23 November 2016

Is World Vision Funding Terrorist Groups?

El Halabi
Israel had accused a manager working for U.S.-headquartered Christian charity World Vision of funneling millions of dollars to Islamist militant group Hamas. Could this have been sanctioned by the organization?

Mohammad El Halabi was arrested by Israel on 15 June while crossing the border into Gaza, World Vision said in a statement. He was charged by Israeli authorities after that.

He had run the organization's Gaza operations since 2010.

According to Israel's Shin Bet security service, El Halabi diverted around US$ 7.2 million of World Vision money to Hamas each year. That is the equivalent of 60 percent of the charity's total annual funding for Gaza.

Some 40 percent of the funds aimed at civilian projects — some US$ 1.5 million a year — were "given in cash" to Hamas combat units, according to a statement issued by the Shin Bet.

Some of the money raised to support injured children in the enclave had been diverted to Hamas families by "fraudulently listing their children as wounded," according to the agency.

"Money designated for psychological support, education and health in Gaza ... was used to pay the families of Hamas terrorists," it added.

A lawyer appointed by World Vision to represent El Halabi told NBC News that his client denied the charges against him.

"He told me he never, ever transferred any money to Hamas and he has never been a Hamas member," Muhamad Mahmud said.

The lawyer added that El Halabi had been denied access to a lawyer for 21 days and was badly beaten while in custody.

Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai called the case a "grave incident."

The incident prompted Australia's government to suspend its funding for World Vision's operations in the Palestinian Territories.

The country's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) called the allegations "deeply troubling" and said in a statement that it was "urgently seeking more information from World Vision and the Israeli authorities."