An Israeli-based group is threatening legal action against an Australian charity unless it immediately stops funding a Palestinian not-for-profit organisation that is alleged to be “an active arm” of a terror group proscribed under Australian law.
Shurat HaDin — the Israel Law Centre, which aims to “bankrupt terrorism” through the courts — alleges that World Vision Australia has been indirectly distributing more than $1 million of Australian taxpayers’ money to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
World Vision Australia, which distributes funds in Gaza for AusAID, the government’s foreign aid agency, denies the charges. An AusAID spokesperson said this week that an investigation it conducted in May concluded there was “no evidence to support Shurat HaDin’s allegations”.
But Shurat HaDin this week stood by its allegations, releasing a dossier of “conclusive evidence” to World Vision with an ultimatum to the Christian charity: cease funding by October 15 or face legal action in the Federal Court of Australia for breaching the Charter of the United Nations Act.
At the centre of the dispute is the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), which World Vision has been funding since 2005 to help thousands of Palestinian farmers in Gaza increase their food supply. Shurat HaDin claims UAWC “was established by, is controlled by, shares assets with, and operated in concert with the PFLP”. Funding it is “illegal under Israeli law and Australian law”, Shurat HaDin concludes.
But AusAID and World Vision claim UAWC is an Israeli-registered NGO legally approved under Israeli law.
However, Akiva Hamilton, a Sydney-born attorney for Shurat HaDin, said the Israeli organisation is registered as the Committee of Agricultural Work — an entirely different outfit to the UAWC.
In a letter last Sunday to Tim Costello, chief executive of World Vision Australia, Mr Hamilton wrote: “The Israel Law Centre calls upon World Vision to take responsibility for misleading the Australian public and sending taxpayers’ money to terrorists while acknowledging that they have been the victims of a scam run by the PFLP terrorists to dupe Westerners into giving millions to its front group, the UAWC.”
His letter was in response to a September 27 letter from Mr Costello, who said his organisation had “no interest in supporting terrorism.
“I can assure you that if such evidence [of ties to the PFLP] is forthcoming, we will not hesitate to act swiftly upon it,” Mr Costello wrote. He did, however, admit that “some remnants of the historical relationship” between UAWC and PFLP remain. “But to suggest that UAWC is an arm of the PFLP today… appears to us a gross overstatement.”