Australia and Germany have suspended funding to the World Vision Evangelical Christian humanitarian aid group in response to Israeli allegations that its Gaza office had siphoned $7.2 million a year to Hamas.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) called the allegations “deeply troubling,” and said in a statement on Friday that it was “urgently seeking more information from World Vision and the Israeli authorities.
We are suspending the provision of further funding to World Vision for programs in the Palestinian Territories until the investigation is complete.”
There are “rigorous processes to investigate any report that aid funding has been misappropriated,” the statement said, and that Australia’s “aid to the Palestinian Territories is intended for humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinian community. Any diversion of the generous support of the Australian and international community for military or terrorist purposes by Hamas is to be deplored and can only harm the Palestinian people.”
Australia has paid World Vision approximately $4.35 million over the past three fiscal years for the provision of aid in the Palestinian territories, a DFAT spokesman said.
World Vision announced on Friday that it will not receive funds from the German government because of the allegations Hamas misused funds, according to a report in the Berlin-based Tagesspiegel.
“The 3.6 million euro, which we received from the [German] Federal Development Ministry and [German] Foreign Affairs Ministry for new projects in the region will no longer be provided until the accusations are clarified,” said a spokeswoman for the World Vision.
Volker Beck, the German Green Party MP and head of the German-Israel parliamentary group in the Bundestag, said in a statement: “World Vision massively damages the trust necessary for aid work for the people in Gaza,” adding that “Hamas is a terrorist organization, which should not be financed with tax-payer funds.”
The paper reported that as much as 1.1 million euro from Germany was transferred to World Vision in Gaza since 2010. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that it welcomed Australia and Germany’s suspension of funds.
Representative Akiva Tor met with World Vision official Kent Hill on Thursday to discuss the matter. Tor asked the organization to clean house, and to create a mechanism to prevent any further funneling of funds, according to the Foreign Ministry.
It issued a call to all international aid organizations providing assistance to Gaza, in which it asked that they double check their “local partner” to ensure that funds were reaching their intended target.
Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold sent a message to all Israeli embassies asking that they insist on better oversight of foreign funding to Gaza.
Muhammad el-Halabi, World Vision’s manager of operations in Gaza, was arrested by Israel on June 15 while crossing the border into the enclave.
A senior Israeli security official said on Thursday that Halabi, who has run the group’s Gaza operations since 2010, had been under extended surveillance and had confessed to siphoning off some $7.2 million a year to Hamas.
World Vision said it was shocked by the claims, and a Hamas spokesman said the group had no connection with Halabi.