The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security organization, arrested a senior employee of the world’s largest Christian international humanitarian organization, World Vision, accusing him of diverting more than half of all World Vision contributions to Palestinians in Gaza directly to Hamas.
According to the charges, World Vision official Mohammed el-Halabi diverted money intended for destitute Palestinians to help Hamas build illegal underground tunnels, purchase weapons for terrorist attacks, and build military installations.
The Shin Bet believes he diverted more than $50 million of World Vision humanitarian aid funds to the terrorist organization. You can read a Washington Post story about the arrest here. World Vision said in a statement on their website that it was “shocked” by the allegations and said it has “no reason to believe” they are true. They assure their donors that they will carefully review the evidence.
World Vision describes itself as “a global Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice.” The organization has deep Evangelical roots. World Vision states its mission as follows:
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.
According to the allegations, funds designated for civilian projects, more than a million dollars a year, were "given in cash" to Hamas combat units. Shin Bet claims that money raised to support children allegedly injured by conflict with Israel was diverted to Hamas families by “fraudulently listing their children as wounded.”
If these charges prove to be true, it will come as a disappointment to me for personal reasons. World Vision is one of the charities that my wife and I have supported for most of our married life. I have long felt leery about what that ministry might be doing with funds designated for Palestine, Lebanon, and the rest of the Levant. In some of the communications from staff, I sometimes sensed anti-Israel sentiments, but I excused them on the basis that workers in Lebanon and Palestine are naturally going to express the local political biases. I made an effort to keep my World Vision contributions heading toward Africa to avoid inadvertently supporting anti-Jewish initiatives.
If the allegations prove to be true, the misappropriation demonstrates negligence on the part of World Vision officials. At least we can hope it turns out to be just a matter of sheer negligence. One hopes that such negligence is not partially inspired by pre-existing biases against Israel and the Jewish people.
Those types of political and anti-Jewish biases are appearing with greater frequency among evangelical Christians. The new generation of evangelical Christians are far more likely to march under the slogan “End the Occupation” than the slogan “We stand with Israel.” They are following in the footsteps of mainstream denominations like the Presbyterian Church in the USA, which sponsors boycotts on Israeli products and has published statements condemning the State of Israel for their “occupation” of Palestine.
The drift away from Christian Zionism finds inspiration from voices like Wheaton College Professor Gary Burge, author of Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told about Israel and the Palestinians. Burge’s teachings attempt to undermine the basis for Evangelical political support of Israel. He challenges the theology of an ongoing covenantal status of the Jewish people. According to his perspective, Israel forfeited that status, and with that forfeiture they forfeit claim to the land of Israel. In the view of anti-Zionists, Israel is unworthy of Christian support because it is home to Jews who have rejected Jesus as their Messiah.
The new Evangelicals think of themselves as well-informed about Israel’s role in the Middle East and its struggle with the Palestinian people. They are likely to feel strong empathy with the oppressed Palestinian people, and they unanimously join the rest of the world in condemning the State of Israel. In reality, they are only marginally informed on the issues. They know only the side of the story fed to them by a biased media and anti-Israel activists. Most of them know nothing of the real history of the conflict, the Nazi influence over Palestinian Arabs that sparked the conflict, the repeated attempts of the Arab world to annihilate Israel and the Jewish people, or the more recent history of Israel’s attempts to establish peace with an unwilling Palestinian leadership.
If the charges against World Vision can be proven, whether it happened through negligence or by a means of an intentional blind eye toward “humanitarian work” in Gaza, I will be looking for another international humanitarian organization to support.