JERUSALEM — World Vision, one of the world’s largest Christian humanitarian aid organizations, said it was “shocked” to learn that Israeli prosecutors had charged one of their employees with siphoning millions in relief funds to terrorists.
The organization said in a statement that Mohammad El Halabi was charged with providing support to Hamas. Mohammed El Halaby was arrested June 15 and charged on Thursday, August 4.
The Israeli prosecutors said in a statement that during interrogations over the past six weeks Halabi admitted to being a Hamas activist and using his position “to divert the humanitarian organization’s funds and resources from the needy to benefit of Hamas’s terrorist and military activities.”
According to Israeli officials, Halabi established fictitious projects to cover the transfer of money and ensure a steady flow of funds to Hamas. Through this mechanism, Halabi allegedly provided Hamas with at least $7.2 million the terror group used to build military bases, purchase weapons, and dig terror tunnels to carry out attacks on communities in southern Israel and Israeli security forces, according to World Magazine.
Other siphoned funds paid the salaries of Hamas terrorists. Some simply pocketed the money for personal use.
Both the U.S. and Israel consider Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, a terror organization.
World Vision, has an annual budget is $2.6 billion, and employs 46,000 people around the world. The organization said the Gaza programs “have been subject to regular internal and independent audits, independent evaluations, and a broad range of internal controls aimed at ensuring that assets reach their intended beneficiaries and are used in compliance with applicable laws and donor requirements.”
World Vision said in a statement that it will investigate the allegations against Halaby. The organization said that “based on the information available to us at this time, we have no reason to believe that the allegations are true.”
But Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of Shurat HaDin, an Israeli legal rights institute that provides representation and resources for victims of Palestinian terror attacks, said the Israeli prosecutor’s charges should come as no surprise to World Vision’s leadership.
“For years we have been warning that World Vision is funding Palestinian terror groups in Gaza. World Vision has repeatedly denied our charges and refused to seriously investigate where its funds are going. Who knows how many of Hamas’ missiles and stabbing attacks were funded by World Vision after they were put on notice that they were financing Palestinian terror.”
Darshan-Leitner said some of the assistance to Gaza by foreign aid organizations “is directly responsible for the murder of scores of Jews in Israel.”
Gerald Steinberg, the president of NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog group, agreed.
Cash-strapped Hamas “couldn’t build those terror tunnels and run its operations without funding from foreign humanitarian aid organizations,” Steinberg said.
World Vision has provided assistance and programs in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip including the counseling of hundreds of pregnant women on childhood health, providing training for language and math teachers, and leading vocational training for young people.
The organization said it will “carefully review any evidence presented to us and will take appropriate actions based on that evidence. We continue to call for a fair legal process.”
— Michele Chabin | RNS