as a result of Israeli military activity.

5. Finally Mr Ware's thesis seems to be that political Islam is so wicked that it must be condemned whether it is seeking to spread its message by violent jihad or by engaging in the political process or by humanitarian work. He finished with a quote from Qaradawi where the cleric was saying that Islam would return to Europe by people converting to Islam - is Ware suggesting that proselytising is the same threat as violence? Is he against all proselytising or only if it is seeking converts to Islam?

Mr Ware's agenda is strangely congruent with that of the Israeli government who make a habit of stealing the records of Palestinian NGOs and then saying that just one volunteer with links to Hamas is enough to say that the whole organisation is linked to terrorism.

This was a shoddy and disgraceful programme and I look forward to your detailed response to each of the points I have raised.

Yours sincerely,

Response from Panorama

Dear Dr Starkey,

Thank you for your letter dated 31 July 2006.

You write that the Panorama film Faith, Hate and Charity recycled allegations that have been "found by the Charity Commission to have no validity" (an interpretation often expressed by Interpal). That is quite simply not the case as can be seen from the sections of the lengthy interview between John Ware and Ken Dibble, included in the programme, from which it is clear that the Charity Commission's investigations have not been sufficiently thorough to allow of the interpretation placed upon them by Interpal. The Commission acknowledged to Panorama that their 2003 inquiry "wasn't in depth" and that evidence presented by Panorama raised a "pertinent issue". Indeed, we understand that as a result of the programme, the Charity Commission is reviewing the findings of its 2003 Inquiry.

Furthermore, one of the things the film revealed was that a draft report by the UK Treasury's Asset Freezing Working Group found that six charities in the West Bank, which have received funds from Interpal, helped: "provide a broad civilian foundation for Hamas that provides critical support to the organisations political and paramilitary activity".

We reject your description of John Ware's journalistic approach as displaying "a pre-set agenda" bolstered by evidence "which was largely 'guilt by association.'" There is no evidence to support such a sweeping assertion about his motives, and you supply none. The programme was an evidence-based investigation whose journalistic approach was informed throughout by the BBC's commitment to impartiality, fairness and accuracy. John Ware is an experienced investigative reporter and we believe his film lived up to the high standards of fairness and accuracy which he has established over many years.

Turning to the points you raise in your numbered paragraphs:

1. There was no suggestion in the programme that the Palestinian elections were not free or fair. The programme's commentary said "Last January a political earthquake reshaped the Middle East. A group of fundamentalists regarded by the West as terrorists took power here in Palestine". "Took power" is not a pejorative expression used in this way - it is a phrase often used in the context of a change in political power and is perfectly consistent with that change being entirely democratic. In the next line of commentary we made clear that "Hamas has won a reputation for honesty based largely on how they've run charities" among the Palestinian people. We developed this analysis of Hamas' electoral appeal further through interviews with two Hamas members. Mustafa Shawer of Hamas stated in the programme Hamas is seen as honest because it is a religious movement. Dr Mahmoud Ramahi, a senior Hamas politician, stated that charities in the Occupied Territories affiliated to Hamas (of which he said there were "maybe more than two hundred") had "the main responsible" for Hamas' electoral victory.

2. In fact the documents [which you wrongly attribute to the "Israeli Secret Service"] which you "presume" had been given to the Charity Commission had not been given to them. I assume you are referring to the many documents taken by the Israeli army between 2002 and 2005 from Palestinian charities and the offices of the Palestinian security service. These documents had been produced by a variety of organisations - including Interpal, Hamas and one of the Palestinian security services. None of these documents is Israeli in origin.

The out of court settlement reached last December between Interpal and the Board of Deputies of British Jews was in relation to an article which referred to Interpal as a "terrorist" organisation. We did not call Interpal a "terrorist organisation." Rather we said that funds from a UK registered charity, Interpal, have helped build support for Hamas, an organisation which the European Union regards in its entirety as terrorist, largely at the behest of the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. We do not accept that the settlement of that libel action is relevant to your criticisms of Panorama's investigation.

You write that "the US government has not given to the Treasury any information that would justify the allegations against Interpal┐" You may not be aware that the Americans have said that their information was classified and as such could not be passed to the Charity Commission. As stated earlier, the Charity Commission acknowledged on the programme that its 2003 investigation "wasn't in depth."

3. It may or may not be inevitable that, as you say, "some of the individuals involved in running the various Islamic charities in Palestine are likely to be Hamas members..." Hamas themselves are very clear about the role played by its social welfare network. For example, Dr Mahmoud Ramahi, a senior Hamas politician, has stated that charities in the Occupied Territories affiliated to Hamas (of which he said there were "maybe more than two hundred") had "the main responsible [sic]" for Hamas' electoral victory.

