Aid scandals highlight Palestinian ‘institutional decay and corruption’


Israeli prosecutors on Tuesday charged a  employee of the United Nations in the Gaza Strip with providing material assistance to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the territory, including helping to build a jetty for its military wing, The New York Times reports:

The accusations against the employee, Waheed Al Bursh (left), came after Israel leveled charges Thursday against a Palestinian employee of World Vision in Gaza, saying he had funneled millions of dollars to Hamas…. Naji Sharrab, a political science professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza, said the idea of Hamas’s pressuring aid workers was not surprising because of its near-monopoly on power in the territory. Hamas security forces can search or shut down offices, he noted, and can prevent people from entering or leaving Gaza.

“Hamas has complete authority to interfere and control all the organizations working in Gaza,” he said.

Gaza has been heavily dependent on foreign aid since Hamas took over – and following three wars between Israel and Hamas – corruption is a widespread problem in the coastal enclave, The Guardian adds.

There is deep institutional decay and corruption in existing Palestinian institutions, according to a Carnegie Endowment report released earlier this year.

A UNDP spokesman said the UN agency “has zero tolerance for wrongdoing” in all of its programs.

“UNDP is greatly concerned by the allegation from the Israeli authorities with respect to the UNDP contractor who has been providing professional services within the rubble removal project,” said Roberto Valent, a special representative to the UNDP administrator.

“Sadly, UNDP has a history of pandering to the Hamas regime in Gaza, including in numerous public statements which have whitewashed Hamas’ weaponization of homes, schools, and hospitals,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

“While UNDP and its partner UNRWA insist that they act solely in response to humanitarian need, with impartiality and neutrality, and that their goal is to improve the economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people, the disparity with their compliant approach to Hamas appears to be influenced by their fear of being expelled from Gaza, or of other more severe consequences, requiring that they stay in the good graces of the Hamas regime,” said Neuer.

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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