$39 to Fund a Terrorist in Need
Non-governmental organizations are supposed to be moral actors that fill a void, ostensibly operating where the government’s arms cannot reach, to help people in need of food, clothing, shelter and basic human rights.
But any organization, whether for profit or not, also has — or at least develops — a self-interest, particularly when it is successful. Like all organizations, NGOs and the officials who run them can only survive by securing the funding needed for their own perpetuation. This self-interest can lead to problems, and in fact scandal after scandal has plagued the NGO world in recent years – whether it is the mammoth salaries of some non-profit executives or, now, the problem of aid misappropriation, with the discovery of funding being siphoned off to terrorist organizations.
On June 15, Israeli security officials arrested the head of NGO World Vision Gaza Mohammad El-Halabi, and last week he was charged with working for Hamas and funneling approximately 60 percent of the World Vision Gaza budget to the terrorist organization. About $43 million is estimated to have been channeled to the terrorists to fund their production of tunnels and rocket assaults against Israel over the past six years.
This obviously highlights the need for careful scrutiny of every NGO’s finances and activity, an important lesson to take away for well-meaning people who sincerely seek to help those in need. And there are a lot of such people: World Vision reported $2.8 billion in revenue in 2014 – including $394 million from public government donations and $566 million from private donations — from individuals like you and me.
Indeed, many of us can recall seeing World Vision television advertisements of impoverished children in foreign countries. Its clever marketing takes an individual approach and asks viewers to “sponsor a child” with their kind donations. But a recent New York Times article entitled “A World Vision Donor Sponsored a Boy. The Outcome Was a Mystery to Both” exposed how an Australian policeman, Brendan, spent five years believing that he was supporting a particular young boy named Othman. World Vision’s advertising promises direct correspondence and a relationship between the donor and the child sponsored, yet Brendan never received any such messages from Othman. The article exposes the ways in which funding is actually pooled and distributed to needy children in the designated area, despite the fact that people “make donations based on the sense of personal connection they have with the image they are provided…” As the Israeli indictment of El-Halibi shows, unfortunately, the pool can also include terrorists, political functionaries and others with a less-than-worthy case for charity.
The advertisements are enticing, to be sure. But we, as generous and moral individuals, must take ultimate responsibility for the organizations we choose to support. Such due diligence takes time, yet we must spend that time in order to not be complicit in supporting terrorism.
Fortunately, some resources are available. Websites such as Guidestar.com and Charitywatch.org serve as NGO watchdogs that provide the public with transparency ratings and I-990 tax reports, exposing the finances of organizations. The work of NGO Monitor further highlights the web of funding and the mission creep of what often appear to be “human rights organizations,” but which tend to stray to highly politicized, biased and anti-Israel agendas.
While sending $39 to World Vision to support a poor child might make you feel good, sending $39 to build a rocket that will be used to kill a four-year-old boy ought not. Be careful which organizations you choose to support, and take the time to check before picking up the phone and giving out your credit card number.