Legislators respond to PMW report
documenting PA monthly salary to terrorists
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
Last week, Palestinian Media Watch presented a report to members of US Congress documenting that the PA pays salaries to imprisoned terrorists from the general PA budget. In addition, the report showed that the PA actively honors terrorists who are serving life sentences for murder. Legislators in the US and Britain have responded that they find it "disgraceful" and "ludicrous" that their tax money is paying these salaries.
US Congressman Trent Franks:
"I cannot support sending millions of American taxpayer dollars to such an organization; especially when they are currently paying salaries to over 5,500 terrorists sitting in Israeli prison... No American funds to the West Bank were ever to be made available for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit (or have committed) acts of terrorism. This disgraceful waste of taxpayer dollars is an affront to freedom and an insult to Israel, the most precious ally America has in the world." [FoxNews.com]
British MP Philip Davies:
"Tory MP Philip Davies said the payments were 'ludicrous'. He added: 'People think overseas aid is to try to alleviate terrible poverty in places where they can't afford to look after themselves. But it's being put to these kind of purposes. It would be bad enough at the best of times, but at a time when we have got no money, it is utterly inexcusable.'"
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations also released a statement by Richard B. Stone, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman:
"At a time when we are spending valuable resources to battle terrorism, the Palestinian Authority is using American and international aid to support convicted terrorists. Such a counterproductive policy undermines basic values and laws evaluating assistance from the U.S., and must be stopped if peace is to be pursued in the region."
Below are follow-up stories in Fox News, the Daily Mail, the Jerusalem Post and the Conference of Presidents' statement:
Fox News Online, August 4, 2011:
Palestinian Authority Using U.S. Aid to Help Pay Millions
in Salaries to Jailed Terror Suspects, Report Finds
by Stephen Clark
The Palestinian Authority is spending more than $5 million per month in salaries for 5,500 convicted and alleged terrorists imprisoned in Israel -- payments that defy congressional rules for U.S. funding to the PA, according to a new report from an Israeli research institute.
Palestinian Media Watch released a report last week that found that all Palestinian and Israeli minority Arabs in Israeli prisons for terror acts have been legally receiving a monthly salary from the PA under a new law passed in April that simply "formalizes what has long been a PA practice."
"The U.S. funds the PA's general budget. Through the PA budget, the U.S. is paying the salaries of terrorist murderers in prison and funding the glorification and role modeling of terrorists," the report reads.
The average salary of a prisoner is greater than Palestinian civil servants - prisoners on average receive 3,200 Shekels a month compared with 2,800 Shekels for civil servants.
The U.S. government provided nearly $600 million to the PA last year, including $225 million in direct budgetary assistance to the PA, the report stated. But the PA's new law may violate congressional rules for providing financial aid to the region.
Under a 2010 funding legislation that lays out the rules for supplying money to the West Bank and Gaza, the secretary of state "shall take all appropriate steps to ensure that such assistance is not provided to or through any individual, private or government entity, or educational institution that the secretary knows or has reason to believe advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in, terrorist activity," according to the report.
The State Department, which oversees foreign aid, did not return numerous messages seeking comment.
Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, dismissed the report as an "attempt to change the subject by raising a practice that is longstanding and not objected to by the Israeli government."
Ibish said the Palestinian Authority has been providing stipends to all Palestinians imprisoned by Israel since the administrative organization was founded in 1994.
"That includes some people that I would consider terrorists and some people that I wouldn't," Ibish said, explaining that the money largely goes to the families of the prisoners - most of whom are detained for nonviolent offenses -- to fulfill a sense of obligation.
"The PA has taken the implicit position that none of them are terrorists or it doesn't matter if they are because their families need money," he said. "It's a gesture of solidarity not with one particular prisoner but a whole category of prisoners."
Itamar Marcus, the director of Palestinian Media Watch, presented the report to members of the Republican Israel Caucus last week in an effort to persuade U.S. lawmakers to cut the funds off to the PA.
"I cannot support sending millions of American taxpayer dollars to such an organization; especially when they are currently paying salaries to over 5,500 terrorists sitting in Israeli prison," Rep. Trent Franks said in a statement to FoxNews.com.
"No American funds to the West Bank were ever to be made available for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit (or have committed) acts of terrorism," he added. "This disgraceful waste of taxpayer dollars is an affront to freedom and an insult to Israel, the most precious ally America has in the world."
Marcus told FoxNews.com that other members were also upset about the report and that some of them are working on legislation to address the issue.
