The 2016 arrest of World Vision’s representative in Gaza, Mohammed el-Halabi, remains a painful episode in Australia, which provided most of the funding for its Gaza-based activities.
When el-Halabi was put on trial for allegedly diverting $US50 million in aid funds to terror organisations, the government in Canberra halted funding, while leaders of World Vision came to his defence.
Unfortunately, because it involves terrorism and sensitive security details, el-Halabi’s trial in the district court of Beersheba is taking place behind closed doors. Until there is a verdict (which should be soon as the sides are due to present closing arguments), speculation and controversy will continue.
But considerable evidence is available and is inconsistent with claims by officials from World Vision Australia, including the former CEO, Tim Costello. One issue that repeatedly comes up is the extent of funds involved – in yet another article in The Age, Tim Costello argues that his organisation’s “entire Gaza operating budget … was only about half that.”
Once again, he has chosen to erase clear evidence that World Vision’s program of support for Palestinians during that time period, and the staff size, indicate much larger amounts.
World Vision documents report an income of $133 million for Jerusalem – West Bank-Gaza in this time period – but only $84 million in expenses. The difference corresponds almost exactly with the amount that was allegedly provided to Hamas. This major discrepancy also indicates that the officials in Australia did not follow the details of what their organisation was doing in Gaza, or even the amount of money that they were providing.