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August 10, 2016

LA Times Silent on International Aid Going to Hamas

The New York Times last week published an in-depth article, more than 1,100 words, about the Gaza director for World Vision, a Christian aid organization, who was charged with funneling over $40 million to the Hamas terrorist organization. Before the Times reporters had completed that story, their paper's website already posted this Associated Press article about Mohammed el-Halabi, the World Vision employee.

The Times continued its strong coverage on the subject with a long article in print today about a United Nations aid worker similarly charged with helping Hamas in Gaza. The charges are significant enough that Australia and Germany have halted their support for World Vision projects in Gaza and the West Bank.

Yet, The Los Angeles Times print edition published not a single word about the employees working for World Vision, the United Nations Development Program and Save the Children, another international aid group, who have been arrested for funneling aid money to Hamas. (The Los Angeles Times website did run three Associated Press news stories, inexplicably in the nation section, though the stories are international. Please see clarification below.)

The LA Times' utter failure to cover this critical story is all the more glaring in light of the paper's publication today of an article about the slow reconstruction of homes in Gaza since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas ("2 years after Gaza war, still no homes"). Given the vital role that international organizations, including the United Nations, play in the rebuilding of homes in Gaza, the oversight is all the more indefensible.

As The New York Times reported, the United Nations Development Program, where Waheed Al Bursh was employed as an engineer, "is helping rebuild thousands of homes and other buildings destroyed by airstrikes" in 2014. Al Bursh was charged with providing material assistance to Hamas, including helping to build a jetty for the terror group.

According to The New York Times, a statement by the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security forces, said that Al Bursh "had also persuaded his managers to prioritize the rebuilding of homes in an area 'populated by Hamas members.'"

The implications of widespread abuse of international aid funds are profound. As Ashley Jackson, a research associated at the Overseas Development Institute in London told The New York Times: "Working in the Palestinian territories was hard before, and I can't imagine what it is going to be like now." Robert Piper, a UN humanitarian worker, likewise lamented: "If proven by a due legal process, these actions deserve unreserved condemnation; Gaza's demoralized and vulnerable citizens deserve so much better."

As Naji Sharrab, a political science professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza, candidly told The New York Times: "Hamas has complete authority to interfere and control all the organizations working in Gaza." Hamas' authority to interfere also affects the organizations' efforts to rebuild, though The Los Angeles Times completely ignored this factor in its account of the "multiple headwinds holding up the massive project."

Aug. 12 Clarification and Update

This post was amended on Aug. 12 to reflect the fact that The Los Angeles Times website did publish Associated Press stories on the World Vision in its "Nation" section, though the stories are international news. CAMERA regrets the oversight concerning the online edition. These wire stories did not appear in the print edition.

In addition, an editor at the foreign desk responded to CAMERA's concerns about the paper's failure to cover Hamas' diversion of international aid. The editor stated that the paper's correspondent in Israel is on vacation and thus The Times is unable to cover the story. Of course, the print edition has in the past relied on wire services to fill in on their coverage of Gaza, so it's not clear why editors did not run a wire story in this case as well. Associated Press articles about Gaza which appeared earlier this year in The Los Angeles Times print edition include "''Romeo and Juliet,' Gaza-style; Rift between Hamas and Fatah takes center stage in altered Shakespeare play" (May 14, page A4); "Gaza grapples with sewage crisis, spill poisons coast and Israeli blockade makes matters worse" (May 8, page 14); "Laughter as a medical aid, Palestinian clowns offer relief to kids in Gaza hospitals" (April 3, page A9); and "Gaza's zoo animals die of hunger, disease; 'People have a hard time finding food, much less the animals, a zookeeper laments" (Jan. 31, page A6). Surely if a Gaza theater production and the fate of Gaza's zoo animals merit coverage in the print edition, then so does a large scale funding scandal involving multiple international aid groups and tens of millions of dollars which jeopardizes humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip.

Posted by TS at August 10, 2016 01:52 PM


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