Danby speaks at the Jerusalem Press Club

September 19, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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Michael Danby the Federal Member for Melbourne Ports has been hosted by NGO Monitor at the Jerusalem Press Club.

The NGO Monitor is an Israeli institution which monitors foreign government financing of NGOs in Israel.

Michael Danby

Michael Danby

Danby said his presence  at the Jerusalem Press Club was a result of his long-standing interest in international affairs, particularly these days in counter terrorism. He said that the serious allegations by the Israeli security services against World Visions Gaza director Mohammad El-Halabi had prompted the Australian, German and British Governments to cut off aid to World Vision in Gaza.

Michael Danby explained it was difficult enough to engender support for foreign aid without allegations that 60% of funds spent by World Vision, much of which were provided by the Australian taxpayer, was being filched by Hamas.  Danby argued that it was not just in the USA with Donald Trump or in France with Marine Le Pen that there is public opposition to any foreign aid but that this is also true in Australia. He quoted Volcker Beck, the German Green MP who was head of the German-Israeli-Parliamentary Group. Beck told the German Bundestag that if World Vision money had been re-spent by Hamas it would have  “massively damaged the trust necessary for aid work for the people of Gaza” adding that “Hamas is a terrorist organisation which should not be financed with taxpayer funds”.  Danby recapitulated the fact that Hamas was also proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the Australian Parliament.

Michael Danby and the NGO Monitor's Ferald Steinberg at the Jerusalem Press Club

Michael Danby and the NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg at the Jerusalem Press Club

Danby told the Jerusalem Press Club that he saw the issue of terrorist financing from the perspective of the Australian Parliament’s passage of four key tranches of counter terrorist legislation all of which had gone to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) in which the opposition had included civil liberties caveats and sunset clauses, as well as stronger oversight by the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) Ombudsman and the nonpartisan intelligence committee itself. He predicted that the two further sets of legislation would be passed if the government agreed to further refinement when parliament considered the legislation. One of the prospective laws, The Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016,   would allow for the detention of unrepentant jihadists after the conclusion of their sentences and further legislation to deal with 14 to 18-year-old minors convicted of terrorist offences will also be passed if the government allows Labor amendments. It was almost inevitable (that the government would allow this) as it always relies on Labor to pass national security legislation in the Senate to the vociferous position of the Greens Political Party.

Michael Danby said the Shin Bet indictment of Halabi, the Gaza Manager of World Vision, was unproven but was most troubling because it was so specific, named other witnesses and publicly verifiable facts. It was very troubling that:

A) One third of all unemployment payments allegedly went to members of the Izz al-Din al-Quassan Brigades – the military wing of Hamas.

B) A fisherman’s project was allegedly fictitious, and rather than fishing, supported a frogman’s unit of Hamas tasked with attacking Israeli towns and cities on the nearby southern coast.

C) A Hamas military base code-named “Palestine”  had allegedly been funded with British World Vision funds.

Rabbi James Kennard, the principal of Mount Scopus College and Danby had met with the Reverend Tim Costello in Australia before he left for Jerusalem. Prior to the press conference in Jerusalem the Member for Melbourne Ports had most constructive discussions with a high emissary of World Vision who preferred to remain unnamed at this stage. Irwin Cottler the former Canadian Attorney-General and Danby were delighted to hear from this World Vision spokesman that Australian taxpayers’ concerns about the misappropriation by Hamas of World Vision funds was to be addressed by a forensic audit of the World Vision projects in Gaza, beginning Monday. He said it was very important that such a report focus on tangible issues such as Palestinian fishing boats and fishermen as claimed, and most importantly that the reports of the forensic inquiry be made public.

Danby said: “Most Israelis are not against aid to the Palestinians nor am I, if it is spent for the purposes for which it is intended.”

Danby agreed with the Reverend Costello’s plea that the trial of el-Halabi and the examination of the indictment against him be as open as possible. This is precisely Danby’s understanding of why the Israelis have slated the trial for a civil court. at the Beersheba District Court, so the trial be open and transparent as much as possible. He pointed to the Australian Foreign Minister’s view, when she visited in Israel recently, that in all Western Countries, some parts of such trials are inevitably held in secret session as they might involve informers who could be known to the accused and the testimony of security officials who need their identities kept confidential.

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