In the last week, two scandals involving aid to the Palestinians have emerged. In one, a United Nations engineer managing its program for rebuilding homes in Gaza destroyed in the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas was caught funneling building materials to the Hamas terrorist group for their military facilities. In another, the Gaza manager of the World Vision international charity was found to have transferred up to $50 million raised from well-meaning people around the globe to Hamas for its uncharitable activities. Coincidence? I don’t think so and neither should anyone else.
The initial reaction from both the UN and World Vision was a combination of denial and shock at the notion that anyone would think these cases are typical.What people who give to causes that purport to help poor Palestinians should understand is that this kind of malfeasance is not a matter of individuals going off the rails but a function of the political culture in which they live. Stealing money intended for humanitarian use is endemic not only by those employed by outside agencies but also by the ruling factions. Hamas-run Gaza is very much like the Palestinian Authority kleptocracy that runs the West Bank. Both are pits of corruption.
What’s curious is that this knowledge hasn’t seemed to penetrate into the consciousness of the international philanthropic world. Though other peoples have suffered more and are given less, the Palestinians have been the focus of more attention than any other humanitarian cause. The United Nations has one refugee agency to deal with just the Palestinians—the UN Relief and Works Agency—and another to help with everyone else around the world. UNRWA has done far more to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem than to solve it. Moreover, the Palestinians are also the recipients of vast amounts of charitable aid from other sources including governments and numerous philanthropic agencies.
Why does Palestinian corruption get a pass? Because their status as alleged victims of the Jews seems to give them priority over every other group in the world.
How can we be all that shocked when individuals divert money and material intended to alleviate the plight of ordinary Palestinians to terrorism when that is precisely what both Hamas and Fatah do on a regular basis and on a much larger scale? That is especially true for Mahmoud Abbas’s faction, whose leaders have grown wealthy while the world continues to picture Palestinians as indigent. A group that pays pensions to imprisoned terrorists and to the survivors of those who died while trying to kill Jews (and boasts on Facebook that it has killed 11,000 Israelis) ought not to be in any position to cry poverty, but that is exactly what it does.
The supposedly more puritanical Islamists of Hamas are guilty of many of the same offenses. Few homes have been rebuilt there since the 2014 war but somehow the Hamas tunnel network—which serves as a point of attack for terror raids into Israel and strongholds to shelter Palestinian armaments, fighters, and leaders while the population has no bomb shelters—has been reconstituted and strengthened.
The UN and World Vision and all those who contribute to other Palestinian charities should spare us their expressions of shock or denials about these scandals. While the Palestinians have genuine needs, anyone who gives money to them should do so in the knowledge that they are just as likely to be financing a terrorist’s pension, a terror tunnel, or a Hamas bunker than they are to feed a child or build a home.