Taxpayer dollars likely fall into the hands of Hamas, lawmakers say


Source: The Center Square,

(The Center Square) – A group of leading House Republicans are raising concerns that millions of taxpayer dollars meant for foreign aid could be funneled to Hamas, the terrorist group that killed more than 1,400 in Israel and took dozens of hostages earlier this month.

The lawmakers sent a letter to the U.S. Agency for International Development, the federal agency that overseas the bulk of foreign aid and normally keeps watch on how its funding could be used for nefarious purposes.

“According to records produced by the State Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the State Department was concerned in 2021 about U.S. assistance falling into the hands of Hamas,” the letter said.

The letter points to a draft memo from the State Department to the Department of the Treasury that says there is a “high risk” that U.S. tax dollars are helping Hamas because of the terrorist group’s control over Gaza.

A USAID spokesperson told The Center Square that getting aid to those affected by the Israel and Hamas war is crucial and insisted that U.S. assistance for Palestinians does not go to or through Hamas.

“The U.S. government supports humanitarian partners providing communities in Gaza and the West Bank with essential and life-saving humanitarian aid, including food assistance, medical care, shelter, protection, and other necessities,” 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 House Republicans are asking for more information and to find out to what degree tax dollars could be funding Hamas.”

President Joe Biden addressed this issue on Oct. 18.

“If Hamas diverts or steals the assistance, they will have demonstrated once again that they have no concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people and it will end,” Biden said in his remarks. “As a practical matter, it will – it will stop the international community from being able to provide this aid.”

USAID also made clear they have extensive vetting and certifications for partners who receive funds to prevent Hamas from receiving the taxpayer dollars.

“We have been clear that any interference by Hamas will jeopardize the continuation of that life-saving assistance,” the spokesperson said.

Critics, though, say this is overly optimistic and that these funds will inevitably end up in the wrong hands because of Hamas’ influence in the region. The lawmakers want more information to track what is really going on.

“This includes assessments and controls for hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer-funded humanitarian aid to Gaza and the West Bank and the risk that any of these funds could fall into the hands of or otherwise aid Foreign Terrorist Organizations such as Hamas,” the lawmakers said in a letter to USAID Administrator Samantha Power.

The lawmakers argue that Hamas’ large-scale and successful attack suggests significant outside funding.

The lawmakers point out that federal aid to Gaza decreased before Biden took office because officials recognized that money was not ending up where it was originally intended.

“Specifically, USAID funding to the region during this time decreased from $286 million (FY2017) to approximately $18 million (FY2020),” the letter said. “Upon taking office, however, President Biden reversed course, and in April of 2021 announced that his administration would send $235 million in Palestinian aid, to include $75 million in economic and development assistance in Gaza and the West Bank.”

House Oversight Chair Rep. 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, which is a known financial backer 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 dramatically increased funding to Gaza and the West Bank and on October 18th, he publicly announced an additional $100 million in U.S. aid to the area. It is vital to fully account for U.S. funds intended for humanitarian purposes to ensure they do not directly or indirectly fund terrorism.”