The Palestinian zakat committees 1993–2007 and their contested interpretations
in Islamic charities and Islamic humanism in troubled times
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This chapter was published in 2008, shortly after the decision of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to reorganize some 90 zakat committees and bring them under central control. The chapter (originally published by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva) set out to review competing interpretations of the nature of the West Bank committees during the "Oslo period", after limited autonomy was ceded by Israel to the Palestinian Authority but before the split between the West Bank and Gaza which took place in 2007. Allegations in the counter-terrorist literature that the zakat committees had been simply fronts for Hamas are considered here and found to be unpersuasive, short of hard evidence and especially in the light of the confidence that – according to reputable opinion surveys – they earned from the Palestinian public. A more benign interpretation is offered in this chapter – that these zakat committees were a result of the "Islamic resurgence" and were typically grass-roots, community based organizations that were beginning to tap into the international aid system, in response to urgent humanitarian needs and the pressures inflicted by the Israeli Occupation.


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