Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heightened his row with international charities operating in Gaza in a video Thursday where he announced, “Israel cares more about Palestinians than their own leaders do.”
“Who cares more about Palestinians.” pressed Netanyahu, “Israel, that facilitates the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza, every single day? Or Hamas, that robs Palestinian children of that very same aid?”
The prime minister continued by repeating accusations that have put international organizations under scrutiny. In the last two weeks two Palestinian aid officials in Gaza have been accused by Israel of misusing resources.
“A few days ago, the world learned that Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules Gaza, stole millions of dollars from humanitarian organizations like World Vision and the United Nations,” Netanyahu said.
On August 3, Mohammed el-Halabi, director of the Gaza branch of World Vision, was criminally charged by Israel for allegedly funneling 60 percent of his organization’s projects budget—$7.2 million annually—to support for Hamas.
World Vision has denied the Israeli accounting. ”There is a huge gap in these numbers the Israeli government is telling and what we know,” the group’s German spokesperson Silvia Holten told the AP.
A few days later a second humanitarian worker, Waheed Borsh, a contractor with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) was also indicted for supporting Hamas. Borsh confessed to a list of ways that he had “aided Hamas,” according to a statement from Israel’s Security Agency.
“Last year he helped build a military jetty in the northern Gaza Strip – utilizing UNDP resources – to be used by Hamas’ naval forces,” the statement said. “Also in 2015, he acted to persuade UNDP managers to prioritize the rehabilitation of housing in areas populated by Hamas members… Borsh was acting in response to a request by Hamas.”
The Israel Securities Authority (ISA) alleged that Borsh admitted knowing the location of Hamas military facilities, and said when he found weapons stowed in UNDP facilities he allowed Hamas to “confiscate the arms and other materials.”
The actual indictment against the UN worker filed lesser charges than the offenses alleged by Israel’s security agency, a source who has seen the indictment told Mondoweiss.
The court document indicated Borsh will be prosecuted for “communicating with a foreign agent, providing services to a foreign group, dealing with properties in an attempt to be used against Israel,” the source said, adding that the one-page indictment does not assert Borsh aided any “illegal organization,” Israeli legal-speak for terror organizations and Hamas.
Laith Abu Zeyad, an advocacy officer with the Palestinian legal rights group Addameer said the language of the criminal case is typical for those charged after traveling abroad and meeting with representatives of governments at odds with Israel.
Abu Zeyad said that “spying of having connection with a foreign agent” is a “a very common accusation used by the Israeli government” merely in cases where an individual has traveled to an enemy country such as Lebanon.
“The accusation are really vague,” he went on, saying that there are difficulties in distinguishing between a resident of Gaza interacting with Hamas as the ruling civil administration, and interacting with its military wing.
“Even if they provide evidence, even if they provide a pictures of him shaking hands with a Hamas militant, it cannot be used as evidence because it could be his relative or something,” Abu Zeyad continued.
This is the second recorded message from the prime minister in recent weeks in which the subject was the well-being of Arabs and Palestinians. In the first he said he hoped for greater inclusion of Palestinian citizens into Israeli society. The message was timed after his government passed a series of economic-improvement programs.
The medium of goodwill clips is a staple of Israeli public relations for ceremonial greetings and religious holidays. It is far less common when the subject is the Israeli conflict with Palestinian armed groups and their backers.