In wake of World Vision scandal, aid groups lax with security…writes Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman/JNS.org

August 26, 2016 by Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman - JNS.org
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World Vision and other foreign aid organisations that have funnelled millions of dollars to the terror group Hamas are directly responsible for the murder of scores of Israeli Jews, an Israeli legal expert contends.In the aftermath of the money funneling scandal groups like World Vision cannot collect charity that ends up in the hand of terrorists “on the blood of the citizens of Israel,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of Shurat HaDin Israeli legal center.

The World Vision logo. Credit: World Vision International via Wikimedia Commons.

The World Vision logo. Credit: World Vision International via Wikimedia Commons.

Mohammed el-Halabi, the charity manager for the Australian-based World Vision, was accused earlier this month of transferring up to $50 million to Hamas over a five-year period. Israel’s internal security agency Shin Bet made the arrest and are conducting an investigation.

El-Halabi fraudulently listed children of Hamas terrorists as service recipients, created front groups and inflated projects costs to divert money, according to officials.

He also funneled food, medical supplies and agriculture equipment to Hamas, some of which was used to build attack tunnels and military installations.

The case of World Vision isn’t an isolated incident, said Yona Schiffmiller, director of the NGO Monitor’s North America office. “There is an ongoing fundamental problem that exists in the NGO/humanitarian aid community. It doesn’t want to take security concerns to heart.”

There are similar cases of financing terrorism under the guise of charity, dating back to the 1970s, said Colin P. Clarke, a RAND Corp. political scientist and international security expert.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Provisional Irish Republican Army are just two examples of groups that have used the scam, he said.

In Bosnia, Algeria, and Afghanistan, insurgents benefitted from considerable support provided through religious charities, whose donations increased in the wake of publicized insurgent military success or media-focused campaigns depicting civilians suffering in these countries.

While Clarke contends that donors, and the NGOs that administer the funds, are probably unaware of where the money goes and assume it helps provide medical, legal and other types of aid to suffering civilians in war torn countries.

But groups like Hamas set up a social service wing, called Dawah, along with its military arm, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

“You cannot separate between them,” Darshan-Leitner said. “You cannot designate money to benevolence and think it will not get to the military. That’s just how it is.”

Employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), for example, are nearly all members of Hamas, according to Darshan-Leitner. Therefore, schools and hospitals operated by UNRWA become launching pads for missiles and rockets against the Jewish state. Ambulances owned by UNRWA transport terrorists. And UNRWA kindergartens become safe homes for Hamas operatives.

“UNRWA has been asked over and over to halt this activity and to make sure the schools are clean, that the basements are not storage rooms for an arsenal of missiles,” Darshan-Leitner said. “They won’t do it because the people acting there are Hamas people.”

The flag of Hamas. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The flag of Hamas. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The implications can be significant.

“If giving aid causes a war, it doesn’t further the goal of developing Gaza’s infrastructure and improving the lives of Palestinian children,” the NGO Monitor’s Schiffmiller said. “It will only exacerbate an already dangerous situation.”

Since 2012, Darshan-Leitner’s legal center has been warning about World Vision’s funding which went ignored by the Australian government and World Vision, both insisting that the group provided valuable humanitarian work.

It’s up to NGOs to be more transparent about where the giving goes, Schiffmiller said.

There are many examples of a lack of transparency including the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), in which projects were funded in Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon to “unspecified humanitarian agency,” he said.

More than $47 million went to fund terrorist groups under the guide of charity work, according to a 2014 UK report Schiffmiller cited.

The DFID has no oversight with groups receiving sub-grants such as the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) which gave more than $6.6 million this year to “aid civil society organizations.”

What will happen next with World Vision?

While the investigation continues, the German and Australian governments have suspended donations to World Vision in Gaza.

On Tuesday, UK officials said they “will not consider future funding” for World Vision, according to news reports.

Clarke recommends that organisations adhere to federal regulations in place over financial institutions that send money overseas and that governments do a better job of regulating money transfers across borders.

Comments

One Response to “In wake of World Vision scandal, aid groups lax with security…writes Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman/JNS.org”
  1. Larry Stillman says:

    Is it useful to publish articles such as these? The Shin Bet allegation are disputed. The trial is to be secret.

    Given the almost perfect conviction rate for Palestinians, is anyone to know if this is true, or a useful political beat up against NGOs in the current Israeli environment.

    I quote from a report of the response yesterday by World Vision —

    He [World Vision’s global president] said the allegations against Halabi were so serious that the NGO was hoping for an open trial to learn as many lessons as possible if they were proved correct.

    “As much as our donors want the truth to come out, we want the truth to come out,” he said. “Our whole reputation is based on integrity.”

    Jenkins said allegations that Halabi diverted $7.2 million each year since 2010 to Hamas, the Palestinian movement that governs the Gaza Strip, and its military wing were “very difficult to reconcile” with reality.

    The NGO has said its Gaza budget for the past 10 years was only $22.5 million, making the allegations all but impossible.

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