Viva Palestina 'did not give money to Hamas'

Respect MP George Galloway's Viva Palestina charity was found not to have given money to Hamas by the Charity Commission, but was criticised for misleading the public over the amount raised for Gaza.

By Jessica Elgot, March 9, 2010
George Galloway MP during the Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza

George Galloway MP during the Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza

Respect MP George Galloway’s Viva Palestina group has been criticised for “misleading” the public after it announced it had raised £1m for Gaza, when the real figure was just £180,000.

The Charity Commission opened an inquiry after concerns were raised over how much Viva Palestina had collected for Gaza. The Commission was concerned the money had been given to Hamas, considered by the US and EU to be a terrorist organisation.

But no evidence has been found that property, vehicles or money had been given to Hamas.

Hamas was given £25,000 by Mr Galloway in March 2009. About this donation, Mr Galloway said: "This is not charity. This is politics.

"The government of Palestine are the best people to decide where this money is needed. We are giving this money now to the government of Palestine. And, if I could, I would give them 10 times, 100 times more."

The Commission said Mr Galloway had made clear that his donation was “personal money,” not money from the charity.

But it did find that Viva Palestina had misled the public by claiming to have raised £1 million for Gaza when it had in fact raised just £180,000.

The report said: "It was misleading to the public for the charity to claim on its website to have raised over £1m during the first convoy, as this was not a monetary sum raised by or under the control of the charity's trustees."

The Commission also criticised attempts by Sabah Al-Mukhtar, who founded Viva Palestina, to turn the group into a non-charitable organisation, since it was registered as a charity in April 2009.

Mr Al-Mukhtar said he did not believe the charity should be subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction.

He has since resigned as a trustee of the charity.

Last updated: 3:54pm, March 9 2010