World Vision: Shurat HaDin responds
Shurat HaDin’s Akiva Hamilton has responded to World Vision’s defence of “taxpayer funded support for UAWC”…
World Vision’s latest attempts to whitewash its continued taxpayer funded support of a Gaza based organisation (the UAWC) with very close links to an illegal terrorist organisation (the PFLP) are episodes straight out of the TV series “Yes Minister”.
They are characterised by a failure to confront the evidence, misrepresentation of the independence and expertise of “experts”, use of straw horse arguments, reliance on hearsay from anonymous and unverifiable sources and attempts to confuse the issue.
Episode 1: When faced with overwhelming evidence find biased cronies and call them “experts”
Shurat HaDin has presented over 40 separate pieces of evidence linking the UAWC to the PFLP.1 This evidence identifies five UAWC directors as senior members of the PFLP terrorist organisation. It shows extensive cooperation between the UAWC & the PFLP including a use of UAWC facilities for terrorist anniversary celebrations. It shows ongoing arrests of senior UAWC figures for terrorist related activity.
You can even see video of the UAWC President during almost the whole period World Vision has funded the UAWC speaking, as a senior PFLP terrorist, at a Hamas terrorist rally. He was the lead in act for the Hamas leader who was arrested a few days later.2
Has World Vision seriously engaged with any of this evidence and provided counter-evidence to disprove it?
NO! Apart from one claim of mistaken identity of a UAWC director, which Shurat HaDin has photographic identification evidence to support its position, World Vision has completely failed to even attempt rebutal of the evidence.
Instead World Vision has engaged “experts” which it attempts to present as “independent” and well qualified but are in fact anything but.
Israeli attorney Dov Weissglas has a long history of opposing Shurat HaDin’s attempts to get compensation for victims of terrorism. When Shurat HaDin obtained Court ordered liens over Palestinian Authority (PA) assets to secure legal claims against the PA for its active involvement in terrorist atrocities that killed and maimed hundreds of Israelis, attorney Weissglas represented the PA in trying to get these liens removed.
When Shurat HaDin sued the Bank of China for knowingly facilitating the transfer of funds to Hamas for a terrorist attack that killed and maimed dozens of Israeli school students, attorney Weissglas was there to defend the Bank of China.
Attorney Weissglas’s senior role in the expulsion of hundreds of Jewish families from their homes which resulted in Gaza becoming an Iranian missile base (also known as “disengagement”) certainly rounds out the picture of exactly who Dov Weissglas is.
Attorney Weisglass is entitled to his legal practice of opposing attempts to get justice and compensation for terror victims. That is every lawyer’s right and even terrorists are entitled to legal representation, but World Vision’s attempts to present him as independent are disingenuous in the extreme.
World Vision presents Prof Mati Steinberg as “Israel’s leading intelligence analyst” and “Head of the Division of Palestinian Affairs of Israel’s General Security Service” (GSS). Both these statements are patently false bordering on ridiculous.
Steiberg was is not an intelligence analyst at all, let alone a leading one. Nor did he ever head a division of the General Security Service (GSS).
Steinberg left the Shin Bet 10 years ago and was merely an advisor to the GSS on Palestinian affairs, not an intelligence analyst or department head. He is an academic who has made his career studying Palestinian society and has a long history of being sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and opposing action against terrorists.3 A google search reveals that he is quoted a number of times in Haaretz, a newspaper read by only 7% of the Israeli population and representing the views of the far left, but not in more mainstream Israeli publications. He speaks at conferences of the far left organisation PeaceNow.4
Again, Prof Steinberg is entitled to his opinion and robust public debate is an important part of Israeli democracy, but it is quite misleading for World Vision to present Prof Steinberg being a “Israel’s leading intelligence analyst” or of being capable of giving an “independent opinion” in a matter such as this. His political positions are well known and are on the far left of the Israeli political spectrum. His professional role requires him to be on good terms with Palestinians and be sympathetic towards them, even when they are involved with terrorist organisations as the UAWC is.
World Vision has grossly misrepresented both the independence and credentials of their so-called experts.
Episode 2: Establish a straw horse and then attack it
World Vision then proceeds to create a straw-horse argument that the job of these experts is to “substantiate our “allegations”.
