Update, Nov. 7: The Charity Commission now says that Viva Palestina should not have been removed from the nation's registry. A spokeswoman blamed a computer error and says Viva Palestina "remains a charity and its online record was corrected overnight."
Britain's Charity Commission has scrapped Viva Palestina, a "humanitarian aid" charity tied to Hamas, form its charities register. The move came last month with the entry "it does not operate," said a report in the Third Sector.
Viva Palestina, also known as Lifeline for Gaza, has led several convoys in support of the Hamas-led government in Gaza. The charity was founded in 2009 by MP George Galloway. It came under the commission's scrutiny in July after failing to file required financial statements for the fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012.
An IPT investigative report into the charity revealed that the Viva Palestina campaign is more about providing legitimacy to Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, than about providing aid to needy Palestinians. For instance, in March 2009, Galloway defied international sanctions to personally deliver a bag of cash to a prominent minister in the Hamas government. Viva Palestina leaders have openly supported the destruction of Israel.
In September, the commission ordered Galloway's spokesman, Ronald McKay, to provide financial statements for Viva Palestina. But McKay said that he was not a trustee of the charity and couldn't provide the information despite his close association with the charity. McKay has traveled alongside Galloway on several of the aid convoys.
"At no point in the three years for which accounts should be filed was I a trustee or official of the charity," McKay told the Third Sector. "I was a sympathizer and I've helped out, and I've attempted to act as an honest broker between the commission and the trustees, and the commission appears to have deemed me a trustee as a result."
An earlier inquiry into the charity's fundraising activities found that it had exaggerated the amount of humanitarian aid it had raised for Gaza, saying the charity had raised only a fifth of the £1 million it had claimed.
The Viva Palestina UK website formerly listed several international affiliates of the charity in the United States, Canada, Indonesia, Turkey, Italy, Arabia, and the Gulf. But its website address (www.vivapalestina.org) no longer works and instead directs individuals to the Malaysia chapter website (http://vpm.org.my/). Viva Palestina UK continues to operate its Twitter and Facebook accounts.