Dr. Ibrahim AI-Yazuri, one of the founders of Hamas, gave an interview to Filastin Al-Muslimah (January 1998. A copy can be supplied), in which he said:

"Everyone knows that the Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS, is a Palestinian Jihad movement that strives for the liberation of all Palestine, from the (Mediterranean) sea to the river (Jordan), from the north to the south, from the tyrannical Israeli occupation, and this is the main part of its concern. Social work is carried out in support of this aim, and it is considered to be part of the HAMAS movement' s strategy."

Mouin Rabbani of the International Crisis Group was asked on the Panorama programme whether Hamas is in the social welfare business only to do good works. He replied:

"No, of course not. It's a political organisation that has a series of defined objectives among which is increasing┐ the popular allegiance to it among its constituents."

Elsewhere in the ICG report that Mr Rabbani helped write (Islamic Social Welfare Activism in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: A Legitimate Target?, 2 April 2003), the ICG state:

"It is probably an accurate assessment that the Palestinian Islamic social welfare sector as a whole is today affiliated with Hamas to one degree or another. It is moreover a matter of absolute certainty that Hamas is engaged in social welfare activism for more than altruistic purposes. It consciously seeks to derive organisational benefit from serving the basic needs of its people┐"

The ICG report makes the point that the degree of Hamas affiliation can be difficult to gauge, a dilemma that John Ware reflected when he said in the programme: "Just how much influence Hamas has over some charities funded by Interpal can require the judgement of Solomon." However, in its recommendations, the ICG report, at para 17 [b] also drew the line at funding charities that engaged in incitement. The report suggested action should be taken against charities "found to be┐.advocating or promoting attacks against civilians."

The video tapes of the al Khalil al Rahman Young Girls' Society - to which Interpal has given funds - showed young girls being incited to violence by adults at charity functions - singing songs glorifying martyrdom, singing about building ladders to heaven from their skulls, dancing to songs whose lyrics refer to strapping on suicide belts, and the like. This evidence of incitement seemed to us to meet the test the ICG set at para 17 [b].

4. You write that "The incident ┐where he [John Ware] asked the children the leading question of whether they wanted to be fighters was absolutely disgraceful." This seriously misrepresents what happened. John Ware simply asked a boy in the class "Who would you like to be? Who is your big hero?" The boy replied " Like a mujahid". John then sought to establish how far that was reflected in the class as a whole. There were no 'leading' questions. Given that the orphanage receives funds from the British charity Interpal, and the Israelis had discovered material glorifying martyrdom there, it was perfectly legitimate to investigate the institution's ethos - and to seek to establish how widely reflected the first boy's stated ambition was among the other children. At no stage did any child or member of the orphanage's staff complain about the line of questioning. This was an entirely proper issue for the BBC to explore.

You say that "apparently" during one visit to a hospital we sought to "try to get" a doctor to "say there were links between Hamas and Interpal." We categorically reject your assertion that we "tried to get" a "doctor" to say "there were links between Hamas and Interpal." As you acknowledge you present no evidence to back up this assertion, preferring instead to refer indirectly to unsubstantiated allegations made by Faisal Bodi. The danger of relying on hearsay is demonstrated by your reference to the person we interviewed being a "doctor." He was in fact a "manager." You can be assured that Panorama's journalistic approach is entirely informed by the BBC's commitment to impartiality and fairness.

As to the timing of the programme's broadcast, the film was commissioned and scheduled for transmission a long time before the current upsurge of violence in the Middle East. The BBC could have decided to postpone its transmission but the issues raised are an important part of the overall context for current events in the Middle East. Of course, we accept that some people will have found the timing insensitive. Others will have found it relevant to current events. After considering the matter very carefully, the BBC decided that the programme took a much longer view of the history behind the collapse of the Oslo Accords, than the current outbreak of hostilities, and that in the overall mix of the BBC's coverage it made a contribution to understanding some of the background.

5. The programme did not take a position on proselytisation per se. It did refer to views held by Sheikh Qaradawi, which include his expressed desire to "plant the love of death and the love of martyrdom in the Islamic nation". The programme did, however, raise the point that whilst the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement was "largely peaceful" its opposition to violence has proved to be sometimes tactical. That is clearly the case in respect of the Brotherhood's Palestinian branch, Hamas; but it also appears to be the case in respect of some leading figures in Islamist groups here. Dr Azzam Tamimi, for example, of the Muslim Association of Britain has on several occasions, and in public, expressed support for suicide bombers.

