World Vision charity pulls out of Gaza after chief indicted for aiding Hamas
World Vision International, one of the major NGO's serving Gaza, has laid off 120 employees and closed its Gaza office after the head of the charity in the region was indicted by the Israelis for diverting money into the coffers of Hamas.
World Vision’s eastern Jerusalem office had released a statement on Friday, July 29, passionately defending El-Halabi as a “widely respected and well-regarded humanitarian, field manager and trusted colleague of over a decade. He has displayed compassionate leadership on behalf of the children and communities of Gaza through difficult and challenging times, and has always worked diligently and professionally in fulfilling his duties.”
Less than two weeks later, however, “They informed 120 employees from World Vision in Gaza they were officially cancelling their contracts and stopping all their projects in the enclave,” the employee said. “The head of the NGO in Palestine and a number of foreign staff met on August 9 with Palestinian employees in the Gaza office and gave them documents to sign, which they did.” The employee added that the NGO had promised to take the staff back ‘once the crisis was resolved.’
On August 4, after the indictment, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) intelligence service announced World Vision’s Gaza operations manager Mohammed El-Halabi had funneled 60 percent of the organization’s budget to the military wing of Hamas.
El-Halabi was arrested on June 15, 20165 at the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza. He was indicted in Israel on August 4, 2016 on charges of infiltrating the charity on behalf of Hamas, and having redirected some $43 million of World Vision funds to the military wing of the terror organization over a six-year period.
According to the indictment and subsequent media reports, the funds were instead used to build Hamas terrorist tunnels and military installations, as well as for other terrorist activities.
World Vision International (WVI) argued the Israeli-quoted figure was inaccurate, saying the budget for Gaza operations was smaller than the amount claimed by the Shin Bet.
But according to watchdog organization NGO Monitor, it’s not that simple and in fact, the World Vision International (WVI) umbrella organization also has some structural difficulties to work out.
Shin Beit's file on El-Halabi was apparently pretty thick. This is what I wrote after he was arrested:
El Halabi was groomed for the job since he was young, according to a rare statement from Israeli intelligence. He was indoctrinated and trained as a Hamas operative in the early 2000s.
Opponents of U.S. aid to the West Bank and Gaza – even when dispensed by private charities – have been warning about this for years. Ever since the Holy Land Foundation trial of nearly a decade ago showed links to charities in the Middle East, it's been assumed that some money given to charities in the U.S. found its way to Hamas to fund terrorism.
The HLF trial also demonstrated the sophistication and complexity of the networks used by charities to get money into the hands of the terrorists. So it's a good bet that there are other private organizations involved in helping Hamas launch attacks against Israeli civilians.
Direct aid to Hamas is illegal in the U.S. But the government donates to charities where some of that money almost certainly ends up funding Hamas. Until some kind of assurances can be given the American taxpayer that our government is not supporting terrorism against the Israelis, all aid should be stopped.
Hamas's network of support includes "legitimate" charities that most western governments use to funnel aid to residents of Gaza. There is no direct aid to Hamas from the west, but there may as well be considering the revelations about World Vision International and its regional director El-Halabi.
Other aid groups in the region proclaim their innocence, and perhaps in most cases, it's true. But their own efforts may be compromised by funneling charitable donations through groups and individuals who have hidden their Hamas connection well.
Until the US government can assure its citizens that the cash we send to Gaza through established charities is not going to fund terrorism, the donations should stop.