Concern is mounting in the Gaza Strip over Israeli charges against employees of international aid organizations who are accused of diverting funds to Hamas. The worry is that the could be the start of a campaign against international charities that could discourage and disrupt the flow of aid to the blockaded enclave where the overwhelming majority of Gazans depend on it.
“These international organizations are working to alleviate suffering in Gaza. We are concerned that these allegations and claims and this campaign will lead to withdrawal of some organizations and more restrictions of work and projects on the ground” for those that remain, said Amjad Shawa, Gaza director of the Palestinian NGO Network, which co-ordinates between local and international NGOs on the provision of agriculture, health and development aid.
Mr Shawa expressed fears the controversy would affect reconstruction efforts that are urgently needed to help the tens of thousands of Gazans still waiting to rebuild homes destroyed in the 2014 war.
Concerns began last week when Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, released a statement alleging that World Vision’s Gaza director was “active in the military wing of Hamas and [had] exploited the organization’s budget and resources for Hamas”. The global Christian charity is one of the biggest donors to Gaza.
In the second indictment a Gaza engineer for the United Nations Development Programme was charged with utilizing UNDP resources for Hamas.
The Shin Bet indicated there were other similar cases that had not yet been publicized.
“The spotlight now seems to be on aid organizations as a whole,” said a foreign staffer of a Western aid organization who asked for anonymity. “We continue to watch what happens. Ultimately our concern is that as a sector we want to continue to assist almost the entire 1.8 million population of Gaza. That’s our real concern, to make sure these people continue to get the aid they need.’’