Shurat HaDin has not made “allegations”. We have presented substantive evidence.
Our evidence does not require further “substantiation”. It is substantive in and of itself.
Our evidence must either be rebutted or it stands.
It is not up to any expert, let alone an extremely biased one with little qualification for the job, to rule on the evidence Shurat HaDin has presented. World Vision does not get to appoint judges.
It is up to World Vision to either rebut the evidence presented with real counter evidence, not biased opinion of its cronies, or accept its truth and stop funding the UAWC.
Episode 3: Use hearsay and anonymous, unverifiable sources
Tim McCormack’s article on his trip to Israel can be summarised as follows: Tim Costello & I met with lots of people who said the UAWC were fine, but we won’t tell you who they are are and we won’t provide anything in writing.
It is not acceptable for World Vision to cite general statements by anonymous and unverifiable sources and then say they’ve conducted a serious investigation.
World Vision have refused to provide Shurat HaDin a copy of Prof Steinberg’s report, a copy of any official Israeli government document substantiating their 3rd hand hearsay
or further information about its funding of the UAWC.
Given that for many months World Vision loudly trumpeted the lie that the UAWC was registered as a charity in Israel and still haven’t retracted this false claim despite incontrovertible evidence, Shurat HaDin rightly demands to see the basis for these claims so they can be investigated.
Episode 4: If you can’t win on the facts then confuse the issue
Shurat HaDin’s complaint is about Australian tax-payer funds being used to support a terror-linked group potentially in breach of Australian law.
We have never suggested that the UAWC itself was involved in actual terrorist attacks or passed money directly to the PFLP.
What we have provided evidence of is that key directors of the UAWC have been involved in actual terrorist attacks (Al Kheiri & Khalafallah) as members of the PFLP and many other directors and officers of the UAWC were members of the PFLP and/or were being arrested by Israel for security related issues.
It is well known that terrorist organisations conduct charitable and other legitimate activities (in order to gain popular support) in addition to their murderous terrorist activities. However it is also well established that funding even a the charitable aspect of a terrorist organisation assists the military arm by freeing resources and assisting it to gain popular support.
The US Supreme Court has recognised this and found that providing a proscribed terrorist organisation with any assistance, even training in international law and political advocacy was illegal.5 We have made this clear from our first letter to World Vision back in February 2012.
Shurat HaDin has never suggested that Khalid Hidmi was involved with the PFLP. He appears to be a lower level officer of the UAWC charged with the day to day running of legitimate projects. The organisation he works for is headed by PFLP members and works closely with the PFLP but Khalid Hidmi himself does not appear to be involved in this aspect of the organisation. Thus the freedom of movement of Khalid Hidmi is irrelevant to the question of whether the UAWC is the agricultural arm of the PFLP terrorist organisation.
Contrary to Tim McCormack’s suggestion, Israel does not conduct targeting killings against persons involved in the charitable arm of a terrorist organisation, only those actively involved in effecting terrorist attacks that endanger the lives of Israelis. The suggestion that Israel can or would conduct a military operation in Gaza to shut down the UAWC is ridiculous.
But Israel’s unwillingness to conduct a military operation to shut down the UAWC does not mean that Australian tax-payers money should be going to such a terror linked organisation, nor that such funding may not be in breach of Australian anti-terror law which prohibits indirect support of a terrorist group.
It is about time World Vision stopped the game playing and “Yes, Minister” tactics and faced the bare truth – they have been funding an organisation established by terrorists, headed by terrorists and which works closely with a terrorist organisation. It is not an appropriate use of Australian taxpayer funds nor should a leading Australian charity be involved with such shady figures and potentially illegal activity.
As I said to Rev Tim Costello when I met him in Tel Aviv in Feb 2013: “If you found out that an organisation you were funding was headed by a convicted murderer who was a senior leader of an illegal motorcycle gang, as were many of his fellow directors, you would stop funding immediately – Why is a lesser standard applied to terrorists?”
1 http://www.scribd.com/doc/110665551/Alleged-breach-of-anti-terror-law-by-World-Vision-Australia-Detailed-Evidence; http://www.scribd.com/doc/110665553/Shurat-HaDin-s-Oct-7-Letter-to-World-Vision-Australia
5 Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. –––– (2010), 130 S. Ct. 2705 (2010)