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German MP: Hamas’ Theft of Millions From Gaza Charity “Massively Damages” Trust in Aid Work

A leading parliamentarian from Germany’s opposition party said that Hamas’ theft of millions of dollars from a Christian charity operating in the Gaza Strip has eroded the trust necessary for foreign donors to finance aid projects in the Palestinian territory, Benjamin Weinthal reported in The National Interest on Tuesday.

“World Vision massively damages the trust necessary for aid work for the people in Gaza,” Volker Beck, a Green Party MP, told Weinthal, research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Hamas is a terrorist organization, which should not be financed with taxpayer funds.” Germany, which donated $1.1 million to World Vision in 2010, joined Australia in announcing that it would withhold further contributions from the NGO pending an investigation into the charges.

The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, announced earlier this month that it had arrested Mohammad el-Halabi, the director of World Vision’s Gaza branch, who admitted to funneling tens of millions from the charity’s coffers to Hamas for the purpose of building tunnels and purchasing weapons.

The cessation of aid to World Vision comes on the heels of other German efforts to curb terrorist financing by nonprofits. Berlin designated the German branch of the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, an Istanbul-based Islamic organization, as a terrorist entity in 2010 for extending financial support to terrorist organizations, Weinthal noted. The Turkish IHH group was involved in efforts to break Israel’s lawful naval blockade of Gaza in 2010.

Despite Germany’s efforts in these two cases, “the lack of control and accountability mechanisms governing German NGOs operating in the disputed territories has long been a subject of intense criticism from Israel watchdog organizations,” Weinthal observed.

Citing a recent Wall Street Journal article by David Feith, Weinthal added “that the World Vision scandal pales in comparison to the aid provided by the PLO and its organs (i.e., the Palestinian Authority) to the families of terrorists who have murdered Americans and Israelis.” The misuse of international aid money by the Palestinian Authority to pay salaries to terrorists and their families has prompted American legislators of both parties to limit Palestinian funding, he noted.

Generally, the World Vision scandal and other similar incidents indicate the need for “new kinds of controls to stop the misuse of funds meant for charitable purposes,” Weinthal concluded.

In an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal shortly after the World Vision scandal broke, NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg suggested a number of ways to improve the accountability of NGOs operating in the Palestinian territories. Steinberg’s recommendations included more thoroughly vetting employees, increasing cooperation between the NGOs and Israeli security agencies, and eliminating cash payments, which he described as a “direct path to corruption and diversion to terror.” And if the NGOs won’t adopt these safeguards, Steinberg argued, the governments that fund them must take action.

[Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90 ]