Jimmy Carter has signed a petition developed by the Charity & Security Network to “exempt peacebuilding activities” from the U.S. prohibition against providing material support to terrorist organizations.
The problem with the proposal is that it would open up too much wiggle room for charities to interact with terrorist groups. Which charities would be eligible for such an exemption? Islamic Relief USA? Under the exemption, charities like IR-USA could partner with Hamas charities or even directly with Hamas, and justify the joint venture on the grounds that they are pursuing peace-building efforts.
The limits on engagement with terrorist groups have been a longstanding grievance among left-leaning philanthropic and charitable organizations. While many of those seeking a relaxation of the rules have their hearts in the right place with a genuine desire to seek world peace, the harsh reality is that some charitable entities (or some of their employees) would exploit the exemption to support, rather than to pacify, terrorist groups. Even financial aid toward projects such as schools, orphanages, or food aid while working with a group such as Hamas or al-Shabaab would be problematic because aid is fungible, and such aid would generally serve to strengthen the terrorist group and its reputation among the populations they “serve.”
The Hill ran this article with a striking but misleading headline “Ex-President Carter wants sanctions weakened on terrorist groups.” Not exactly—but what’s being proposed is equally alarming. Read it all:
By Julian Pecquet – 06/20/13
Former President Jimmy Carter is spearheading an effort to convince the U.S. to weaken sanctions on terrorist groups so peace organizations can legally work with them.
In a petition to Secretary of State John Kerry delivered Thursday, Carter and other foreign policy experts ask Kerry to exempt peace groups from policies that make it a crime to offer negotiation training and humanitarian law classes to terror groups.
“The Secretary of State can, and should, exempt peacebuilding activities from this counterproductive application of the law,” says the petition. “Doing so would open the door for professional peacebuilders to fully engage in helping to end armed conflicts and suffering around the world, while making the U.S. safer.”
The Charity and Security Network, which is spearheading the petition, declined for legal reasons to provide examples of current programs impacted by anti-terrorism sanctions. The organization told The Hill that in the past, efforts to build bridges with the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas in the Palestinian territories and leftist guerillas in Colombia have all been stymied.
A 2011 report by the UK-based Overseas Development Institute said anti-terrorism laws passed in the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have created bureaucratic red tape and fostered an atmosphere of “fear” and “confusion” that has endangered the lives of aid workers and made it impossible for them to work in many of the world’s hot spots.
“Rigid and over-zealous application of counter-terrorism laws to humanitarian action in conflict not only limits its reach in that context,” the report concluded, “but undermines the independence and neutrality of humanitarian organisations in general, and could become an additional factor in the unravelling of the legitimacy and acceptance of humanitarian response in many of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.”
The roadblocks have only gotten worse since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that such aid fit the Patriot Act’s definition of “material support” for terrorism. The high court in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project determined that such aid could free up terror groups’ resources for terrorist activities and legitimize them…