The story of an international charity allegedly having been infiltrated by a terrorist organisation was covered by the BBC News website in a rather short-lived report which appeared on its Middle East page on August 4th and 5th under the headline “Israel: World Vision Gaza boss diverted cash to Hamas“.
The report opens: [emphasis added]
“Israel has charged the Gaza head of an international charity with diverting millions of dollars of foreign funds to the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The Shin Bet security service said about 60% of all funds sent to Gaza by the World Vision charity was being diverted to the Islamist movement.
It said Hamas recruited the charity’s head of Gaza operations, Mohammed Halabi, more than a decade ago.”
Readers have to proceed to paragraph seven in order to learn about the obviously very relevant topic of Hamas’ terrorist designation and readers of the original version of the report were told that:
“Israel and a number of other countries consider Hamas a terrorist group.”
Some three hours later that sentence was amended:
“Hamas is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU, and UK among other countries.”
The BBC report states:
“World Vision said it had no reason to believe the allegations were true.
It said it carried out regular audits of its Gaza programmes and was “shocked” by the charges.
“We will carefully review any evidence presented to us and will take appropriate actions based on that evidence,” a statement said.”
Readers are not informed that World Vision International has been registered as a church in the US since 2007 meaning that its reporting obligations to the tax authorities there are different from those of 501 c 3 registered non-profit organisations.
The BBC report goes on to amplify a predictable statement from the terrorist organization concerned:
“A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said the group had “no connection to [Mr Halabi] and therefore, all Israeli accusations are void and aim to suppress our people,” Reuters news agency reported.”
From the point of view of the BBC’s funding public, perhaps the most remarkable feature of this report is its downplaying of the story’s British angle. Readers are informed that:
“The security service said these funds were used, amongst other things, for the digging of tunnels intended to be used for attacks on Israeli civilian communities, the building of military bases and for the purchase of weapons.
It said one base costing $80,000 was paid for in cash from UK donations.”
World Vision is one of the thirteen charities which make up the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). The DEC’s Gaza Crisis Appeal (which raised some £19 million) was broadcast on BBC channels in 2014 and the British government pledged matched funding for the first £2m raised. Whether or not the $80,000 used to construct Hamas’ military facility in Jabaliya came from donations to that DEC appeal is unclear but as Sir Eric Pickles recently noted:
“Worryingly, the UK – via the Department for International Development – reportedly gave £2 million to groups in Gaza in 2014, including World Vision, when they matched charitable contributions pound for pound made by well-meaning Brits to a Disaster Emergency Committee appeal. The Department has conceded that it cannot guarantee that British taxpayers money has not been given to Hamas.”
Obviously this story will be of considerable interest to any media organisation intending to serve the British public interest by carrying out investigative reporting into the question of why legal safeguards appear to have failed the donating public and taxpayers – especially as the problem shows signs of being by no means limited to one NGO alone.
However, seeing as the BBC has over the last two years put considerable effort into persuading its audiences that the dire economic and social conditions in the Gaza Strip are primarily attributable to Israel – while serially ignoring Hamas’ abuse of its civilian population and misappropriation of resources intended to better their lives – it is perhaps unlikely that it will be found at the forefront of such investigative reporting.