6. We entirely reject the implication behind your claim that "Mr Ware's agenda is strangely congruent with that of the Israeli government who┐ (say) that just one volunteer with links to Hamas is enough to say that the whole organisation is linked to terrorism." In respect of the charities we focused on in Hebron, it manifestly is not the case that only "one volunteer" was involved in these charities. It is clear from our research that Hamas's influence in all of those charities has been vastly greater than you suggest. As already mentioned, the European Union has proscribed the funding of both the political and military wings of Hamas since September 2003. There are numerous examples of Hamas leaders from Khalid Mishaal down citing the centrality of Hamas's social welfare network to its political wing.

You call this Panorama programme shoddy and disgraceful. It was not. On the contrary, it was diligently researched and journalistically justified in the public interest.

BBC Panorama

Some emails about the film

Joshua Rowe, Manchester
Many congratulations on an outstanding programme.

David, London
Fascinating and excellent programme.

P Heap Esq, England
The Panorama programme on 30 Jul 06 was spoilt by the photography, which was confusing, unnecessarily out of focus at times and of such a condition that it was difficult to see quotations put up on the screen.

Anthony O'Leary, Birmingham
The report on Interpal's connection with terrorist group was a good topic to cover, as normal Muslims give money freely to these charities on the expectancy of it reaching the right hands.

But one thing I have to comment on was the reporters basic knowledge of the Islamic faith and culture, and I as a Roman Catholic felt embarrassed when John Ware asked the question to the principle of the school, what is the green flag displayed on the school, and what is the connection with hamas. Well anybody that knew the slightest bit about Islam would know that the flag represents Saudi Arabia, where Mecca and other places sacred to Muslims Lie.

But over all Panorama is an excellent programme and covers important topics on home and international soil, and although I'm only young I still choose to watch this other any programme.

Carry on the good work.

Mary Webb, Mid Glamorgan
I thought this programme was most damning, not ony to Interpal, but to our religion also, making us look as if we are all intent on being suicide bombers......shame on you BBC.

I can't believe this programme was actually broadcasted. I always percieved panorama to investigate viable stories and not one persons view on a particular religion. It is difficult to justify the likes of Hamas but showing a programme which is dominated by the opinion of John who obviously doesn't think much of Islam is insensitive at this particular time. Also funny how he was saying he was not allowed in Expoislam and 'managed to get in'. I expected secret cameras! Thier obviously not that bothered if they let the big BBC camera's in and it didn't really look a major secret project to take over the world like it was portrayed! Finally why was the teacher of the school being questioned about patriotic songs that were sang at the school. It seems it's ok for us to remember the dead of the World Wars because they sacrificed their lives for us but it's anti-semitic or a plan to take over the world if it's done by palestinians. Finally we need to understand that its the lack of understanding that has led to current problems and pointing the finger is not going to solve it.

John Higgs
This weeks Panorama must be the worst I have ever seen ┐ both from a production technique point of view and in terms of content.

The camera work and editing looked like the work of a year 12 media studies student who wants to break into the pop-promo market. It was ghastly from end to end with every special effect in the edit program being used. There was no consistency or recognisable style and the whole thing was a disjointed abomination of production technique. Two or three minutes of this pop-video approach would have been more than enough ┐ a whole programme of it was unbearable. Have you lost all your experienced editors and producers?

From the content aspect it was deplorable and one sided. Not only was the timing very inappropriate, but the whole programme was totally unbalanced and ill though out. Fund raising goes on in all political circles all over the world and many political regimes ally themselves to charities. Was the aim of the programme to claim this is unacceptable? Huge fund raising activity ┐ under the guise of charities - goes on in the US with the Jewish lobby sending money to Israel to support their effort yet your programme gives no mention of this. The same is true for money raised to support the cause of Irish republicanism.

Furthermore your programme failed to speak to anyone who contributed to these charities. I would guess that if you are supporting Palestinian charities than you also supporting the efforts of the democratically elected Hamas government in Palestine to further their cause ┐ just as American Jews are trying to further the cause of the government in Israel. The ┐reconstruction┐ scenes tried to represent a ┐cloak and dagger┐ situation and were pathetic, while no one asked the American representative what action the FBI were taking to ┐monitor┐ Jewish fund raising for the arming of Israel.

A very poor effort Panorama ┐ you will have to do a lot better than this if you expect to retain your forthcoming peak-time weekday slot. Or perhaps your office too is being pressurised to follow the Blair/Bush agenda.

