By Emily Gian
Two weeks ago, a story emerged from Gaza that was so explosive in its nature and content that it should have shaken the world.
The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) revealed that back in June it had arrested Palestinian Mohammad El Halabi, a senior staff member for World Vision in Gaza, for allegedly funnelling charity money from that organisation into terrorist activities of Hamas, which has ruled over the Gaza Strip for almost a decade since it took control from the Palestine Authority in a violent and bloody coup in 2007.This item of news should have been explosive because it contains all of the sensation and intrigue involved in scandals of major proportion – an internationally renowned and well-known humanitarian aid organisation, a corrupt local employee and a designated (at least by our government here in Australia and many others elsewhere) terrorist organisation.
The story did not however, make enormous waves in our media. Rather, it created barely a ripple, and to those of us who follow the news of the activity of Hamas and the various other Palestinian terror groups this hardly came as a surprise at all.
The background to the story of what is occurring in the densely populated and for the most part impoverished territory of Gaza is interesting and informative.
The world has known for years that the running of the Hamas terror machine is a costly operation. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014 it was revealed that every tunnel built by Hamas costs at least $3 million to construct and uses up to 350 truckloads of material per tunnel. To place this into perspective, with the same money, Hamas could have built seven mosques, six schools and nineteen medical clinics.
Instead, Hamas chose to deprive its own people of these vital amenities in preference of terror. In other words, those who control Gaza prefer to harm the lives of others ahead of helping better the lives of their own people. And these figures do not even touch the surface in terms of the rockets and other weapons used by Hamas and the costly price that brings with it.
We also know what little value Hamas places on the people – by using them as human shields and putting them in harm’s way – and their public spaces such as hospitals, schools and mosques – by firing rockets from these areas and by using, for example, a hospital as their bunker.
Additionally, we have also seen varying levels of Hamas corruption before. How many times have rockets been found in UN schools in Gaza? And how often have its workers and those of various aid agencies been revealed to be supporters of Hamas?
Following Operation Protective Edge, $3.5 billion was earmarked for aid for the people of Gaza and to help rebuild the area after the devastating war, which started when Hamas fired hundreds of missiles at Israeli territory.
Back then, many of us wondered at the wisdom of putting these funds in the hands of Gaza’s corrupt rulers. But not those who run many of the outside organisations that are meant to be helping out. The United Nations, through its refugee arm UNRWA often looks askance at the conduct of its staff in Gaza as mentioned above. Charitable organisations such as World Vision, Oxfam and others have, from time to time, been vocal in their criticism of Israel in the conflict; more reticent when it comes to the activities of the Hamas regime which rules over its people with an iron fist – the perfect recipe for the sting committed under the very noses of those responsible for the millions of dollars of charitable aid given by World Vision.
Commentator James S. Tobin, in a piece entitled ‘Where Palestinian aid really goes’ asks, “why does Palestinian corruption get a pass? Because their status as alleged victims of the Jews seems to give them priority over every other group in the world.” We know this to be true simply by the existence of one UN body that deals with Palestinian refugees and another UN body that deals with every single other refugee around the world. UNRWA under its boss, the incompetent Chris Gunness, has been so deeply infiltrated by Hamas that it has become one of the world’s most corrupt organisations.
And so to World Vision. The revelations so far are that El Halabi allegedly diverted $7.2 million a year for six years from World Vision to Hamas. It was also revealed that 80,000 pounds of that was from British donations through World Vision UK. In light of this, it is only reasonable to conclude that its Australian counterpart would be worrying about what happened to its money. The Australian government which contributes funding to World Vision Australia revealed that they would be “suspending the provision of further funding to World Vision for programs in the Palestinian territories until the investigation is complete”.
And just when we thought it could not get any worse, it was revealed that another Palestinian worker from another aid organisation, this time the United Nations Development Programme, had been accused of using funds for building works for Hamas.
Waheed Borsh, an official at the organisation, admitted to “helping Hamas use humanitarian aid funding to build a dock for its naval forces in 2015 and confiscate weapons at building sites marked for demolition”.
Ex-Chief of Shin Bet Avi Ditcher said, “World Vision is only a small example… [other, similar organisations] know very well that they are funding Hamas… The fact that the donating world, which is recruited to help refugees and the needy, doesn’t understand that its cash is being pumped for terror uses… it is a naïve world to the point of being hideous”. On the issue of UNRWA he said, “it is clear that the number of UNRWA clerks who are working for Hamas is close to 100%”.
This is frightening but not surprising, although it is disappointing that the World Vision leadership here seems to have gone into a state of denial and doubt about the Hamas scam and how it has managed to pour cold water over the scandal for the time being by claiming they have seen no evidence. In doing so, they are harming the Palestinians – the very people they seek to assist. And the media, aside from the Australian, for the most part is silent.
One surprising angle to the Gaza story has been the recent release by Hamas of a propaganda video intended to boost its public profile ahead of the Palestinian municipal elections in October. Using Palestinians from all walks of life holding a sign that reads in Arabic #thanks_Hamas, the video presents Gaza as a breathtaking place full of beautiful beaches, sprawling new buildings and blissful scenery.
What an amazing transformation! In just five minutes the place has been transformed from an open air prison resembling a concentration camp that some would have us believe Gaza to be into a veritable paradise.
But why are the people being so thankful? For diverting aid to help those in need into the building of tunnels, for using them as human shields and their hospitals and schools to store weapons and to launch missiles at their neighbours? All this while the Hama leadership become millionaires and in the case of its senior political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, a billionaire.
And does anyone ask from where is the money coming?
One thing is for certain, the world needs to change the way its looks at the way aid to the Gazan people is delivered. This should not have to be spelled out to aid organisations such as World Vision that operate in the area, it should be a given.