The images from the war Hamas launched against Israel on Oct. 7 have tugged at the heartstrings of Americans. By that, I don’t refer to the charred ruins of Israeli communities in southern Israel that were devastated by the Hamas pogroms. Nor do I refer to the horrifying evidence of that terrorist rampage of murder, rape, torture and kidnapping that is too graphic for most people to bear. As far as the international media is concerned, those victims were quickly forgotten almost as soon as the murder spree happened and then erased from the collective memories of the West. The pictures and videos of the Palestinians of Gaza, however, who have suffered as a result of the war started by the organization that most of them supported have been a staple of the corporate media’s coverage.
The suffering of the people of Gaza is real. Regardless of Hamas’s popularity or the widespread support of its people and other Palestinians for its genocidal goals, the destruction of the Strip and deaths of many of its civilians (even if the claims of the Hamas health ministry that are frequently cited by the mainstream press are completely unreliable) is a tragedy, as well as a completely avoidable situation. The ceasefire that Hamas apologists, their fellow travelers and other useful idiots are calling for existed on Oct. 6 and need never have been broken. And it wouldn’t have been had the Islamist group not decided that carrying out the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust—and creating the circumstances under which their own people would be exposed to the hazards of war as Hamas’s human shields—was in their interest.
But none of that matters much to the many Americans who think that there is no worthier cause in the world right now than aiding the people of Gaza.
Keeping aid flowing to Gaza
Part of their concern is manifested in the efforts of the American government to ensure that international aid continues to flow into the Strip. That continues even though much, if not most, of the supplies of food, fuel and medicine are hoarded by Hamas terrorists rather than distributed to residents. That Israel has been compelled by American pressure to allow this aid to go to the terrorists they are fighting—a concession that is unheard of in the annals of war—is bad enough. Yet this is happening while the fate of the more than 100 hostages is still unknown, with no proof of life or evidence that they are receiving adequate care. It’s an outrage that has sent some Israelis to the border to try to block the convoys.
Following the voluntary charitable tradition that has always been a hallmark of American life, many people are donating millions to charities that claim to be bringing aid directly to Palestinians in need. If that assistance was actually going to feed, clothe and house Palestinians impacted by the war, then those acting on the laudable impulse to assist those in need would deserve our applause.
Except there is very little evidence that the money raised in the United States is reaching its intended targets. Even worse, there is good reason to believe that it is likely winding up in the hands of the Hamas terrorists who seek not only to perpetuate the bloodshed but believe that they benefit from the suffering of their own people.
That was made clear by the report published this week by Bloomberg,which noted that Hamas has been receiving between $8 million to $12 million in donations raised in the United States since the war began.
Charitable donations for Palestinian relief organizations have surged since Oct. 7 as Americans—motivated by ties to Gaza, ideology or simple sympathy for the victims of war—have ponied up millions for various causes that claim they are helping those in need. But it’s clear that, like everything else that goes into parts of Gaza that are still under the control of Hamas, there’s little reason to believe that the funds are feeding starving children. Instead, money is being snatched up by the same Islamist terrorists who have been stealing the finances and other types of goods that have been sent their way since they seized control of Gaza in 2007.
Many of the groups raising money for Gaza are brand-name charities like OxFam or Save the Children. Others have the imprimatur of the United Nations like UN Crisis Relief or UNRWA USA. Still others are longstanding donors to this cause like the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF).
The latter is of particular interest because among those celebrities who have raised money for the PCRF is Ella Emhoff, the daughter of Doug Emhoff, the nation’s second gentleman and the stepdaughter of Vice President Kamala Harris. Since his wife was sworn in alongside President Joe Biden, the older Emhoff has become a ubiquitous presence at Jewish functions and international gatherings, where he is supposed to be speaking up against antisemitism. But interest in his Jewish heritage is of recent vintage. Before Harris’s 2020 campaign for president, he had shown few signs of any concern about Jewish causes. And while his newfound passion for Jewish causes may be a case of better late than never, the fact is that his daughter—a clothes designer and fashion model—has made it clear that she is not Jewish and has no desire to be identified as such by the public.
Still, her somewhat famous name has likely helped the PCRF raise more than it might otherwise have done as it began a push for donations after Oct. 7 and sent a statement to those liberal Jews who had hoped to embrace her as a role model, a message about where her sympathies lie.
That is her right. The main point about the PCRF’s efforts and those of other nonprofits raising money for Gaza is that none of that can give their donors even the most tenuous assurances, let alone a guarantee that their money will be used for the purposes that they intended it to serve.
That was likely true even before Oct. 7. But as the scenes of Palestinians rioting or being shot for approaching the aid that Hamas was commandeering demonstrate, the terrorist group’s increasingly desperate position as Israeli forces close in on their strongholds has made their theft all the more brazen.
Ties between charities and terrorists
It’s also true that as NGO Monitor’s report about PCRF shows, the ties between the charities and the terrorists are undeniable. Just like the way Hamas has effective control of UNRWA—the U.N. refugee agency for the Palestinians—with many of its employees belonging to the Islamist terror group, the point where Palestinian nonprofits end and Hamas begins isn’t clear.
The United States has attempted to sanction the financial networks that directly fund Hamas, though given the success that its Iranian donors and their proxies have had in funneling money to Gaza in the last 16 years, it’s by no means clear that this effort has been entirely successful. Former President Barack Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal was a financial bonanza for Tehran, as it enriched and empowered the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. They were, as a 2019 New York Times article reported, set back by former President Donald Trump’s sanctions and withdrawal from the nuclear deal since that led to cutbacks in Iran’s funding for the terrorists. ButBiden’s attempt to resume the push for a rapprochement with Iran was good news for the terror funders.
Regardless of America’s off-and-on-again efforts to curtail the terror funding, the Europeans and international organizations continue to pour money into Gaza. Rather than this helping Gazans, most of it was diverted to pay for Hamas’s massive military fortification program that built a vast tunnel complex that is more extensive than New York City’s subway system. And what didn’t go into building hiding places for terrorists and their weapons (and which are now also used to imprison Israeli hostages), went into the pockets of Hamas leaders living in luxury in Qatar.
Those who give money to aid the Palestinian victims of war may not be guilty of the open antisemitism of those who march in the streets and on college campuses while calling for the destruction of Israel and terrorism against Jews, wherever they live. Nor are they necessarily joining in the surge of acts of antisemitic intimidation that are happening every day. They may not intend for their donations to go to Hamas. But all the goodwill in the world can’t ensure that money raised by charities for Palestinian children isn’t going to the terrorists using them as human shields and whose crimes started the war in the first place.
Virtue signaling your support for “Palestine” by raising money for PCRF may be exactly the kind of thing that helps keep a B-list celebrity like Ella Emhoff in sync with liberal fashion. No one, however, should be under any illusion about what this sort of philanthropy funds. Anyone who really wants to help Palestinian civilians and to ensure that money raised for that purpose goes for just that should demand that Hamas surrender. Advocacy for a ceasefire now isn’t just a demand that the criminals of Oct. 7 be allowed to win their war. It’s also a guarantee that charitable donations intended for suffering Palestinians will continue to go to Hamas.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him: @jonathans_tobin.