On the same day that he spoke to the caucus, the Republican-controlled House introduced a foreign aid bill that would restrict President Obama's authority to provide U.S. funds not only to the Palestinian Authority, but also to Pakistan and Egypt and cuts money for international organizations.
But Marcus said he doesn't support that bill because he says it gives the false impression that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is not part of the problem. Until Abbas ends the practice of honoring terrorists who kill Israelis with summer camps and school names, Marcus said, there can never be peace.
The report comes as the Palestinian Authority pushes for formal recognition of an independent state from the U.N., which will vote on it in September. Israel and the United States object to the move, saying Palestinian statehood should only be achieved through peace talks, which have been stalled for three years.
"We want to have a peace process that is not just technical but educational," Marcus said. "That's why funding is critical. The Palestinian Authority can't move forward without U.S. political and financial support."
But Ibish said Marcus's report is confusing the cause of the decades-old "bloody and brutal" conflict with the effect of it, which he says supports settlers' goal of never ending the Israeli occupation of areas that Palestinians want for their future state.
"It's been the job of supporters of occupation to change the subject. That's what this is," he said. "It's not an irrelevant issue, it's a secondary one. It's an effect, not a cause."
The Daily Mail Online, August 8, 2011:
Families of suicide bombers
given £5m in British aid cash
by Matthew Kalman
British aid cash is being given to the families of suicide bombers, it was claimed last night.
The Palestinian Authority, which gets £86million of British aid a year, has authorised payments of almost £5million to the families of 'martyrs'.
Another £3million has been given to 5,500 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The payments, using taxpayers' cash donated from Britain and the European Union, have been described as 'ludicrous' by one Tory MP.
The Palestinian Authority, which oversees the West Bank, has introduced a new law which pays the families of suicide bombers out of its civil service budget.
According to the official Palestinian daily newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, payments to the families of 'martyrs' - those killed fighting Israel, including suicide bombers - totalled 3.5 per cent of the budget.
'Every terrorist in prison, including those whose acts led to the deaths of Israeli civilians, are on the PA payroll,' said Itamar Marcus, of Palestinian Media Watch.
'The salary goes directly to the terrorist or the terrorist's family, and prisoners receive their salaries from the day of arrest.'
Tory MP Philip Davies said the payments were 'ludicrous'. He added: 'People think overseas aid is to try to alleviate terrible poverty in places where they can't afford to look after themselves. But it's being put to these kind of purposes.
'It would be bad enough at the best of times, but at a time when we have got no money, it is utterly inexcusable.'
Last month, Britain committed to giving £86million a year in aid to the Palestinian Authority until 2015.
The payments to families and prisoners are on a sliding scale, from £250 a month for prisoners sentenced to less than three years, to a maximum of £2,140 a month for anyone serving more than 30 years.
The payments compare with salaries of £515 for a regular Palestinian civil servant and £480 for officers in the Palestinian security forces.
Minister of State Alan Duncan said in February: 'We are very careful how we spend our money in the occupied Palestinian territories. We would abhor any money falling into the hands of extremists.'
The Government is under pressure for the amount of aid it is handing out at a time of austerity. It plans to increase foreign aid payments by 35 per cent to £11.4billion by 2015.
This comes despite several scandals involving aid. Last week, it was revealed that money to Ethiopia was being used as a political tool and those who oppose the government do not receive handouts.
David Cameron has admitted that the controversial pledge to spend billions more on international aid was a 'difficult commitment' at a time when spending programmes were being slashed at home.
The Prime Minister admitted that some aid had been 'wasted', but continued to dismiss 'aid sceptics'.
The Jerusalem Post, August 5, 2011:
US Jewish groups pressing Congress to halt aid to PA
by Jeremy Sharon
Abbas needs to stop paying terrorists' salaries right now, says Malcolm Hoenlein; Morton Klein says ZOA speaking with congressmen.
Jewish organizations in America have expressed concern with regard to the ongoing financial aid provided by the US to the Palestinian Authority.
Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the organization is conducting conversations with US congressmen through which they are seeking to end US aid to the PA in light of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement signed in April; as well as a recent report from Israeli lobbying group Palestinian Media Watch, which states the PA is paying salaries to 5,500 Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorist offenses, totaling $5.2 million a month.
The unity deal signed between Hamas and Fatah on April 27 is yet to be implemented due to a number of serious disagreements between the two sides.
Speaking to the Post, a State Department official said the direct budget support provided by the US does not go toward PA salaries at all and is used instead to pay debts owed by the PA to private sector entities with contracts providing goods and services to the Palestinian government.