Madeleine O'Higgins, Dublin
Tuning in to Panorama yesterday evening, I expected to watch a balanced documentary and I was both shocked and disappointed at what I saw instead. While John Ware seemed to indicate at the beginning that there would be some balance, as he did make some small nod towards the majority of Muslims being peaceful or some such token, I was left waiting for a segment at the end with more balance ┐ this segment never came. There was no mention of the many other Islamic charities who are not implicated in terrorist activities and yet the makers of this programme could not fail to see how without such a mention, the work of all Islamic charities is likely to suffer. With the sad and dangerous rise of Islamophobia at the moment, a reputable broadcaster such as the BBC should not be so irresponsible as to put out an unbalanced programme such as last night┐s Panorama. In the current climate, a mere nod towards most Muslims not being terrorists is not sufficient.

The programme was over-dramatised with fuzzy ┐reconstructions┐ and it was one-sided. I can only hope that it was not seen by many.

Dr A R Maher, UK
While an investigation into the activity of a charity is perfectly legitimate, I was disappointed by the misrepresentation of many basic Islamic ideas. Dawah (invitation) Jihad (struggle) and Shahadah(Martyrdom) are not concepts that equate to extremism but rather are concepts that emanate from a desire to reach out in the case of Dawah and from a desire to lead to selfless and noble life in the case of Jihad and Shahadah. These are concepts and feelings that are humbling and certainly do not create monsters in the way that was portrayed in the programme.

Marie Iqbal, London
As one of your regular viewers, I would like to express my extreme disappointment with last nights Panorama programme looking at the work of Interpal. I found the documentary, presented by John Ware was a blatant attack on Islam. He sought to present Interpal┐s work in a bad light. The arguments he presented were weak and very much one sided. As you have stated Interpal has been investigated twice by the Charity Commission in the UK and have found no evidence of inappropriate activity. The charity┐s primary goal is provide for orphans living in an oppressed society. John Ware┐s ignorance of the plight of Palestinian children and of Islam was made apparent when he interviewed the children in their schools and ask them why they were studying Arabic as though it was a language of ┐terror┐ and when he made reference to the ┐Hamas┐ flag, associating it with terrorism. The flag has the declaration of the belief of one God on it - What has that got to do with work of Interpal! and terrorism. The conclusion of the programme just summed up what Mr Ware was trying to achieve - not just an attack on Interpal but an attack on Muslims as whole.

Alex, London
John Ware is looking at this issue from one angle only. He should really dig deep to try and find the root of the problem and not just look at the surface. He should investigate the reason why groups like Hamas exist in the first place, why the orphanage children are orphans, who killed their families, destroyed their homes and occupied their lands and why most of the Palestinian people are homeless, deprived, and depressed to a degree that leads them to become suicide bombers. I think he should show the truth in Palestine instead of going around it to justify the consequences. This program aims at nothing but discouraging and halting any charity work desperately needed by the Palestinian┐s destroyed nation.

Tarek Janoudi, London
I have always thought that the BBC is a reliable source of news and reflect the situation where ever as it is, last night it was very disappointing, panorama was very baised to the Israeli side of the story, and did not even get close to the facts.

Jonathan Davis
An intriguing documentary that helped shed light on this complex issue.

Philippa Sutton, Newcastle Upon Tyne
"Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross; Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss. From victory unto victory His army shall He lead, Till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.

"Stand up, stand up for Jesus, each soldier to his post, Close up the broken column, and shout through all the host: Make good the loss so heavy, in those that still remain, And prove to all around you that death itself is gain."

We sang this at my state school in England.

Marion Burdon, England
Well done for 'Faith, Hate and Charity.' For having the courage to show it. Many people have known of these connections for years...and were giving up on the BBC, feeling it was burying it's head in the sand. Thank you for this!

James, London
By the way dear reporter, an informative note: the flag u saw was not Hamas's, it is the official islamic flag for every muslim. You do seem not to believe the woman but easily claim the claim of Israelis confiscating a computer that could have been brougt from anywhere ages before you went to seem them. There is a very clear bias and BBC hope you become more objetive for the world's sake!!!

Chafik, London
Is Panorama going to investigate any jewish extremism too, or is it taboo?

Kevin E Atkinson, London
This was one of the most perceptive programmes I have watched on the BBC.

Herschel Goldbaum, London
After watching BBC's coverage this entire week about the holocaust in Lebanaon, John Ware's documentary comes as a complete baised unprofessional pile of bombastic canary yellow journalism. How can he constantly say that Hamas is a "fundamentalist" or "terrorist" organization if just today Israel specifically massacred 50 WOMEN AND CHILDREN.

Panorama: Faith, Hate and Charity was on BBC One on July 30 2006.


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