TEL AVIV – The charges that millions of charity dollars were diverted to Hamas is only a tiny example of the immense abuse of humanitarian funds meant for Gaza residents that is instead being used to fund Islamists’ terror activities in the Gaza Strip, a senior Knesset member who is also the former head of the Shin Bet security agency said Monday.
The siphoning of international aid to finance terror by Hamas and other jihadist groups is widespread and the world is shockingly naive about just how large the phenomenon is, said Avi Dichter, a Likud MK who heads the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Dichter told Israel Radio that the overwhelming majority of United Nations aid workers in Gaza are members of Hamas.
Dichter’s remarks come in the wake of a scandal in which it was discovered that the Gaza director of operations of U.S. Christian Evangelical charity World Vision was accused of diverting 60% of the NGO’s budget – some $7.2 million annually – to Hamas for the purchase of weapons and for construction materials for digging tunnels among other terror-related purposes.
Muhammad Halabi was indicted last Thursday in a Beersheba court. He was found to be an undercover Hamas operative who was groomed to infiltrate the charity and climb the ranks.
World Vision has denied the allegations, saying it routinely conducts audits to ensure that the monies reach their intended target. Halabi also vehemently denied the accusations.
Australia and Germany have suspended aid to the charity until the investigation is closed.
“World Vision is only a small example,” Dichter said, adding that other aid 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 United Nations Relief and Works Agency — the UN agency in charge of 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%.”
Dichter also addressed the issue of Hamas’ continued construction of underground tunnels leading into 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.”
He added, however, that the threat of future attacks from Hamas was very real.
“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.”
“Hamas will start to understand that it is digging for itself the biggest graveyard dug for terrorists,” he added.
Dichter slammed the Defense Ministry for comparing the U.S.-led Iran deal with the 1938 Munich Agreement signed with Nazi Germany.
Referring to the imminent conclusion of a ten-year military aid package from the U.S. to Israel, Dichter noted that the provocative statement, backed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, was “certainly a mistake in timing.”
“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.”