First came the news that the Gaza head of World Vision, a Christian charity, was accused of funneling millions of the organization’s dollars to Hamas. Then came the announcement that Israel charged a United Nations humanitarian aid worker with assisting Hamas by redirecting his work from rehabilitating housing to building a military naval facility.
These two accusations — which seemed to confirm the fears voiced by many that charitable dollars and humanitarian efforts were being diverted to support the hate and terror efforts of Hamas — must now give way to the sober work of diplomacy and the necessary processes of the legal system.
The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, accused Mohammad El Halabi, manager of Gaza operations for World Vision, with funneling about $43 million to Hamas over the past six years. According to the charge, the diverted funds helped pay for terror tunnels, a Hamas military base and Hamas fighters’ salaries.
In the wake of the accusations, Germany and Australia suspended aid to World Vision. That is significant because the government of Australia is one of World Vision’s largest funders. It gave the group $26.3 million in 2014. World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello voiced “profound shock” at the revelations and said they are “incredibly mystifying … because all of our forensic audits, done by PricewaterhouseCoopers, are absolutely clean.” World Vision also pointed out that its “cumulative operating budget in Gaza for the past 10 years was approximately $22.5 million, which makes the alleged amount of up to $50 million being diverted hard to reconcile.”
In fact, it really isn’t all that hard to reconcile the charges, as World Vision has annual revenues in the neighborhood of $1 billion. We will await the results of the analysis that began following the Aug. 4 charges against Halabi to see whether non-Gaza funds were also diverted. But, no matter what the amount, if Halabi siphoned funds that were donated to alleviate poverty in Gaza, or for any other purpose, he should be punished. And the less spectacular Aug. 9 charges against U.N. worker Waheed Borsh merit the same response.
For now, the charges are just accusations, even if they have a disturbingly familiar ring to them. For years, the international community has prided itself on the millions of charitable and governmental dollars flowing into Gaza, while those living there continue to complain about living in abject poverty. The justice system now has an opportunity to resolve the issue, and we look forward to the issuance of clear determinations on both charges.
The world needs to know whether charitable dollars and human resources that were supposed to be devoted to rebuilding life in Gaza were instead diverted to the furtherance of the terror and military efforts of Hamas as many of us have been suspecting for a long time. And if that’s the case, the world needs to do something about it.