The alleged funneling of tens of millions of World Vision charity dollars to Hamas for terror purposes is only a tiny example of the massive abuse of aid cash intended for Gaza residents that instead is used to fund Hamas, a senior Knesset member who used to head the Shin Bet intelligence agency said Monday.
The funneling of international aid to finance terror by Hamas and other violent Islamist groups in the Gaza Strip is widespread and the world is hideously naive as regards the scope of the problem, said Avi Dichter, a Likud MK who heads the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Dichter said that almost all of the United Nations aid workers in Gaza are members of Hamas, the terror group that seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, avowedly seeks Israel’s destruction and has fought three wars against Israel in recent years.
Dichter was speaking after Muhammad Halabi, a Hamas member and manager of operations for the World Vision aid group in Gaza, was indicted last Thursday in a Beersheba court on a number of security-related charges for his alleged central role in the financing of the Hamas war machine with charity funds.
Halabi, a member of Hamas from a young age, was handpicked to infiltrate the international charity in 2005 in order to steal money for the terrorist organization, according to Israeli investigators. Tens of millions of dollars of the charity’s funds were diverted to Hamas and used to dig tunnels, buy weapons, and support other aspects of Hamas terror activities, Israel alleges. World Vision and Halabi have denied the allegations. Australia has ceased funding the charity while it investigates the matter.
“World Vision is only a small example,” Dichter said, declaring that other, similar organizations “know very well that they are funding Hamas.”
“The fact that the donating world, which is recruited to help refugees and the needy, doesn’t understand that its cash is being pumped for terror uses… it is a naive world to the point of being hideous.”
“When you look at groups like the UN and enlightened countries that, with well-established worldviews, fall into the trap set for them by Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” said Dichter, “it just is amazing to see the extent and power with which it plays out year after year after year.”
The UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency — the UN group that deals exclusively with Palestinian refugees — employs 30,000 clerks for five million Palestinian refugees, he said. And “it is clear that the number of UNRWA clerks who are working for Hama is close to 100%.”
World Vision cast doubt Thursday on the accusations by Israel, insisting it conducts regular audits and evaluations to ensure financial aid in Gaza reaches those who need it most. Halabi denied “all these accusations,” his lawyer Mohammad Mahmoud said Sunday. On Monday, the charity said the numbers in Israel’s allegations didn’t add up.
‘Hamas digging itself a graveyard’
Dichter also responded to questions about the manner in which the Israeli defense establishment was dealing with the renewed threat posed by terror tunnels dug by Hamas under the border from Gaza to enable attacks inside Israel.
“The state is investing enormous amounts of money to find solutions, both technological and engineering, for the problem,” he said. “There are advances, the efforts is being justified.” But, he said, Israel did not have a complete answer to the threat, and the danger of renewed attacks from the tunnels was emphatically still present.
An as yet unpublished state comptroller report into the 2014 conflict in Gaza allegedly faults Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and war leaders for not taking the tunnel threat seriously enough at the time. Hamas used the tunnels to launch several deadly attacks inside Israel during the two-month long war the IDF calls Operation Protective Edge.
“The threat is still there,” Dichter said. “Hamas is dedicating its heart and soul and all its resources to produce invasive tunnels.”
“It is a threat that the defense establishment, and the IDF in particular, see as a central threat in the Gaza arena. The efforts to deal with that threat are tremendous.”
As a result of those efforts, “Hamas will start to understand that it is digging for itself the biggest graveyard dug for terrorists,” he predicted.
Dichter also criticized a weekend statement from the Defense Ministry that likened last year’s US-backed international deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program with the 1938 Munich Agreement signed by the major European powers with Nazi Germany.
The row over the year-old deal, and the Defense Ministry’s bitter comparison to the Munich Agreement, flared after US President Barack Obama claimed Israeli security officials now back the Iran deal as IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot was visiting the US and as a senior Israeli official was also there to finalize a critical 10-year US military aid package for Israel.
Dichter noted that the Defense Ministry was the main beneficiary of the US aid package and that “it was a mistake to (criticize the Obama-backed deal by invoking Munich), and certainly a mistake in timing.”
Hebrew media reports Saturday also said it was not clear who had drafted the incendiary Defense Ministry statement, but that it had been approved by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
“Obama is in his last months,” Dichter said. “Anyone who thinks it is appropriate to criticize or in general to analyze the processes of the US president over the last eight years regarding Israel in particular and the Middle East in general should show restraint and wait until January.”
Dichter also backed Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who last week called for the annexation to Israel of Ma’ale Adumim, a major West Bank settlement located to the east of Jerusalem.
“It is just a matter of time,” Dichter said. “It is not a question of if Ma’ale Adumin will become part of Israel, but rather when.”
Dichter said that previous peace negotiations between various Israeli governments and the Palestinians all worked on the assumption that Ma’ale Adumin will be part of the Israel.
“We even got the blessing of the Americans in one form or another over the years,” he claimed
Ma’ale Adumim’s size and location makes it particularly important for both Israelis and Palestinians. Many Israelis see the settlement, home to some 40,000, as a suburb of Jerusalem and important to the defense of the capital from the east, while Palestinians say its presence renders the prospect of a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem almost impossible.