The Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund (PCWF), a humanitarian aid organization and a sister group to the Free Palestine Movement, has announced that nearly $5,000 in donations collected for the children of Gaza to provide them with essential winter survival items, has been blocked by the bank currently holding the deposit. The brutal military assault by Israel in the summer of 2014 has left many children without shelter or the means to build new housing structures. In addition Israel permits Gaza only a few hours of electricity per day and has not permitted the reconstruction of an essential power plant.
The Bank of the West, the recipient of the original deposits, and the Mellon Bank of New York which was to handle the overseas transaction protocol, demanded lengthy and detailed information, and the PCWF and its attorney deemed that request without merit. The Bank of the West claims that their action is in compliance with US sanction laws. The PCWF subsequently cancelled the transaction in its entirety and sought to begin the process again with a different bank. Despite the cancellation by the depositor, the bank has blocked the funds and refuses to release and return them. The PCWF holds the Bank of the West primarily responsible as it is they who chose Mellon Bank of New York to complete the transaction. Also Bank of the West will not state that Mellon Bank of New York requires the information in question in order to release funds or what they consequences will be if the PCWF does not comply. Two deadlines given by Bank of the West for compliance have come and gone. The PCWF through its attorney has called the action of Bank of the West “frivolous, malicious and insincere”.
The PCWF insists that the bank has no right to insist on answers to questions or to block funds once the transaction has been cancelled. They suggest that the bank actions have no justification in law and that because the PCWF monies represent such a small portion of the bank’s total funds, Bank of the West feels it can uses these tactics without consequences believing that law enforcement will not step in on the side of the PCWF and that the latter will not want to engage in prolonged litigation.
“Is it likely that we will surrender our own human rights at the same time that we fight for those of Palestinians? We don’t think so.”
The Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund and the Free Palestine Movement ask for the public’s help in putting pressure on Bank of the West to release the funds in view of the cancelled transaction. To this end it asks the public to email Ms Tanya Kazak, the PCWF’s contact person, at Bank of the West using the following address: <firstname.lastname@example.org> and to demand action.