Danby on the DFAT’s claim of no evidence of funds funnelled to Hamas

March 31, 2017 by Michael Danby
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ABC correspondent Sophie McNeill has suggested that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) conducted an internal review that found no evidence that Australian aid funds given to World Vision were diverted to Hamas.

Sophie McNeill

Not only does this leave a false and misleading impression, but it comes at a time when there is a case currently before the Israeli courts against World Vision’s Gaza employee Mohammad El Halabi who is accused of channelling millions of dollars to Hamas.

DFAT is a spectator in that case.  It is certainly not the prosecuting authority.  And it has certainly not marshalled all the evidence and witnesses and examined and tested them in a forensic way.  The court will ultimately reach its own conclusion.

Yet that didn’t stop McNeill tweeting on 20th March –

“DFAT has reviewed the management of its funding to World Vision in the Palestinian Territories.  The review uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government funds.”

https://mobile.twitter.com/Sophiemcneill/status/844071182647345153?p=v

She followed that up with a report on the ABC website on 21st March in which she wrote –

“[DFAT] says an internal review into World Vision funding in Gaza has uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government aid funding to Hamas.”

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-21/no-evidence-world-vision-funds-diverted-to-hamas-dfat-says/8374078

Worse was the ABC utterly irresponsible indeed fraudulent heading “No evidence of diversion of World Vision funds to Hamas, DFAT says”

The clear implication was that DFAT had conducted its own review of the matter and had concluded no government funds had been diverted to Hamas.

These misleading reports by Sophie McNeill (which were picked up and reported by other media outlets around the world, including Putin’s propaganda outlet, RT, today and on the Ayatollah’s TV channel in Iran – Press TV. Strangely other ABC reports are not normally recounted by these highly controversial media outlets, which in both the Russian and Iranian cases are almost always anti-Israel in their orientation. This dreadful international misreporting may have prompted Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma to issue a repudiating statement issued on behalf of DFAT on 29th March.

Ambassador Sharma stated –

“The Israeli court case will determine World Vision employee Mr El-Halabi’s innocence or guilt. 

While the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade conducted a review of its aid management and found nothing to indicate any awareness on our part of Mr El-Halabi’s alleged wrongdoing, World Vision International and World Vision Australia have also commissioned independent reviews which are ongoing, and the Israeli court case continues.

Australian aid funding to World Vision will remain suspended until we consider the outcomes of these processes.”

https://mobile.twitter.com/AusAmbIsrael/status/847001960603680770

In other words, all DFAT is saying is that it has nothing in its records or from its personnel to indicate that its personnel were aware of alleged wrongdoing by Mr El-Halabi.   DFAT is not suggesting that it has investigated the allegations and gone out and collected and examined evidence and interviewed relevant witnesses.  This was just an internal review examining what DFAT personnel were aware of.

And, importantly, DFAT acknowledges that it will be the Israeli court case that determines El-Halabi’s innocence or guilt.

One doesn’t need to be a journalist or lawyer to understand that such an internal review by DFAT could not exonerate World Vision or its employee in relation to allegations of diversion of funds to Hamas.  And particularly so when there is a court case on foot looking into these allegations.

Yet the ABC’s Jerusalem Correspondent Sophie McNeill reported this matter in a way that suggested DFAT had made findings supportive of such an outcome.

Whether this was just bad journalism or something else, I’ll leave others to judge.

 

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Danby on the DFAT’s claim of no evidence of funds funnelled to Hamas”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    Wrong Mr Danby DFAT has said there is no evidence taxpayers funds have been misused and the ABC are only reporting what DFAT said.

    Miss McNeill is an excellent journalist and that is why she has a sought after and dangerous overseas posting.

  2. Leon Poddebsky says:

    The prevailing culture at the ABC is hostile to the very notion of Israel.

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