Israel accuses NGO representative of helping Hamas
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The Middle East representative of the humanitarian organization World Vision faced a secret pre-trial hearing over allegations of stealing funds and giving them to Hamas.
Israel regards Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip, as a terrorist organization. World Vision has demanded an open trial. Israel regards Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip, as a terrorist organization. World Vision has demanded an open trial.
World Vision is indirectly accused of helping Hamas through its Middle East director, Mohammad Halabi. The organization’s international president Kevin Jenkins questions the accusations and has called for a trial that is open to the public.
The accusations are serious. “Mister al-Halabi is accused by the Israeli government of having stolen 60 percent of the materials and budget that World Vision has brought in for aid in Gaza and brought it to the Hamas military terrorist organization,” says Gerald Steinberg, director of NGO Monitor, an organisation that tracks NGO’s that are possibly hostile towards Israel.
“It is a very specific accusation, taking food packages and giving them to Hamas activists who were working on the terrorist tunnels, taking cement ... Halabi is accused of being essentially a double agent who was send by Hamas ten years ago to infiltrate World Vision and has successfully done that,” he says, adding that many NGO’s working in the occupied territories lack proper screening methods.
“World Vision does stand out because there are some groups that have oversight to prevent to a serious degree the transfer of materials to terrorist organizations,” says Steinberg.
“World Vision seems to be one of the least prepared for this kind of operation which is why we are not surprised that it is their official that is on trial now,” he says.
But local NGO’s don’t agree, and are concerned about the possible impact of the trial. “We have real concerns that the activities of many organizations working in the Gaza Strip will now be frozen,” says Amjad al-Shawa, director of the Palestine NGO Network based in Gaza City.
World Vision seems to be one of the least prepared for this kind of operation
“And this will affect the population in Gaza. The poorest. 75 percent of the population is suffering from food insecurity. 40 percent of the people are living below the poverty line, and 60 percent of the youth of Gaza is unemployed,” he says.
“So freezing the projects in the Gaza Strip will lead to deepen the catastrophe in Gaza, so we are calling these international organizations to increase the number of projects and funding of these projects in Gaza and not to withdraw from Gaza.”
Meanwhile, some of World Vision’s funders, including countries such as the US and Australia did suspend their help, pending the trial. And of course in Gaza, people are worried that it will discourage other NGO’s and their financial backers that are helping there as well. Things may have been different if Israel had let the Palestinian authorities deal with the matter.
“Staff of international organizations are protected according to international humanitarian law,” says al-Shawa. “If there are mistakes in the work of Mister Halabi, it can be presented to a Palestinian court so he has a fair trial. But now, all Palestinians are punished and humanitarian work in Gaza is put in a bad light,” he says.
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