On August 4, 2016, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced that Mohammed Halabi, the manager of operations in Gaza of the international humanitarian NGO World Vision, funneled 60% of World Vision’s Gaza budget to the terrorist group Hamas. As of February 2020, Halabi’s trial is ongoing.
World Vision continues to operate three entities responsible for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza:
- A registered Israeli non-profit “World Vision” (WV-IL). WV-IL, is undergoing an intensive audit by the Registrar that has revealed failures in due diligence and reporting; details below. Since 2016, WV-IL’s bank account has been frozen by the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
- “World Vision Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza” (WV-JWG).
- “World Vision International” (WVI).
A fourth entity, an Israeli company for the public benefit named “World Vision International” (WVI-IL) was registered with the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits in March 2017.
This multiplicity of organizations creates confusion that makes independent oversight and verification, including for government donors, impossible. Furthermore, World Vision International does not publicize full details regarding the relationship between these entities.
It is difficult to understand which organization carries out what activities, whether or not funds are transferred and/or shared between the different organizations, and whether any overlapping activities or staff members exist. For example, WV-IL reports that it has 33 employees; WV-JWG states that it has “150 staff across Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.” It is unclear whether or not the Israeli charity employees are included in or distinct from WV-JWG’s employees.
This lack of transparency, accountability, and oversight of World Vision’s apparent multiple operations in the region is cause for significant concern, especially given the allegations against Halabi.
The following report details what is known about the current regional activities and funding of the World Vision entities.
World Vision Israel
World Vision Israel (WV-IL) was registered with the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits (R.A. 580010641) in 1988. According to filings with the Registrar, its income is provided entirely by World Vision International and “local donations.” According to WV-IL’s 2017 financial report (latest available), income amounted to $8,189,404 ($7,767,820 from World Vision International and $421,584 from “local organizations”). Expenses in 2017 were $6,021,950.
On March 1, 2015, the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits sent a letter to WV-IL, stating that it had failed to supply the Registrar with necessary financial information and that the Registrar was considering sanctions, including closure, against World Vision. Subsequently, the Registrar opened an in-depth audit of the organization.
According to a September 2016 article in Reuters, “The NGO said its bank accounts in Jerusalem had been frozen by Israeli authorities.” Documents on file with NGO Monitor show that NIS 566,000 in WV-IL accounts will remain frozen until at least the end of 2019.
According to a September 2019 legal filing prepared by the Registrar and submitted to the High Court (on file with NGO Monitor), the audit is in its final stages and WV-IL received a draft of the auditor’s report recommending that WV-IL be shut down.
World Vision International Israel
According to a list from the Israeli Ministry of Justice, a new company for the public benefit named “World Vision International” (R.A. 560033789) was registered in March 2017 and is still being processed. However, the Registrar of Non-Profits, in correspondence with NGO Monitor, states that “there is no current active registration request” with that name and number.
World Vision Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza
According to World Vision International and Consolidated Affiliates’ 2017-2018 Consolidated Financial Statements, WV-JWG is a “subsidiary” of World Vision International, meaning it is a “separate legal entity” which “WVI owns or controls, or which are owned or controlled by an entity which is consolidated into [WVI’s] financial statements.”
As of October 2019, according to its website, World Vision Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza (WV-JWG) maintains five local offices – in Jenin, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus, and Hebron – and employs 150 staff across Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.
In WV-JWG’s 2019 Capacity Statement, the organization reports that it has “a total annual budget of $8 million USD.” The 2019 Capacity Statement reports that WV-JWG had “direct investment” of $5,735,989 in 2018, from Germany (BMZ), Grand Challenge Canada, and UN agencies such as OCHA.
It does not appear that WV-JWG published a Capacity Statement or other sort of annual report indicating donors and/or financial details for 2016, 2017, or 2018. The previous available publication with these details is from 2015, where WV-JWG reports in its Capacity Statement an “annual budget of around $15 million” and donors including “The Australian Government, the German Foreign Office, UNDP and the Gates Foundation.”
In 2015, WV-JWG also published a document “Financial Information 2015” noting that “Total income for the year 2015 is US $16,838,511.The total annual expenditure for World Vision JWG in FY2015 was US $16,710,636. Breakdown of costs include 17% in management support costs and 83% in programme costs” (emphasis added). The document also details “income by support office,” “income by funding type,” and “income by sector.” This information is therefore unknown for fiscal years 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.
