The Reverend Tim Costello is the very image of the muscular, “socially concerned” Church Man. For all his righteous self-confidence he and World Vision have long suffered from a lack of imagination as to good and evil in the Middle East. It should surprise no one that World Vision’s director in Gaza, Mohamed Halabi has been accused of being a double agent for Hamas and indicted in an Israeli court for diverting the bulk of World Vision aid for the Palestinians to that notorious terrorist group. The internal Israeli security service, Shin Bet has a very detailed list of charges against Halabi. Isn’t it ironic that aid from a Christian charity, or at least their reckless support for Palestinians in Gaza, is used for attack tunnels against Israel, the only place Christians feel safe from persecution in the entire Middle East. Only in Israel, in all of the Middle East is the number of Christians increasing as the fighting Jihadist program has chased most of the ancient Christian communities out of the Arab World.
World Vision, a Christian charity “doing good” amongst the heathen Palestinian Muslims, is in fact not an aid organisation, it is constituted as a church. Irony of irony that a church would unwittingly support a Jihadist organisation like Hamas. Hamas’s military organisation has long been designated by the Australian Parliament as a terrorist organisation, as it is in most Western Countries.
Rev Costello is not a neophyte when it comes to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict and has a long record of getting things wrong on this volatile area. Some years ago he wrote a commentary for Melbourne’s Age which ignored suicide bombings and condemned Israel for building a security fence.
As my friend Professor Gerald Steinberg argued in the Wall Street Journal “For years, World Vision promoted the Palestinian cause, developed alliances and provided funds to some of the nongovernmental organizations active in demonizing Israel and promoting boycotts. In publications designed to bring in donations, the brutality of Palestinian terrorism is erased while images of victimization are highlighted. Children are depicted as harassed by “soldiers and settlers,” and “suffer from lack of adequate education facilities” due to “demolitions,” as World Vision’s website puts it. Palestinian corruption is whitewashed, as is the fact that Israel has been out of Gaza for more than a decade.”
Germany too has decided to bar financing World Vision. Volker Beck the German Green Party MP and head of the German- Israel Parliamentary Group said: “World Vision massively damages the trust necessary for aid work for the people in Gaza,” adding that “Hamas is a terrorist organization, which should not be financed with tax-payer funds.”
Now World Vision have as the result of this scandal suspended its operations in Gaza. Wise thing to do.
Germany & Australia have both suspended aid to World Vision because of the charges against Halabi the Hamasnik who doubled as World Vision’s leading official in Gaza and who the Shin Bet have accused in an Israeli court of diverting western aid to Hamas. Rebeca Weisse drilled down into the accusations against World Vision explaining how the Hamas scam evolved:
“World Vision might monitor the acquittals all it liked but Halabi says he simply inflated the costs. So preparing 495 acres for 500 greenhouses netted Hamas $A780,000 (US$593,600). Halabi claims WV greenhouses were also used to camouflage attack tunnels; equipment for farmers was used to dig the tunnels and that he would use work trips to Israel to record the GPS locations for their exit points.
DFAT’s most recent report on its aid program, from October 2015, proudly notes that ‘Australia’s support to World Vision enabled it to distribute 3,200 food parcels, 500 hygiene kits and facilitated an estimated 1,500 emergency medical procedures.’ But EI-Halabi told the Israelis, 2,500 food packages worth $100 each and 3,300 packages of cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products worth $80 each, were given to Hamas, giving a whole new meaning to money laundering.
Halabi gave the Israelis a far more detailed breakdown of how he says he spent World Vision’s money than taxpayers or donors can get out of the charity or the government and it’s not a pretty picture. He says cash for Hamas was recorded as aid to needy children, which, as anyone knows who’s dealt with terrorists, or with children, is sort of true.
One third of World Vision’s unemployment payments, he claims, went to members of the lzz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, who, when they aren’t lobbing missiles at Israeli civilians or throwing Palestinians rivals off buildings, are probably underemployed, which is perhaps why Halabi gave them $520 instead of the standard $430 a month.
A fictitious fishermen’s project was used to buy motorboats and wetsuits for Hamas frogmen.
Hamas warehouses were allegedly decked out with World Vision branding so that Hamas drivers could conveniently pick up WV’s supplies and put them to priority tasks like preparing to wage a war of annihilation on Israel.
EI-Halabi, named a UN ‘Humanitarian Hero’ in 2014, says he started helping Hamas when he worked at the UN Development Program, paying farmers on Israel’s border to work as Hamas lookouts. He got the idea from his dad, who, as the head of education at the UN’s Relief and Works agency for Palestine Refugees, was allegedly doing the same thing. Rebeca Weisser, The Spectator, 13 August 2016
All. up Halabi says he diverted 60 per cent of World Vision’s Gaza budget to Hamas for six years. Costello is waiting to see the evidence, which is fair enough. But if it’s true, a latterday Philistine exploited World Vision’s tunne.1 vision and rendered it as blind as Samson, ‘eyeless in Gaza’.”
But worse for World Vision is yet to come. The U.S. Government gifts World Vision $200 million per annum. Can you imagine what American congressional committees will do when they require or subpoena World Vision to give public testimony on whether U.S. Taxpayers money has been misspent on subsidising Hamas to build extensive concrete tunnels into Israel?
Professor Steinberg concludes in his Wall Street Journal article “World Vision’s failures in Gaza highlight the problems of a multibillion dollar NGO industry that remains largely unregulated and unexamined. With so much money involved, including private and public funds, and given the stakes in environments of terrorism and guerrilla warfare, the need for transparency, accountability and detailed guidelines is clear. If the officials who run organizations such as World Vision aren’t willing to take the lead, then the governments that contract out their aid budgets must act.” The Wall Street Journal, 11 August 2016
I hope, against hope, but I doubt that these revelations will lift the mote from Tim Costello and World Vision’s eye about good and evil in the Middle East.
No-one wants to stop aid to those who need it, but the blindness to terrorists diverting aid for their evil purpose will give government and individual donors to those charities good reason to insist on a genuine accounting of every dollar and shekel they claim to have spent on the welfare of the people of Gaza and the West Bank. Until that happens, World Vision, and others who are eyeless in Gaza, will be rightly shunned by responsible Western governments and even happy idealistic optimists who support them in favour of more responsible and accountable charitable and foreign aid causes.
Michael Danby is a federal Member of the Australian Parliament.