HADASSAH Australia has defended its decision to host an event featuring World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello as keynote speaker following allegations the organisation’s director in Gaza has been diverting funds to the military wing of Hamas.
Mohammed El Halabi is currently facing charges in an Israeli court. In an op-ed in The AJN two weeks ago (09/09), Costello condemned terror, said he would be shocked and outraged if the allegations were true and noted that World Vision has commissioned a new audit to investigate the claims.
However, responding to his piece, Rabbi James Kennard (AJN 16/09) noted that the organisation is often critical of the Israeli government and the IDF but is silent when it comes to terror attacks on Israelis, while NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg lamented “no auditing firm can possibly track diversions in a closed area governed by corruption, violence and fear”.
Costello is due to deliver the Hadassah Australia annual oration on November 2, on the topic “Charity in a Time of Terror – from Gaza to Nauru: My World Vision”.
Saying he was “dismayed” by Hadassah Australia’s decision to host Costello, Zionist Federation of Australia president Danny Lamm said, “It seems to be a mistimed invitation given the current investigation into the misappropriation of Australian donated funds to World Vision finding their way to Hamas.”
However, Hadassah Australia president Ron Finkel told The AJN, “There’s a saying in football that you play the ball, not the man, and so it would be terrible if Tim is attacked because someone may have perpetrated a fraud within World Vision.
“As far as I can judge, they are not running away from this issue because they were as shocked as the rest of us.”
Finkel also noted that while World Vision’s Gaza director may have abused his position, “that does not make the CEO of World Vision Australia an enemy of the Jewish people”.
He also said Costello was invited to deliver the oration in February, long before the current scandal -erupted.
“Would I have preferred this investigation hadn’t occurred now? Obviously. But Tim is a man of some stature and a proud voice of social justice in Australia.
“We are pleased to have him as our guest speaker.”
Finkel explained that Costello will be trying to explain challenges that charities have in a global environment where terror, or the fear of terror, creates hesitation on the part of the donor community to provide support for populations in need.
He stressed that the title of the oration is not suggesting that Gaza is comparable to Nauru, but rather refers to the complex world in a time of terror.