The State Department sent a message to Gaza’s Hamas leaders on Thursday that it would withdraw some $100 million it is spending in Gaza on health care, agriculture and water infrastructure if they did not back off a demand to audit the books of American-financed charities operating there.No doubt the administration would argue that this money goes straight to needy Gazans and non-Hamas projects, and not to Hamas.
The threat, delivered via an intermediary, came after Hamas officials suspended the operation of the International Medical Corps on Sunday for its refusal to submit to a Hamas audit at the charity’s site.
Tensions have been simmering for months over Hamas’s relations with the nongovernmental organizations of a number of countries operating in Gaza as the authorities have sought to increase surveillance of the groups. Early this year, Hamas asked all such groups to register with the central government, pay a fee and submit financial reports.
Although those requests were resisted, most groups ultimately agreed to them, officials at charities based in Gaza said. But in June, when Hamas demanded that the groups permit its officials to audit their books, the objections grew. Though Hamas did not explain the reason for its demand, many governments are suspicious of foreign financing of charities, fearing that money can be diverted for political or intelligence-gathering uses.
For American organizations, United States policy forbids direct contact with Hamas, labeled a terrorist group by the State Department. As a result, on-site audits by Hamas officials would lead to suspension of aid, American officials said. The United States accounts for a large share of the money that foreign governments spend on humanitarian assistance in Gaza.
Yet this is a fiction. Hamas, as the ruler of Gaza, has a budget - and the money that it doesn't have to pay to keep things running can be freed up to shore up its terror infrastructure.
And everyone knows it:
Aid provided by American and other foreign groups goes to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, where most of the 1.6 million residents are refugees. Like the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Hamas has had trouble meeting its payroll recently, and foreign officials hope that the threat of losing outside financing will persuade Hamas officials to drop their demand.If there were no relationship between Hamas' budget and Western-backed NGO aid, then why would anyone think that Hamas' financial issues have any relevance to this issue?
The huge amount of money flowing into Gaza from the PA and the West might not officially go to Hamas, but it is clear that Hamas is the main beneficiary.
(h/t David G)