The Union of Good (UG) is a coalition of Islamic charities that was established by Hamas leadership members in May 2001 (nearly eight months after the Second Palestinian Intifada had erupted), for the purpose of facilitating and maximizing the flow of money to Hamas. UG’s inaugural initiative was launched, significantly, on May 15, 2001, the 53rd anniversary of Israel’s founding as a sovereign nation. Dubbed the “101 Days Campaign,” this “human relief” project was designed “to expand the circle of [financial] support” for the Palestinians in their battle against Israel’s “occupying forces,” and to “raise public awareness” about the “tragedy” of Israel’s “unjust and discriminatory” treatment of Arabs living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. From that point forward, UG pledged to “support and fund relief, rehabilitation and development projects implemented by charities in Palestine to ease the effects of the prolonged [sanctions and] curfews” imposed by Israel.
Today, UG boasts of having carried out “many successful projects in all fields throughout Palestine.” In the educational sector, for instance, the coalition has provided scholarships, school supplies, and other forms of material assistance for young students. In the healthcare sector, UG funding has helped establish new hospitals while supporting existing ones. To make these “social infrastructure” projects possible, UG collects donations from its many affiliated organizations and then transfers the money to dozens of Hamas-controlled charities that provide various religious, educational, and social-welfare services in the West Bank and Gaza.
But UG’s philanthropy does not support only humanitarian ventures; it also underwrites many of the violent terrorist activities for which Hamas is infamous. For example, one of UG’s highest priorities is to channel money to the families of dead suicide bombers (mostly affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and Hamas, and occasionally with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). Further, UG funds are used to help incarcerated or wounded Hamas terrorists, and to rebuild terrorists’ homes that were demolished by the Israeli army.
In the Gaza Strip, UG has funded more than 100 summer camps organized by Hamas’s civilian infrastructure. There, children and adolescents receive military training and are indoctrinated with jihadist ideology. One such camp was named in honor of the late Ismail Abu Shanab, a Gaza-based Hamas leader who was killed by Israeli forces in August 2003.
Because of its Hamas connections, UG was banned by Israel in 2002. Six years later, the Israeli defense minister signed an order likewise outlawing three-dozen of UG’s member organizations. On November 12, 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department formally designated UG as a terrorist organization as well, saying: “The Union of Good acts as a broker for Hamas by facilitating financial transfers between a web of charitable organizations … and Hamas-controlled organizations in the West Bank and Gaza. The primary purpose of this activity is to strengthen Hamas’ political and military position in the West Bank and Gaza, including by: (i) diverting charitable donations to support Hamas members and the families of terrorist operatives; and (ii) dispensing social welfare and other charitable services on behalf of Hamas.” At the time of this designation, UG’s secretary-general was a man who had previously served on the Hamas executive committee under Khaled Mash’al.
Dozens of prominent Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas activists sit on UG’s board of directors, and approximately three-fourths of the coalition’s trustees are associated with the Brotherhood, Hamas, or Saudi religious groups that have close ties to those two organizations. Most significant of all is UG chairman Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the world’s leading Sunni cleric, widely recognized as the Muslim Brotherhood’s “spiritual leader.”
UG consists of more than 50 participating organizations based in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. These include some of the world’s most prominent Islamic charities, and a majority of them have close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood; some, in fact, are actually branches of the Brotherhood in their respective countries. Among UG’s member groups are the Al-Aqsa Foundation, Human Appeal International, the IHH, the International Islamic Council for Da’wa and Relief, the International Islamic Relief Organization, Mercy International, and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. A noteworthy founding member of UG was Islamic Relief.
There are currently no UG members headquartered In the United States. The Global Relief Foundation, and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief & Development, both based in the U.S., were listed as UG “donation points” in 2001 and 2002, respectively. But when these groups were subsequently designated as terrorist entities by the American government, their ties to UG ended.
Since its founding, UG has collected tens of millions of dollars annually on behalf of Hamas institutions in the Palestinian Territories, prompting the Israel Security Agency to describe the coalition as Hamas’s “financial linchpin.”