As Israel’s Shin Bet unmasks a scandal.
On June 15, 2016, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency nabbed Muhammad Halabi at the Erez Crossing as he was trying to return to the Gaza Strip.
The Times of Israel reports that Halabi was Gaza manager of operations for World Vision. One of the largest Christian charities in the world, World Vision operates in about 100 countries and has a budget of $2.6 billion, much of it provided by Western governments and the UN.
Halabi has been indicted in an Israeli court for funneling 60% of the World Vision budget at his disposal—about $7.2 million a year—to Hamas, the terror organization that runs Gaza.
A member of Hamas from a young age, in 2005 Halabi was “handpicked to infiltrate” World Vision with the aim of diverting funds to the terror group. The money went for digging terror tunnels, buying weapons, and building military bases.
In addition, “about 40% of World Vision’s funds for civilian projects—$1.5 million a year—was also given to Hamas battalions in cash…along with approximately $4 million a year that was designated for helping the needy.”
Some of the fictive humanitarian projects
included the construction of greenhouses, rejuvenation of agricultural fields, mental and physical health projects, an initiative to assist fishermen, a center for treating the mentally and physically handicapped, and the creation of agricultural organizations.
“These were all used as a pipeline to transfer money to Hamas,” the Shin Bet said.
In a statement, the Shin Bet said its “meaningful and important investigation [had] showed—above all—the cynical and crude way in which Hamas takes advantage of funds and resources from international humanitarian aid organizations.”
World Vision, for its part, countered with: “Based on the information available to us at this time, we have no reason to believe that the allegations are true. We will carefully review any evidence presented to us and will take appropriate actions based on that evidence.”
Back in June, World Vision had called Halabi “a widely respected and well regarded humanitarian, field manager and trusted colleague of over a decade.” World Vision said he had “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.”
The New York Times, however, reports that World Vision’s Australia branch takes a less sanguine view, saying it is “profoundly shocked by these allegations. We want to get to the bottom of this, we want the truth.” The Australian government, for its part, announced it was suspending all funding for World Vision’s projects in Gaza and the West Bank.
The Times cites a Shin Bet official who “emphasized there was no evidence from the investigation and interrogation of Mr. Halabi that World Vision had been aware of the misuse of its funds in Gaza,” though the affair “did reveal an abysmal lack of monitoring and supervision by the organization of its donations and projects.”
But Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan warned that terror groups and aid groups in Gaza are tightly intertwined, and said: “I imagine that in the World Vision organization, which is very anti-Israeli, they turned a blind eye. The connections that were uncovered today are part of a much wider and very serious phenomenon.”
Was World Vision hoodwinked by its Gaza operations manager, did it turn a blind eye to his diversion of funds, or was it something in between? Although we can’t answer that question with confidence, the Israeli watchdog organization NGO Monitor offers a profile of the charity organization that suggests, at least, an uncharitable attitude when it comes to Israel and the security challenges it faces.
NGO Monitor lists the U.S., UK, EU, Germany, Canada, and Australia among World Vision’s donors, and says that the organization:
- Promotes a highly politicized and biased agenda, placing sole blame for the continuation of the conflict on Israel and paying little attention to legitimate Israeli security concerns or Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians.
- Endorsed a film, With God on Our Side, which attacks Christian support for Israel and presents an “anti-Jewish theology” and “biased misunderstanding of ‘Jews,’ ‘Zionist,’ and ‘Israel.’” The film has been condemned as being “biased, simplistic and factually incorrect.”
NGO Monitor also says World Vision “exploits the suffering of Palestinian children in order to launch political attacks against Israel.” More specifically:
- World Vision promotes a one-sided narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict. After the 2014 Gaza War, World Vision published first person accounts of children in Gaza, depicting Israel as the sole aggressor and erasing the context of Hamas terrorism. World Vision failed to publish any findings on the effects of the war on Israeli children….
- In an April 2012 article in the Huffington Post, president of World Vision, Richard Stearns, falsely accused Israel of restricting Palestinian Christians from attending Easter services in Jerusalem. Former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren wrote an article in response, saying that “any Christian from the West Bank can reach Jerusalem on Good Friday and Easter” and that “All allegations to the contrary are flagrantly untrue and represent a reckless attempt to defame the Jewish state.”
World Vision also “promotes Palestinian propaganda in UN frameworks”:
- On November 29, 2007, the director of international relations for World Vision, Thomas Getman, spoke in Geneva, using highly manipulative and emotionally charged rhetoric, which, according to UN Watch, “sought to promote hatred of Israel among the delegates.”
However the case with Muhammad Halabi will play out, and whatever will or will not be revealed about World Vision’s relationship with this official, the problem with World Vision and many other aid organizations lies in a dogmatic insistence on viewing Palestinians as victims and Israelis as aggressors—a dogmatism that appears impervious to real humanitarian and moral considerations.
In this case as in many others, as Israeli commentator Ariel Bolstein notes, “When devout Christian worshippers in churches across the U.S. donated a dollar or two to ‘those poor children,’ the smiling faces on the receiving end were Hamas terrorists in Gaza.”