According to data published in World Vision JWG’s annual reports, the group’s income for 2004-2015 was $133 million. While the reports include details regarding various projects, they do not specify the budget for Gaza operations, with the exception of certain “emergency” grants. If, as claimed, the amount provided to Gaza over ten years was $22.5 million, World Vision does not account for how the rest of the funds were spent. From 2004-2015, World Vision JWG’s reported expenses were $84 million, nearly $50 million lower than the reported revenues for this period. It is unclear what was done with these surplus funds. (See tables below for World Vision JWG income and donor government funding in 2004-2015.)
Suspension of government funding
Following the announcement of the arrest of Halabi in 2016, the Australian government “suspended” its funding to “World Vision programs in the Palestinian Territories.” Following an initial investigation, in March 2017, Australia stated that its “funding to World Vision in the Palestinian territories remains suspended until we have considered the outcomes of the court case against Mr El Halabi and reviews being undertaken by World Vision Australia and World Vision International into this issue” (emphasis added).
The German government also “indefinitely froze payments totaling $1.666 million dollars” to World Vision.
Partnerships with Terror-Tied NGOs
According to WV-JWG’s FY15 Annual Report, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) served as a “key partner” on a “disaster management” project. UAWC is identified by Fatah as an official PFLP “affiliate,” and by USAID as the “agricultural arm” of the PFLP. According to academic scholar Glenn E. Robinson, UAWC was founded in 1986 by “agronomists loosely affiliated with the PFLP.”
According to media reports, on August 23, 2019, Samer Arbid led a PFLP terror cell that carried out a bombing against Israeli civilians, murdering 17-year old Rina Shnerb, and injuring her father and brother. Arbid is accused of preparing and detonating the explosive device. According to Arabic-language media, Arbid worked as UAWC’s accountant at the time of his 2019 arrest. Arbid was arrested and detained multiple times before the August 2019 terror attack, including, according to UAWC, being placed administrative detention in December 2015.
According to an October 13, 2017 article published on WV-JWG’s website, “Equal in our Rights and Partners in Change #DayOfTheGirl,” “In Honour of International day for Girl Child, World Vision JWG participated in a conference held by Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI) in Jenin Area on Thursday October 12th through Friday 13th, 2017” (emphasis added). The article further states that “World Vision JWG in Partnership with DCI-Palestine, presented the initiatives that our Child protection empowerment program such as the students parliaments in schools in calling for children rights and monitoring violations against children through our trainings in order for them to address these violations (bullying and violence in and around schools, parents neglect, and discrimination)” (emphasis added).
Numerous individuals with reported ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist organization designated as such by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel, have been employed and appointed as board members at DCI-P For example, Hashem Abu Maria, coordinator of DCI-P’s community mobilization unit, was hailed by the PFLP as a “leader” after his death in 2014. On September 23, 2014, DCI-P uploaded a video of a memorial service for Abu Maria, featuring a speech by DCI-P General Director, Rifat Odeh Kassis. The courtyard where the memorial service took place was decorated with PFLP flags, posters, and pictures of prominent PFLP figures, such as founder George Habash and former leader Ahmed Sa’adat. Nearly all of the audience were dressed in PFLP apparel (see NGO Monitor’s report “Defense for Children International – Palestine’s Ties to the PFLP Terrorist Organization”).
Other NGO Partnerships
According to an article published on its website, WV-JWG has a “partnership” with Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC). In May 2017, WATC inaugurated a youth center in the town of Burqa, near Nablus. The center is named after Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who in 1978 murdered 37 civilians, including 12 children.
World Vision International
In addition to WV-IL and WV-JWG, World Vision International (WVI) also appears to receive funding for projects in the region. UN-OCHA’s FTS lists grants to WVI as distinct from grants to WV-JWG, and it is unclear if these funds are then transferred to WV-IL or WV-JWG.
According to UN-OCHA’s FTS, in 2017, the UN’s pooled country fund provided $250,052 to World Vision International for an Education project “supporting acutely vulnerable women and girls survivors of SGBV/VAW in the Gaza Strip Building the resilience of vulnerable schools.”
According to UN-OCHA’s FTS, in 2016, Germany committed $1,655,329 for “Strengthening of the Community resilience in the north Gaza by an improved food protection with the help of a restoration of the food production, an improvement of the food of girl and boys as well as their mothers and a rise of the local capacities for the reduction of the disaster risk and to the construction of resilienten (sic) municipalities (Agricultural infrastructure, food safety, food security, poverty, access to base services) (2016.1835.4).”
Table 1: World Vision JWG Income, Emergency Funding, and Expenses, 2004-2015 (in USD; based on annual reports)
|Year||Total Income||Emergency Income||Base Income||Expenses||Net Income|
Table 2: Funding to World Vision JWG by World Vision Branches, 2004-2015 (in USD; based on annual reports)