By Iqbal Jassat
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 organization 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 Muslim community?
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 agenda.
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 group.
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 favors 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 dictatorial legislation.
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 organizations to participating in antiwar protests.
In her study on Islamophobia, author Deepa Kumar asserts that after 9/11 the Bush administration shut down virtually all Muslim charitable organizations operating in the US and froze their assets, allegedly to prevent the flow of money to “terrorists”.
“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 criminalize legitimate humanitarian aid as an act of “terrorism”.
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 favor of Israel:
“By designating Al Aqsa Foundation we have deprived the Hamas terrorist organization of a vital source of funding and have shut off yet another pipeline of money funding terror”.
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”, it’s 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 honor and dignity.
– Iqbal Jassat – Exec: Media Review Network, Johannesburg. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com.