Israel’s domestic security agency accuses the Gaza head of the U.S.-based humanitarian aid organization World Vision of funneling as much as $7 million a year, some 60 percent of World Vision’s annual budget for Gaza, over the past 10 years to Hamas’s terror activities.
World Vision is among the largest Christian charities in the world and receives considerable funding from the United Nations and Western governments. Operating in more than 100 countries, it has a budget of $2.6 billion. In a statement Thursday, the charity said it was “shocked to learn of the charges” against Mohammed el-Halabi and called for Israel to facilitate a fair legal process.
The Shin Bet accusation said, “[Halabi] established and promoted humanitarian projects and fictitious agricultural associations that acted as cover for the transfer of monies to Hamas,” “Examples of these projects and associations include: greenhouse construction; restoration of agricultural lands; psychological and public health projects for Gaza residents; aid to fishermen; a treatment center for the physically and mentally disabled; and farmers’ associations. All of these projects and associations were used to transfer funds to Hamas.”
Halabi’s brother Hamed el-Halabi said his brother has been working for World Vision for 13 years and has managed the Gaza branch for the past 10. Halabi said of his accused brother: “He is a workaholic person; he travels a lot, so I don’t believe that he had time to meet with Hamas or any of its other factions.”
Halabi also said that World Vision had recently looked into the financial situation of its office in Gaza and spent about a month auditing documents, “without finding anything.”
A spokesman for Hamas in Gaza said that Israel’s accusations were simply “propaganda.” Hazem Qasem said that international organizations worked freely in Gaza and that Hamas did not interfere with their work or budgets. “Israel can arrest anybody at the Erez Crossing and claim he is a Hamas activist, but that doesn’t mean it is true,” Qasem said.