Claims have been made that millions of pounds donated to a leading Christian charity working in Gaza were diverted to Hamas, with some of it used to build a base for militants. A week ago the Israeli security service, Shin Bet, announced that it had arrested Mohammed El Halabi, World Vision’s Gaza director. He is accused of diverting large sums directly and indirectly to fund Hamas and its members. Shin Bet have claimed this includes £60,000 given by British donors which was diverted to fund the building of a Hamas military base code-named “Palestine”. They allege the construction costs of the base were paid for in cash as were salaries of the terrorists who built it.
There is absolutely no suggestion that World Vision itself was in any way complicit in this. The organisation has also strongly defended its employee. Israel has claimed that Mr El Halabi is a lifelong member of Hamas who received military training in the early 2,000s before Hamas ordered him to infiltrate World Vision in 2005.
Hamas is the Palestinian offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Its charter calls for the destruction of the state of Israel, and Hamas jihadists have carried out numerous suicide bombings and rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.
Whatever the truth of last week’s claims, one thing is indisputable, for well over a decade Hamas has sought to use aid money from the West to bolster its own support. In 2006 the Palestinian population was shocked when Hamas won the Palestinian elections. However, the main reason they were able to do so was aid money. The voting allowed people to vote for both a national party candidate and a local candidate. For the MPs elected on a national vote by proportional representation Hamas only secured 29 of the 66 available seats, but they gained 45 of the 66 local constituency seats. Hamas won so many local seats because for several years previously they had pursued a strategy of running social welfare programmes using foreign money – and then their activists, who had run the welfare programmes, stood for election. Many Palestinians were genuinely shocked that they had elected a Hamas government – because they had simply voted for their local Hamas man “as he did a lot for the community”. However, for Hamas using Western money to gain popularity, recruit, energise and train its supporters is all part of its jihad to create a radical Islamic state in Palestine. As the title of an academic study published ten years ago expressed it Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad…