By Casey Harper (Het Middenplein)
A group of leading House Republicans are concerned that millions of taxpayer dollars intended for foreign aid could be funneled to Hamas, the terrorist group that killed more than 1,400 people and took dozens of hostages in Israel earlier this month.
The lawmakers sent a letter to the U.S. Agency for International Development, the federal agency that sends the bulk of foreign aid abroad and normally monitors how its funding could be used for nefarious purposes.
“According to data produced by the Department of State in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, in 2021 the State Department was concerned about U.S. aid falling into the hands of Hamas,” the letter said .
The letter refers to a draft memo from the State Department to the Treasury Department saying there is a “high risk” of U.S. tax dollars helping Hamas because of the terrorist group’s control of Gaza.
A USAID spokesperson told The Center Square that getting aid to those affected by the war between Israel and Hamas is critical and emphasized that US aid to Palestinians does not go to or through Hamas.
“The U.S. government supports humanitarian partners who are providing communities in Gaza and the West Bank with essential and lifesaving humanitarian assistance, including food assistance, medical care, shelter, protection and other supplies,” USAID told The Center Square in a statement.
“That assistance is provided through trusted and vetted international organizations, including UN and NGO partners, such as the World Food Program,” the statement said. “Republicans in the House of Representatives are asking for more information and to find out to what extent taxpayer money could finance Hamas.”
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President Joe Biden addressed this issue on October 18.
“If Hamas diverts or steals aid, they will have once again demonstrated that they are not concerned about the well-being of the Palestinian people and it will come to an end,” Biden said in his remarks. “In practice, it will – it will prevent the international community from being able to provide this assistance.”
USAID also made clear that they have extensive controls and certifications for partners receiving funds to prevent Hamas from receiving taxpayer money.
“We have been clear that any interference by Hamas will jeopardize the continuation of that life-saving aid,” the spokesperson said.
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However, critics say this is too optimistic and that these funds will inevitably end up in the wrong hands due to Hamas’ influence in the region. Lawmakers want more information to determine what is really going on.
“This includes reviews and controls on hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer-funded humanitarian assistance to Gaza and the West Bank and the risk that any of these funds could fall into the hands of or otherwise assist foreign terrorist organizations such as Hamas. ” the lawmakers said in a letter to USAID Administrator Samantha Power.
The lawmakers argue that Hamas’s large-scale and successful attack indicates significant external financing.
The lawmakers point out that federal aid to Gaza declined before Biden took office as officials acknowledged the money was not going where it was originally intended.
“Specifically, USAID funding to the region during this period decreased from $286 million (fiscal year 2017) to approximately $18 million (fiscal year 2020),” the letter said. “Upon taking office, however, President Biden changed course and in April 2021 announced that his administration would send $235 million in Palestinian aid, including $75 million in economic and development assistance in Gaza and the West Bank.”
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House Oversight Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., helped lead the letter, with about two dozen other Republicans signing on.
The lawmakers also pointed out that the Biden administration has given tax dollars to Iran, a known financier of Hamas.
“Public reports state that the Islamic Republic of Iran provides Hamas with direct funding amounting to tens of millions annually,” the letter said. “We also know that the Biden administration has dramatically increased funding to Gaza and the West Bank, and on October 18 he publicly announced another $100 million in US aid to the area. It is critical to fully account for US funds earmarked for humanitarian purposes to ensure they do not directly or indirectly finance terrorism.”
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.