I have been in non-profit work for three decades. Throughout the years, I have witnessed mismanagement and questionable practices. In one case, it led me to leave my job. I could not excuse my employer's behavior but also had no standing to change it. In the course of my career, I have read many accounts of non-profit misconduct. Throughout the industry, there is no shortage of non-profit professionals being fired, or arrested, as a result of their actions.
Still, when I heard about the alleged funneling of tens of millions of dollars from World Vision, an international Christian organization, to Hamas for support of its terror network, I was shocked. It felt like the world record of mismanagement and corruption.
On the other hand, part of me was not surprised. Given the overlay of Hamas’ terror combined with its ruthless control of Gaza, the theft was inevitable. In fact, it may just be the tip of the iceberg.
Avi Dichter is a senior Israeli politician with an extensive intelligence background. He is a member of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, where he heads Israel's Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee
His analysis of the scandal? It is only a “tiny example of the massive abuse of aid cash intended for Gaza residents that instead is used to fund Hamas.”
What is more, he adds, “the funneling of international aid to finance terror by Hamas and other violent Islamist groups in the Gaza Strip is widespread. ...The world is hideously naive as regards the scope of the problem.”
Dichter made these remarks after Muhammad Halabi was arrested. Halabi was the Manager of Operations for World Vision in Gaza. It turns out he was also a veteran member of Hamas. Halabi was indicted in an Israeli court on a number of security-related charges for his central role in financing of Hamas’ terror operations with charity funds.
According to Israeli investigators, Halabi was assigned to infiltrate World Vision in 2005. His mission: siphon money for Hamas. Under his control, say Israel law enforcement investigators, tens of millions of dollars of World Vision’s funds were diverted to Hamas. Money intended for needy families was used to dig terror tunnels, buy weapons, and support other aspects of Hamas terror activities.
“World Vision is only a small example,” Dichter said, noting that other organizations “know very well that they are funding Hamas.”
World Vision has denied the allegations, insisting it conducts regular audits and evaluations to ensure financial aid in Gaza reaches those who need it. Via his lawyer, Halabi denied “all these accusations."
In an interview on Israel Radio, Dichter added that, like Halabi, almost all of the UN's aid workers in Gaza are Hamas members.
The terror group seized control of Gaza in 2007. Its singular objective is Israel’s destruction. Accordingly, since 2007, it has waged three wars against Israel.
Ditcher's warning resonates: “The fact that (donors are) recruited to help refugees and the needy (but do not) understand that cash is being pumped for terror uses... is naive to the point of being hideous.”
“When you look at groups like the UN and enlightened countries that fall into the trap set for them by Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” Dichter says, “it is amazing to see the extent and power with which it plays out year after year after year.”
UNRWA, (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) is the UN body that deals exclusively with Palestinian "refugees." It employs 30,000 clerks for five million Palestinians.
Dichter notes, “It is clear that the number of UNRWA clerks who are working for Hamas is close to 100%.” Recently there have been additional indictments against UNRWA employees too.
I recently shared the news about World Vision and Hamas with friends who are senior staff with other ministries that provide international humanitarian relief. The focus of these organizations, or a large part of their efforts, is Israel. Some had heard about scandal, some had not. None were surprised. All had strong words. A few gave permission to anonymously share their sentiments. Others allowed me to share them anonymously.
One friend wrote:
If the charges are proven it demonstrates a lack of control and oversight, given that the accusations claim it was a multi-year activity. Such an activity would have required the participation of many individuals over a protracted period. World Vision structure allows each office its own independent management and program decisions.
By comparison, many other organizations require field offices to report directly to a centralized management on all budgets and approved activities. Careful attention in selecting field leadership, in order that there are no conflicts of interests, is vital. This puts multiple levels of control in place. Again, if these accusation are accurate, (and that is not yet known), one has to consider that when you play with fire you can get burned.
Another Christian friend who knows Israel intimately and whose ministry funds many projects in Israel shared this:
I saw the report that World Vision is denying that any of their funds were diverted to Hamas. Israel is normally careful about making such claims unless they have solid evidence. I tend to trust Israel more at this point. (World Vision is) experiencing major backlash over this from donors. Countries, including Australia, Germany and the UK have suspended payments to World Vision.
It saddens me that anyone, particularly a Christian organization, would be, at worst, involved in supporting terrorism; or even at best, negligent in properly supervising and accounting for their funds.
Still, I am not surprised. If the accusations against World Vision are true, it once again shows the ills of Replacement Theology, a theological framework that, throughout Church history, has demonized the Jewish people and justified violence activity against G_d's Chosen Ones.
Either World Vision knew what was happening and supported it, or they gave little attention to how the money was being used. In either case, they are responsible and will suffer the consequences. The only way they can avoid consequences is to show that there is no evidence of transfers to Hamas. As they say on TV, stay tuned!”
It’s hard to say whether those who have withdrawn their support of World Vision are really shocked, or are simply upset that World Vision got caught. After all, the association makes them look bad. Their claims to vette those to whom they entrust charitable money appear suspect.
So, are they truly angry that their funds were used to support Hamas’ terrorism? Or are they upset because they look complicit in providing covert support for terrorism - and doing so behind the cover of a Christian organization?
Was it "only" careless or, God forbid, deliberate? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, World Vision would do well to start from scratch. In order to prevent further siphoning of funds to Hamas, it should cease all funding in Gaza until they can guarantee to donors that their money does not go to Hamas.
In fund raising it’s common to place plaques recognizing donors’ contributions on buildings and other projects they have funded.
If the allegations are true, one has to wonder how many miles of Hamas’ terror tunnels are thanks to World Vision, literally, with or without plaques.
For their part, other charities would do well to learn from this. They should redouble efforts to ensure that funds for projects meant for humanitarian relief, especially in areas like Gaza, are actually getting to the place they need to go. They also need to make sure that the overhead is appropriate, and that there is no mismanagement - in bloated expense accounts, and certainly not in supporting terrorists.
For those who wish to make a real difference in this part of the world and want to be sure their funds go to a worthy cause, please be in touch. There are many unsung heroes working in the Middle East who are meeting many needs, and with many more needs that need to be met.
Those who don’t ask, and fund organizations like World Vision blindly, risk becoming accomplices in a major fraud, and indeed a crime, that puts innocent lives at risk.