As has been widely reported, there has been controversy over support by World Vision and AusAID for a Palestinian group with alleged links to a terrorist organisation. While the current complaint is now being investigated by World Vision, it is worth recalling that this is not the first time that World Vision has been accused of making a controversial funding decision in the Palestinian Authority areas.
In the latest complaint, the Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Centre) wrote letters to AusAID and World Vision requesting that they discontinue their support of the Palestinian aid organisation the Union of Agricultural Work Committee (UAWC), which it alleges is a subsidiary of the terrorist organisation the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The letters to AusAID and World Vision stated:
“The PLFP’s funding is shared and distributed among its family of institutions, including the UAWC. The PLFP is the controlling hand of the UAWC and PLFP members form the executive of the organization.” The letters also warned that continuing support for UAWC could expose AusAID and World Vision to criminal prosecution under Australian and US law, as well as civil liability to victims of PFLP-sponsored terror.”
In response, both AusAID and World Vision have suspended aid to UAWC pending the outcome of an investigation into the allegations. AusAID has stated that it will review World Vision’s investigation once it is completed.
World Vision released a statement that stated:
“We are taking these allegations extremely seriously and we have suspended all activities with the UAWC until this investigation is complete…”
World Vision’s decision to take the allegations seriously is to be welcomed, especially in light of its previous embarrassment in May 2010 when Palestinian authorities planned to name a sporting complex containing a World Vision Australia funded soccer field ‘Abu Jihad Youth City’ after a former PLO leader and terrorist Abu Jihad, also known as Khalil al-Wazir. ‘Abu Jihad’ was a former commander of Fatah’s armed wing, considered a high-profile terrorist for plotting numerous attacks against Israel during the 1970s and 1980s.
World Vision claimed that it played no part in the naming of the sporting complex and denied reports by Palestinian Media Watch that World Vision had financed the youth centre itself. Under international pressure, the sports complex was reportedly renamed – though this has not been confirmed.
Meanwhile, World Vision International has also been criticised by NGO Monitor as having a “highly politicized agenda under the guise of; ‘development assistance and justice’; active in promoting crude – anti-Israel propaganda in the UN framework.”
NGO Monitor also states that World Vision International’s “demonization and anti-Israel bias is expressed on the World Vision International and the Jerusalem-West Bank websites; [and] consistent failure to recognize Palestinian terrorism and its effects on Israelis, as well as a lack of context or explanation for Israeli measures to protect its citizens.”
However, in this case, World Vision’s decision to quickly investigate the claims of terror links to UAWC, and to suspend cooperation in the meantime, is commendable. While providing aid to support Palestinian development is laudable, there must also be effective accountability mechanisms to ensure that aid is not used toward funding terrorism or incitement.