Terror Bank Gets Observer Status at U.N.
Last week the United Nations reached a new low in its contribution to the battle against terrorism (a concept it has yet to define). On Wednesday, March 28 the General Assembly granted observer status to the Islamic Development Bank Group (IDB), a Saudi-based entity that has been directly involved in paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Ali, president of the Bank told the publication Asharq Al-Awsat, back on August 26, 2001, “There was no delay in paying financial assistance to the families of Palestinian martyrs…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, and according to Dr. Ali the IDB is responsible “for the smooth functioning of the two funds.” The final communique 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.”
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 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 “non-aligned” movement’s automatic UN majority, praised the contribution of the Islamic Bank in “forwarding the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s agenda.” It adopted a resolution explaining its goals and the IDB’s role by “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 United Nations.
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 Intifada Funds.
The criterion for granting observer status to intergovernmental organizations at the U.N. is deliberately vague — its activities must “cover matters of interest.” On March 23rd the U.N. General Assembly’s Sixth (Legal) Committee recommended that the work of the Islamic Development Bank was “of interest.” This is the same committee that believes a comprehensive convention against terrorism is not. Last month, the U.N.’s Legal Committee failed to adopt the draft terrorism treaty due to a definitional glitch: the Organization of the Islamic Conference insists 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., was clearly ignored in the case of the IDB. Instead, the recommendation that the IDB be granted observer status was adopted by consensus. 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.”
The Islamic Development Bank now joins the ranks of the 64 other UN observers, like the Holy See, the Council of Europe and the Organization of American States. It has a standing invitation to participate as an observer in all of the sessions and work of the General Assembly — extraordinary global access to policy-makers for an entity already linked to terrorists.