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World Vision CEO Rev. Tim Costello

On Wednesday night, the CEO of the charity World Vision, Rev. Tim Costello, will be the keynote speaker at Hadassah Australia’s annual oration at Glen Eira Town Hall in Caulfield, Victoria, Australia. The Jewish Labor MP for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby, on Tuesday “slammed” the appearance, in light of World Vision’s dubious ties with Hamas, The Age reported. Danby said it was time for people to “stop weeping about World Vision” and to focus on how “Australian taxpayers’ money” ended up in Hamas coffers.

Costello, for his part, confirmed that he still plans to speak at the Hadassah event, calling the allegations against his group a “storm in a teacup.”

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And Hadassah Australia president Ron Finkel told The Australian Jewish News, “There’s a saying in football that you play the ball, not the man, and so it would be terrible if Tim is attacked because someone may have perpetrated a fraud within World Vision.”

Let’s play ball.

World Vision’s senior official in the Gaza Strip Mohammed el Halabi was arrested last August by Israel’s GSS and confessed to usurping some 60% of World Vision’s Gaza budget on behalf of the terrorist organization Hamas. Since then, World Vision has declared its support for el Halabi, then made public a smattering of information regarding its finances in Gaza, while heatedly denying the accusations of its anti-Israel bias. NGO Monitor on Tuesday published an extensive list of concerns regarding World Vision’s conduct, which is critical both of its political and ideological agendas as well as its financial management and due diligence.

Under the World Vision agenda issues, the NGO Monitor article points out the following issues:

World Vision officials have a record of pro-Arab bias and hostility to the Jews’ right to a share of the land of Israel. Some recent attacks on Israel and on Christian Zionism made by World Vision officials, while virtually ignoring the Hamas policy of terrorism, as noted by Australian Rabbi James Kennard, were “highly problematic.” World Vision, particularly its CEO Rev. Costello, must address this problem, preferably before Costello’s scheduled Hadassah keynote speech.

According to NGO Monitor, a number of officials working for WV-IL, the Israeli branch of World Vision, are also working for vehemently anti-Israeli NGOs:

Sami Khoury, WV-IL’s financial manager, is senior member of Sabeel, an anti-Semitic theological group.

Raffoul Rofa, WV-IL’s board member since 2008 and chair since 2009, is also the director of anti-Israel NGO Society of St.Yves.

WV-IL founder Michel Sabbah co-authored the 2009 Kairos Palestine document, promoting BDS in churches, comparing Israel with South African apartheid, and denying Jews’ historical connection to Israel.

Anton Asfar, member of the WV-IL board of directors, also serves on the board of St. Yves.

NGO Monitor notes that, according to Sabeel’s 2013 Report to the Israeli Non-Profit Registrar, World Vision provided financial support to Sabeel, although the exact amount is omitted. World Vision has informed NGO Monitor that it “does not fund or partner with the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center.” Would the charity organization care to explain this discrepancy?

As to World Vision’s financial involvement in Gaza and the PA, NGO Monitor observes:

WV-IL’s financial report shows it spent about $1.5 million in 2014 on the salaries of its “150 staff across Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza,” 120 of whom work in Gaza — out of its overall local budget of $14.7 million. How are the other employees being paid, out of what budget? World Vision says its Gaza budget was $22.5 million over the past 10 years, so how much of it went to salaries and how much to projects? This is crucial, considering el Halabi’s confession that 60% of this budget in reality went to Hamas.

Also, World Vision says its overall expenses during the same 10 years came to more than $100 million, a figure supported, and then some, by the WV-IL financial reports. So how much out of this amount was used for Gaza, how much for the PA, and how much for overhead?

It turns out that when the Israeli Registrar for NGOs asked WV-IL those questions, WV-IL repeatedly failed to comply with the requirements for proper reporting, and would not provide “details on the transfer of funds to projects, including the purpose of the transfers.”

What if they just stole all this money and stashed it in numbered Swiss bank accounts? Can World Vision enlighten the world and its generous donors, including Australian taxpayers, with an accounting for those funds?

In 2014, the WV-IL reported to the registrar that it made “local donations” to the tune of $790,000, none of which supposedly exceeded about $5,000. When the Registrar asked for precise documentation, the WV-IL attorney responded that the association “is not dependent on any Israeli [financial] sources.” So what are those sources? Would World Vision come clean regarding the origin of those funds?

Finally, according to news reports, the el Halabi corruption was no surprise to World Vision: an accountant he had fired went and complained to the home office that his boss was stealing money for Hamas. World Vision sent an outside investigator in 2015 to look into those allegations, but the investigator, according to the charity, didn’t find anything suspicious. Would World Vision care to share who hired this investigator and who received and processed their report? Were the Israeli authorities questioned in connection with the investigation? In short, was the el Halabi multi-million-dollar corruption known and supported by someone inside World Vision?

MP Danby told The Australian Jewish News: “While this Hamas/World Vision trial is in process, it is disturbing that a local meeting is taking place to promote the contentious Hadassah/World Vision relationship.” He added: “At a time when one of its senior managers stands accused of engineering and concealing – for years – a massive diversion of funds to the Hamas terror organization that has cost Israeli lives, this is not the right moment for a local communal organization to promote the interests of World Vision.”

“Nor is it a time for public apologia concerning what World Vision has been doing in Gaza,” Danby concluded.

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