Terrorists Posing As Aid Workers? Israel Says U.N. Staffer Colluded With Hamas

Patrick Goodenough | August 10, 2016 | 4:21am EDT
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(CNSNews.com) – When Israeli authorities last week accused a senior staffer for a leading Christian relief group of diverting charity funds to Hamas, they signaled he would not be the last – and now a U.N. agency employee has been indicted for allegedly supporting the Palestinian terror group.

Waheed Borsh, an engineer working for the U.N. Development Program for the past 13 years, was indicted Tuesday on charges of assisting the U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip.

The Shin Bet internal security agency said Borsch, 38, had confessed to using his position and UNDP resources to support Hamas. Among other things, he is accused of diverting hundreds of tons of rubble to a Hamas-operated facility to help build a military jetty.

“Notably, according to Borsh, other Palestinians who work for aid organizations are also working for Hamas,” the agency said.

UNDP employee Waheed Borsh was indicted Tuesday on charges of supporting Hamas. (Photo: Shin Bet)

Last Thursday the Gaza program head for the international Christian charity World Vision, Mohammed el-Halabi, appeared in court accused of diverting millions of dollars of aid donations to Hamas over a five-year period. Shin Bet said at the time Halabi had disclosed information about other individuals using their positions with humanitarian agencies in Gaza to support Hamas.

The Halabi charge sheet includes an allegation that he recruited into Hamas’ military wing a staffer of another non-governmental charity, Save the Children.

“We do take any allegations of this nature very seriously and are making inquiries into this matter,” Save the Children said in a brief statement, adding that it had yet to be contacted by Israeli authorities about the matter.

As with the World Vision case, the Israeli government took pains not to accuse the UNDP itself of colluding with Hamas. Shin Bet instead directed its criticism at the Islamist group, saying it “exploits the resources of international aid organizations at the expense of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.”

Like World Vision ($85 million in 2014), the UNDP receives a significant amount of funding from U.S. taxpayers.

The Obama administration’s FY 2016 budget includes $63 million for UNDP operations worldwide, and its FY 2017 budget request calls for $60 million for the agency. UNDP’s programs in the Palestinian areas have received $21.6 million in funding from the U.S. over the past years.

The Israeli foreign ministry said it had informed the UNDP and senior officials in the U.N. secretariat about Borsh’s arrest and details of the indictment.

A ministry spokesman said it expected U.N. agencies to “unequivocally condemn Hamas for exploiting the humanitarian aid system for its own aims and will take concrete measures to ensure that humanitarian activities actually assist those in need in Gaza instead of assisting the terrorist leaders of Hamas.”

UNDP special representative Roberto Valent said it has “zero tolerance for wrongdoing,” was “committed to the highest standards of transparency and accountability” and was conducting a thorough review.

The day before the UNDP staffer indictment, the U.N.’s coordinator for humanitarian aid in the Palestinian areas, Robert Piper, said the allegations against the World Vision program manager “raise serious concerns for humanitarian organizations working in Gaza.”

“Redirecting relief away from its intended beneficiaries would be a profound betrayal of the trust put in a senior manager by his employer and by the organization’s donors,” he said. “Everyone would pay a high price for such acts – beneficiaries and the wider aid effort alike.”

‘Extremely reckless conduct’

In New York, a spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was asked whether it was common for a U.N. employee or contractor to be accused of diverting funds to terrorist groups.

Farhan Haq replied that accusations have been leveled at various times at employees of various U.N. bodies, but gave no details.

“At this stage, like I said, UNDP is dealing with this and they’ll respond on this.”

The Geneva-based NGO U.N. Watch called on UNDP chief Helen Clark – who is in the running for the post of U.N. secretary-general – to “draw conclusions” as a result of the charges against Borsh.

“No one is accusing UNDP senior management in New York of knowingly aiding Hamas activities, but when they fail to implement minimum controls in a place ruled by a murderous regime – as documented with OCHA in Syria – that could amount to extremely reckless conduct,” said U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

At a daily briefing, State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau was asked about Borsh’s indictment on what a reporter – Said Arikat of the Palestinian daily Al-Quds – described as “really the most dubious of charges.”

“The allegations against Palestinian humanitarian workers, if proven true, are a clear signal that both donors and nonprofits need to continue to be as vigilant as possible to help assure assistance reaches those it is intended to help,” Trudeau said.

She reiterated U.S. financial support for the Palestinian people, describing it as “a U.S. national security priority.”

Meanwhile, World Vision has suspended its operations in Gaza and has an “externally-conducted forensic audit” underway.

But the organization raised doubts that Halabi could have diverted the large sums alleged in the indictment.

It also defended its procedures for hiring employees.

“Our staff hiring processes aim to ensure that we employ people who are qualified, committed to our values and who pose no risk to our partners, communities or our programs,” it said.

NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog of civil society groups, said it has long warned that “humanitarian efforts in warzones are inherently susceptible to extortion and theft by violent actors, including terrorist organizations.”

“The failure to properly prevent the siphoning of funds stems in part from a lack of will on the part of humanitarian organizations,” it said. “Many international NGOs reject attempts to incorporate security concerns into funding guidelines, decrying them as politically motivated.”


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