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New York Times News Article Defends Aid Worker Who Funneled Millions to Gaza Terrorists

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avatar by Ira Stoll


A taxi passes by in front of The New York Times head office, Feb. 7, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri / File.

Sometimes the New York Times bias against Israel shows through not in the form of front-page investigative splashes or high-profile Sunday staff editorials, but in incremental news squibs on inside pages.

On their own, these little stories might not seem to amount to much. But left unchallenged, they add up.

Into this category falls an extremely slanted Times news article about the conviction of Mohammad El Halabi, a manager of the Gaza Strip branch of World Vision, a Christian aid organization, for funneling aid to the Hamas terrorist group. The New York Times calls Hamas a “militant” group rather than a terrorist group dedicated to wiping Israel off the map, but that’s just the beginning.

The first paragraph of the Times article reports that the verdict “drew criticism from rights groups, which said he had been denied a fair and transparent trial.”

The only “rights group” mentioned by the Times is Human Rights Watch, which is notoriously anti-Israel. The Times quotes Human Rights Watch to the effect that the trial “made a mockery of due process and the most basic fair trial provisions.” But the Times doesn’t mention that the judges acquitted him of treason. That fact is available from a Reuters article. If the trial was so irredeemably rigged, why didn’t the Israeli judges convict El Halabi of all the charges?

The Times article casts doubt on the aid worker’s confession. The Times article reports:

The verdict said Mr. Halabi “confessed to what was attributed to him during interrogation.”

But his lawyer, Maher Hanna, said he never confessed to anything, adding that his client has maintained his innocence since his arrest.

The prosecution brought an undercover informant who testified that he heard Mr. Halabi confess, Mr. Hanna said.

“This is a crooked confession,” he added.

The court’s verdict acknowledged that Mr. Halabi said the confession used against him “was invented by someone on behalf of” Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet.

But the Times article omits details that support the validity of the confession. Such facts are available from an Associated Press account, which reports:

The court said the confession was “given in various ways,” and “is detailed, coherent, truthful and has many unique details,” including the names and ranks of Hamas operatives, and descriptions of strategic locations in Gaza.

The Associated Press account includes other material details omitted by the Times, including the court’s finding that “el-Halabi was guilty of several charges, including membership in a terror organization, providing information to a terror group, taking part in militant exercises and carrying a weapon. It said he diverted ‘millions’ of dollars every year, as well as equipment, from World Vision and its donors to Hamas. It said Hamas used the funds for militant activities… Pipes and nylon diverted to Hamas were used for military purposes.”

A Christian Broadcasting Network account reports:

“During the relevant period, the defendant met frequently with Qassam operatives in order to be updated on the needs of Hamas. The defendant then worked with World Vision in accordance with these needs,” Justice Natan Zlotchover wrote in the decision…. “The defendant’s confession, given in various ways, is detailed, coherent, with signs of truthfulness,” Zlotchover wrote, adding that the evidence corroborated his account. “The defendant relentlessly sought to retract his confession and gave a host of contradictory and unlikely explanations for how he confessed to the charges against him to two different parties.”

The New York Times article faults Israel for the supposed lack of transparency of the trial. The Times also touts World Vision’s claim that an investigation “led by a global law firm and accompanied by an accounting firm’s audit…‘could not find any evidence of diversion of funds…or any connection between Mohammad and Hamas.’”

Yet World Vision refuses to release publicly this audit or the report of the investigation. When I asked, the organization sent me a statement saying, “Our signed agreement with the firms that conducted the audit specified the report would be shared only with donor governments, regulatory authorities, and key business partners. We have reviewed and taken action on management issues identified in the audit. While we’re committed to transparency, we also must honor our contractual commitment.”

If World Vision is so committed to transparency, why did it sign an agreement in the first place requiring it to keep this report secret? The Times gives World Vision a free pass on the point, applying a double standard. The Times demands absolute transparency for Israel in the middle of a war with a terrorist group dedicated to its destruction. Yet the Times simultaneously tolerates secrecy from the charitable group defending the staff member convicted of aiding the terrorist group. It’s enough to make one suspect that what’s really animating the Times here is something other than a principled concern for transparency.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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