WORLD Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello has told The AJN he has changed his mind on several key issues about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past decade.
Costello controversially delivered the Hadassah Australia Oration last Wednesday, amid claims he was an unsuitable guest speaker given views he and World Vision have expressed about the Jewish State, and given the charges recently laid against the organisation’s Gaza director, who is accused of siphoning funds to the military wing of Hamas.
In the lead-up to the oration, federal MP Michael Danby took out an advertisement in The AJN condemning Hadassah Australia for hosting Costello.
But speaking to The AJN after his speech, Costello insisted that forensic accountants are working through the organisation’s accounts in Gaza, and that he has changed his opinion on the security wall between the West Bank and Israel.
“At the time [the wall was built] I was critical, but I now have a different view,” he said.
“I see that wall has saved lives.
“My dream is still a two-state settlement, people living together without a wall.”
When speaking about Gaza, Costello referred to it as “a sad social experiment” to see if “a blockade and consequent suffering cures people of terrorism”.
“I don’t think that it’s Israel’s fault,” he said, “but I just think it’s very sad that we have to say this isn’t working and see if there is another way.”
He also conceded that the focus of criticism on Israel is unfair, as Egypt, which also has a border with Gaza, should also be pressured into lifting its blockade.
Addressing the allegations surrounding the group’s Gaza director, Costello said that World Vision is trying to ascertain if its money was diverted to Hamas.
“Our forensic accountants are going into Gaza. And the truth is that in lots of places where we work – from Somalia to Congo, Iraq and Syria – you are doing your best and putting your best systems in place but you can absolutely get things wrong.
“The Australian government is with us, comfortable with the forensic audit, and they have done over the years their own audits.”