"We are broadly continuing to assess the Palestinian government in light of the recent reconciliation agreement and plan to determine our assistance according to US law as and when a new Palestinian government is formed," the official said, adding the State Department believes PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have illustrated that they are "firm in their opposition to acts of violence and terrorism."
Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein said the fact that the PA is rewarding "terrorists" on an ongoing basis is unacceptable, especially at a time when it is claiming that it cannot pay the wages of its civil servants and public workers.
"Funds are fungible, but the real issue here is not the US, it's the Palestinian Authority," Hoenlein said in comments to the Post. "If the PA is serious about sending the right message then it should stop these salaries now."
He added that one option the US could consider would be to deduct the sum the PA spends on the prisoners from the US aid-package to the Palestinian government.
The dovish J Street organization said it believes continued international aid to the Palestinian Authority is "essential for Israel's present security and the prospects for peace," pointing out the US Security Coordinator for Israel and the PA, Lt.-Gen.
Mike Moeller told Congress in July that US assistance and cooperation has made PA security forces into a "trusted, capable partner" for the Israeli security establishment.
"We have no doubt that cutting or imposing insurmountable new preconditions on aid to the Palestinian Authority would jeopardize Israel's security and strengthen Hamas," the statement said.
In 2010, the US gave $600m. to the PA, including $225m. in direct budgetary assistance. The Palestinian Authority is currently facing a financial crisis.
According to Palestinian news agency Ma'an, Salam Fayyad said last week the PA urgently needs $300m. to ease its cash crisis, blaming the failure of foreign donor countries, particularly Arab governments, to deliver on their aid pledges.
A public sector strike was staved off on Sunday after the PA said it would pay full salaries for July. The Palestinian government was only able to pay half-wages in June to the 170,000 people on its payroll.
The Palestinian Media Watch report pointed out that the terms of the 2010 appropriations act for monetary assistance to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip insist that assistance not be provided to any individuals or government entities that engage, or have engaged, in terrorist activity.
Conference of Presidents' statement, August 3, 2011:
Conference of Presidents: Palestinian Leaders
Must Stop Funding Terrorists
International and U.S. Funds May Be Paying Terrorist Salaries
Amid revelations that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is funding jailed terrorists, Richard B. Stone, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called on Palestinian leaders and international donors who fund the PA to take all measures to ensure that funds are not used to subsidize and reward terrorism.
"At a time when we are spending valuable resources to battle terrorism, the Palestinian Authority is using American and international aid to support convicted terrorists. Such a counterproductive policy undermines basic values and laws evaluating assistance from the U.S., and must be stopped if peace is to be pursued in the region," said Stone and Hoenlein.
The revelations came in a report presented to Congressional leaders by the watchdog organization Palestinian Media Watch (PMW). According to the report, "A law signed and published in the official Palestinian Authority Registry in April 2011 puts all Palestinians and Israeli Arabs imprisoned in Israel for terror crimes on the PA payroll to receive a monthly salary from the PA." PMW asserts that more than 5,500 Palestinian prisoners serving time for terror-related offenses are recipients of the monthly salaries.
The Conference of Presidents leaders said, "PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are following in Yasser Arafat's footsteps. To Western audiences they proclaim intentions of peace while inciting violence and subsidizing terror against Israelis. Meanwhile, international donors and U.S. taxpayers are stuck paying for this at a time when we can afford it least. And the PA is complaining of severe funding shortfall."
According to World Bank estimates, the Palestinian Authority received $525 million of international aid in the first half of 2010, $1.4 billion in 2009 and $1.8 billion in 2008. The U.S. provided $600 million to the Palestinians in 2010, including $225 million in direct budgetary assistance.
Relying on these funds, over $5 million dollars a month is paid out to more than 5,500 jailed Palestinian terrorists or their families, according to PMW. Terrorists in prison receive a higher average salary than PA civil servants and military personnel. Those guilty for some of the most heinous attacks and serving the longest sentences receive even larger payments.
U.S. law prohibits funding terrorists and past terrorists. The 2010 appropriations act for the West Bank and Gaza states specifically that "the Secretary of State shall take all appropriate steps to ensure that such assistance is not provided to or through any individual, private or government entity, or educational institution that the Secretary knows or has reason to believe advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in, terrorist activity ..."
"When the Palestinians are avoiding negotiations and planning unilateral actions at the UN, when the terrorist organization Hamas is considered a partner for government, when the Palestinian leadership is knowingly funding terrorists, it becomes difficult to reconcile these realities with peaceful intentions. We call on the Palestinian leadership to cease rewarding terrorists, end incitement, and return to
the negotiating table with Israel," said Stone and Hoenlein.