'Ideological blindness' cited as cause of pro-Palestinian group's inaction

'Ideological blindness' cited as cause of pro-Palestinian group's inaction

'Ideological blindness' cited as cause of pro-Palestinian group's inaction

A Middle East expert suggests a prominent evangelical humanitarian aid group continues being willfully negligent as it fails to avert the use of some its funds for Islamic extremism.

Clifford Smith, the director of the Middle East Forum's Washington Project, recently published a comprehensive report that details World Vision's scandalous ties to terrorism. He tells American Family News multiple examples can be cited, but focuses on one of the most recent.

Smith explains that Muhammad Halabi, a former World Vision employee, was convicted and sentenced by an Israeli court last year for diverting funds to Hamas. Responsible for most of the nefarious and deadly activity taking place in southern Israel, Hamas has been recognized as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State for over 25 years.

"What we know, based on World Vision's own statements and prior news reports, is that Halabi worked for World Vision for over a decade," Smith tells AFN. "Best we understand, he ran their entire Gaza operation for several years."

The Palestinian Muslim was arrested in 2016, accused of funneling millions of dollars to Hamas. After a years-long trial, he was finally convicted in August 2022 and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Initially, the nonprofit appeared "shocked by the allegation," according to Smith. "But slowly over time," the Washington Project director says, "you could watch their opposition to the entire affair increase, calling the whole process illegitimate and standing by their guy even though he has been convicted."

"World Vision's PR repeatedly says that Halabi couldn't be guilty because they only spent $22 million in the area over a decade," Smith notes. "However, World Vision's own publicly available reports say that $45 million was spent in the 'Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza' area in three years alone, and both [an] audit and a few media reports show their bookkeeping was opaque," he explains.

"This means that either their public statements, or their PR, is lying – or at best, wildly obfuscating."

Willful blindness

Smith suggests that World Vision's refusal to denounce Halabi's actions are part of "an ideological blindless." Leadership of the organization has been "sympathetic to the Palestinian cause" for decades, he explains. "Therefore, they are highly skeptical of anybody that accuses their Palestinian friends of bad acts."

Smith, Clifford (Middle East Forum) Smith

"It's one thing to be sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, but it's an entirely different one to completely ignore ties to groups like Hamas," Smith argues. "I think they have talked themselves into a position where they simply dismiss any concern about this as just being anti-Palestinian rather than legitimately concerned about terrorism."

Additionally, he says, World Vision has mistakenly associated themselves with "partners on the ground" who have sympathies for Islamic extremism and terrorism. Considering these two statements, he contends, "There is a systemic blindness to not want to look at some of the ways that their organization operates."

Backing his assertion about the evangelical organization, Smith points to a 2020 report produced by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, which referred to World Vision as "borderline negligent" and "ignor[ing] elementary level investigative procedures" in its vetting of partner organizations with affiliations to terror. (See related January 2021 story from OneNewsNow)

Smith notes that "they were also told that the committee had very low confidence it would not happen again." And he agreed, lamenting how World Vision has "repeatedly failed to deal with the problem."

Power of the purse

Smith sends a warning to supporters of World Vision. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," he remarks. "I have zero doubt that the vast majority, if not all, of the people who fund World Vision and work for World Vision believe they are doing a good thing."

However, Smith says it is irrefutable that "as detailed in the Middle East Quarterly report, World Vision has a systemic problem, having gotten caught working with or funding designated terrorist organizations at least four times, and arguably five times, in the last ten years."

Court documents, media reports, and statements from World Vision itself, he says, have confirmed "a complete lack of willingness" by the organization to confront the problem.

But the organization's donors, he concludes, "have the power" to resolve it. "The keys to fix this [problem] are in your hands," he tells World Vision's supporters.