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June 28, 2022 11:12 am
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Media Incredulous at Conviction of Hamas Member Who Diverted Charity Funds to Terror Group

avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue

Opinion

Palestinian police officers loyal to Hamas march during a graduation ceremony in Gaza City, April 29, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

Mohammad al-Halabi, the former head of Gaza operations for Christian aid group World Vision, was recently convicted on a number of charges, including being a member of a terrorist organization, giving information to terrorists, and taking part in “militant training exercises.”

In addition, Halabi was found to have channeled millions of dollars from his charity employers to the designated terror group Hamas, prior to his arrest in 2016.

The Beersheba District Court found him guilty on all bar one charge, which was assisting the enemy, on the grounds that, as a Gaza Strip resident, he is not a citizen of the State of Israel.

The judges, who revealed there was a significant amount of documentary evidence to support Halabi’s guilt, described him as repeatedly changing his testimony “in order to justify his lies” and making “contradictory and illogical statements in an attempt to explain away his detailed confession and the information he provided that indicate involvement in Hamas.”

The most significant facts of the case are:

  • Judges revealed that, while World Vision genuinely believes Halabi is innocent, the charity did not have strong enough financial checks and balances in place amid fears such provisions would damage its working relations with other Gaza-based groups;
  • Halabi was recruited by a Hamas operative in 2004 and initially began as a fighter for the terror group alongside his brother Diya before being assigned the mission of infiltrating World Vision, which operates in 100 countries, and hired him in 2005;
  • He met with Hamas operatives throughout his employment at World Vision and channeled money and physical materials to the group, which facilitated the maintenance and creation of its vast network of terror tunnels;
  • Halabi actually visited the terror tunnels at least twice in 2012, using one such occasion to hand over $20,000 to repair a damaged shaft;
  • The court rejected the defense’s claim that Halabi’s confession — described as “given in various ways” and “detailed, coherent, truthful [and with] many unique details” — was coerced.

[For more details of the trial and verdict, see The Jerusalem Post’s overview, in addition to a copy of the verdict in Hebrew that was obtained by NGO Monitor]

Yet, in spite of these disturbing findings — not least Halabi’s confession — mainstream media outlets treated the verdict with much disbelief.

The BBC, for example, generously described Halabi as an “aid worker” in its report headline, totally ignoring the fact that he cannot have done much to “aid” the needy people of Gaza when he was busy sending cash that might have helped them to Hamas.

The BBC then quotes lengthy defenses of Halabi, including by World Vision, which conspiratorially suggests there were “irregularities in the trial process,” and a former colleague who calls him a “good man.”

The report is even furnished with photos and quotes from Halabi’s family, and a description of the “heavy toll” the trial has taken on his five children.

In The Guardian’s report of the verdict, doubt is also cast on the conviction from the get-go, with a subheading that mentions Halabi had been found guilty “despite UN concerns over lack of evidence in [the] six-year-long case.”

Indeed, the supposed “lack of evidence” is a recurring theme in media reports of the case (see, for example, here and here). What such news outlets failed to mention is that a lack of evidence is something altogether different from a lack of publicly available evidence. Israel — like other democracies such as the United States and the United Kingdom — makes use of reporting restrictions in terrorism trials, where such disclosure poses a risk to national security.

The New York Times’ version of Halabi’s conviction is penned by none other than Raja Abdulrahim, the Jerusalem Bureau correspondent who once wrote an op-ed in which she attempted to justify Palestinian suicide bombings.

Again, the piece is replete with denials from those in Halabi’s corner and light on any of the evidence from the prosecution.

The Irish Times reports the outlandish suggestion from Halabi’s defense that he was given no “serious explanation” of what he was accused of doing and gives extraordinary weight to quotes from individuals who have openly expressed their deep-seated hostility toward Israel, such as Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir.

Halabi was convicted on what was reportedly a huge amount of evidence. It is a shame the aforementioned publications did not spend as much time finding out what happened to World Vision’s missing millions as they have casting doubt on the safety of his conviction.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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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