Australia Suspends Aid to Palestine


This week, Australia suspended aid supporting World Vision’s work in Palestine due to allegations that Mohamad El Halabi, the head of the charity in Gaza, was funnelling millions of dollars to militant group, Hamas. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is investigating these allegations, stating that “any diversion of the generous support of the Australian and international community for military or terrorist purposes by Hamas is to be deplored and can only harm the Palestinian people.” For the past three years, the Australian government had been allocating $5 million for agricultural and child trauma programs in Gaza.

Hamas is a Palestinian fundamentalist organisation that has been designated by several governments as a terrorist organisation, something that is contested. Australia has designated the military wing of Hamas as a terrorist organisation and it is this wing that is alleged to have received the money from World Vision. Hamas’s ideology outlines its aim as the liberation of Palestine and restoration of Palestinian rights. Much of the criticism this organisation has received is due to the actions of the military wing, which have launched significant attacks in the past.

In response to these allegations, World Vision reaffirmed their auditing processes, reassuring Australians that “money in Gaza is being spent on reducing poverty for Palestinian people, not terrorism.”  World Vision has yet to be briefed on these allegations and have not seen any evidence that confirms the allegations as true. Tim Costello, World Vision Australia Chief Executive Officer, expressed his concerns regarding the conditions of Halabi’s detention and confession, stating that “there are always two sides, and we have only heard one side.” Halabi has spent several months in detention and was prevented from contacting a lawyer or his family.

These allegations have significant implications for the future of Australian aid. If these allegations have some truth to them, it may cause Australia to reconsider which organisations it chooses to support and how much aid they are willing to commit. Furthermore, World Vision will be required to re-examine their auditing practices in order to ensure something like this will not occur in the again. It is important that these allegations are investigated fairly and that the rights of Halabi are respected throughout the process. It is important that both sides of the story are heard before a decision is made regarding this case.

It is essential that the intended use for the aid is not forgotten. The money was being used to fund development projects in Palestine in order to improve the quality of life of the Palestinians and help them recover from the conflict that has been ongoing for several decades. Foreign aid is crucial for the individuals trapped in a conflict situation. This aid can significantly improve the life of the civilians trapped in the middle of a conflict, as it provides services and assistance that is important for their quality of life. It is essential that these individuals are remembered during the investigation into these claims as ultimately, they will be the ones that will suffer the most if the aid remains suspended.

Lillian Wetherspoon