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PA afraid of coming crisis following PMW letter to Palestinian banks

Itamar Marcus  |

The Palestinian Authority is showing great anxiety in response to Palestinian Media Watch’s letter of April 20, 2020, to Palestinian banks. PMW warned Palestinian banks that on May 9 a new Israeli law goes into effect and the banks will be violating Israel's criminal law should they host bank accounts in which terrorist prisoners or their designated representatives receive money from the PA. 

Numerous articles and news stories have appeared in the PA as well as Arab media across the Middle East from Al-Akhbar in Lebanon to Al-Jazeera in Qatar, in addition to the many responses from the PA itself, reacting to PMW’s warning to the banks. And there is good reason for the PA to be panicking. Should the Palestinian banks heed PMW’s warning and close the terrorists’ accounts the pipeline through which the PA disseminates hundreds of millions of dollars to financially reward terrorist prisoners will be closed. Should the banks decide to ignore PMW’s warning, the Israeli government could seize the accounts, and initiate criminal proceedings against the banks and the bank officials for serving as a conduit for rewarding terror.

PMW was able to send the warning letters to the Palestinian banks, not only because PMW has been leading the international fight against the PA salaries to terrorists since we first uncovered it in 2011, but also due to PMW’s involvement in the enactment of this anti-terror law. 

Al Jazeera reported that the PA sees the new law as “dangerous”: 

“The [PA funded] Palestinian Prisoners’ Club Communications Director Amani Sarahaneh … described the Israeli military order as dangerous. She said that its goal is to prevent the arrival of the monthly salaries that the PLO pays the families of the current prisoners and released prisoners.” 

[Al-Jazeera, April 23, 2020]

The spokesman for the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Hassan Abd Rabbo said to the Voice of Palestine: “This law is liable to increase the tension within the prisons… it is impossible to ignore these racist measures and laws.” [Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, April 21, 2020]

Director of the PLO Commission of Prisoners' Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr called Israel’s action as described in PMW’s letter “piracy”:

“The talk in Israel about passing a new occupation law that considers the money paid to the prisoners forbidden money is a continuation of the Israeli policy of piracy against the rights of our prisoner fighters for freedom… He explained that the prisoners' cause is a top national priority and that we will not agree to it being harmed or to attempts to define it as crime through such racist and terrorist laws…. It should be noted that former Military Advocate General Atty. [and PMW’s Head of Legal Strategies] Maurice Hirsch warned the Palestinian banks not to cooperate on the matter of the Palestinian prisoners' salaries because it is considered an illegal act…
He added that all of the Palestinian banks were sent notices regarding the new legislation."

[Amad, independent Palestinian news website, April 21, 2020]

One of the heads of Hamas, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, complained that Israel is “continuing to target the prisoners and blackmail them through a series of racist laws… The occupation’s (i.e., Israel’s) former Military Advocate General [PMW’s Head of Legal Strategies Maurice Hirsch] and [PMW] an Israeli institute sent the Palestinian banks a letter warning against the consequences of handling the prisoners’ salaries and [demanding] to act to close [the accounts].” [Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, April 21, 2020]

In response to the coming crisis the PA may experience, the PA repeated its message that terrorist prisoners and so-called Martyrs are “crowns” on the heads of the Palestinian population. Fatah Central Committee member and PLO Central Council member Jamal Muhaisen told official PA radio: 

“There is a clear response from [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas, the [PA] government, all the factions, and all of the Palestinian people that the prisoners and Martyrs are a crown on our heads. Therefore the salaries of the Martyrs and prisoners can’t be stopped, and certainly a stand will be taken against every Israeli measure.”

[Official PA radio station The Voice of Palestine, April 21, 2020]

Al-Akhbar from Lebanon wrote at length about “severe effects that these steps are liable to have on the situation of the prisoners” who will be losing their payments:

"Israel does not miss any trick to deny the allowances of the prisoners and the Martyrs and their families… The enemy has threatened to fine the Palestinian banks and put them on trial for ‘participating in the murder of Israelis’! The enemy’s impudence has reached the point where [PMW Head of Legal Strategies and] former Israeli Military Advocate General in the occupied West Bank, Atty. Maurice Hirsch is threatening the Palestinian banks that they will be exposed to lawsuits if they continue paying the allowances of the Palestinian prisoners that the PA transfers… If prisoners' accounts are found in the bank, either in their names or the names of their relatives or another person with their power of attorney, then 'The bank must freeze them and transfer them to the military commander of the West Bank region.' … It views the payments as 'reward for committing acts of terror,' which turns the Palestinian bank into 'a body that provides material support to terror, with everything this implies, including civil lawsuits to compensate the victims of the acts [of terror].'… 
It is still not known what solution or maneuvering can be implemented if lawsuits are submitted against Palestinian banks, or if direct steps are taken against them, whether by Ramallah or the banks themselves – with all of the major and severe effects that these steps are liable to have on the situation of the prisoners and their relatives, and on their future.”

[Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), April 22, 2020]

The above are a few examples of the Arab world writing about PMW’s letter to the Palestinian banks. The following are longer as well as additional excerpts of such reports:

Headline: “Al-Zahar: The legislation of a new law to confiscate the prisoners’ money is a racist decision and a legal and moral crime”
“Senior Hamas Movement official Mahmoud Al-Zahar said that the occupation’s racism – which is being expressed by the legislation of a new law to confiscate the money of the Palestinian prisoners’ families and consider it forbidden money (refers to the application of much of Israel’s Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank –Ed.) – legally and morally constitutes a clear violation of human rights, international legal principles, and international humanitarian law.
Al-Zahar said in a statement, a copy of which reached [the independent Palestinian news agency] Donia Al-Watan, that the fact that the occupation authorities are continuing to target the prisoners and blackmail them through a series of racist laws… is a new crime that is being added to the occupation’s incessant crimes against the Palestinians…
It should be noted that the [Israeli] army commander in the West Bank recently signed the law, which will go into effect on May 9 [2020] and enables confiscation of the prisoners’ salaries from the banks or their [the salaries’] owners. At the same time, the occupation’s former Military Advocate General [PMW’s Head of Legal Strategies Maurice Hirsch] and an Israeli institute [PMW] sent the Palestinian banks a letter warning against the consequences of handling the prisoners’ salaries and [demanding] to act to close [the accounts].”

[Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, April 21, 2020]

Headline: “The [PLO] Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs: A new Israeli law considers the money paid to the prisoners to be ‘forbidden money’”
“[PLO] Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Spokesman Hassan Abd Rabbo said: ‘There is a new Israeli law that considers the money paid to the prisoners to be “forbidden money”’ (i.e., application of much of Israel’s Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank –Ed.).
In a statement he made on the official [PA] radio, The Voice of Palestine, he added: ‘According to the information, the Palestinian banks were sent notice of the need for its [the law’s] implementation along with a threat of legal procedures, and the banks will be penalized if they do not uphold this.’
He said: ‘These are salaries for the prisoners and released prisoners, and this law is liable to increase the tension within the prisons. This regards the beginning of this law’s implementation on May 9 [2020].’
Abd Rabbo emphasized that it is impossible to ignore these racist measures and laws, which harm all of the international laws and agreements that have been signed between the PLO and the occupation.”

[Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, April 21, 2020]

Headline: “The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club: The occupation is implementing new terror in punishing those who provide banking services to the prisoners’ families”
“The [PA-funded] Prisoners' Club says that the occupation authorities are implementing 'new terror against our people' by issuing a new military order that determines persecution and punishment of all of the people and institutions, and even the banks, that are working with the prisoners and their families and opening bank accounts for them (refers to the application of much of Israel's Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank, including rendering banks liable to punishment for facilitating PA terror salaries -Ed.). 
The Prisoners' Club considered the military order, which will come into effect on May 9 [2020], as a dangerous turning point that forces our people to prepare for a new confrontation with the occupation.
It was also stated that the Israeli occupation is continuing with all its means to attempt to harm the rights of the prisoners and their families by imposing more military laws and orders, and this is after it has failed in stopping the allowances of the families of the prisoners and the Martyrs, whose payment the Palestinian leadership has insisted on.
The Prisoners’ Club noted that the occupation is attempting to implement terror on the Palestinian banking system, and this will have consequences on tens of thousands of families of prisoners, especially since [the occupation] has begun to pursue the money of the families of the prisoners from occupied Jerusalem and the Green Line (i.e., Palestinian term for Israel; the Green Line is the ceasefire line between Israel and the neighboring Arab countries, 1949-1967)…

On the same topic, Prisoners’ Club Communications Director Amani Sarahaneh said… that the Prisoners’ Club has obtained the military order, examined its contents, and described the Israeli military order as dangerous. She said that its goal is to prevent the arrival of the monthly salaries that the PLO pays the families of the current prisoners and released prisoners.”

[Al-Jazeera, April 23, 2020]

Headline: "Israel incriminates the banks: Freeze the accounts of the prisoners and their relatives"
"Israel does not miss any trick to deny the allowances of the prisoners and the Martyrs and their families: Once by passing laws that allow the deduction of the sums that the [Palestinian] Authority pays from the annual tax transfers (i.e., Israel's Anti "Pay-for-Slay" Law to deduct terror salaries; see note below), another time through the states of the West that were asked to pressure Ramallah so that they would stop the allowance payments. And in the end, the solution was found: Impudence. The enemy has threatened to fine the Palestinian banks and put them on trial for ‘participating in the murder of Israelis’!
The enemy’s impudence has reached the point where former Israeli Military Advocate General in the occupied West Bank [and PMW Head of Legal Strategies] Atty. Maurice Hirsch is threatening the Palestinian banks that they will be exposed to lawsuits if they continue paying the allowances of the Palestinian prisoners that the PA transfers. Hirsch sent a letter to the banks in which he noted that on Feb. 9 [2020] ‘the military commander in the West Bank signed the Order for Security Provisions (amendment no. 67) (no. 1827 in 2020) [parentheses in source],’ and according to the new amendment 'The monthly allowances the PA pays to the prisoners constitute a prohibited action with terror assets
(This is an accurate quote of the letter, aside from substituting "allowances" for "salaries" and “terrorists imprisoned by Israel” for “the prisoners” –Ed.).’
Hirsch, who heads the Palestinian Media Watch institute (sic., the director of PMW is Itamar Marcus), threatened the banks that ‘As long as you continue holding accounts for imprisoned terrorists, you are turning yourself personally and the bank employees into partners in crime. A conviction for such a crime carries a sentence of up to seven years of imprisonment and a heavy fine.' (Accurate quote –Ed.). Beyond this, the former advocate general even said that if prisoners' accounts are found in the bank, either in their names or the names of their relatives or another person with their power of attorney, then 'The bank must freeze them and transfer them to the military commander of the West Bank region.' This means that if, for example, the brother of a prisoner has a bank account and he puts his salary into it, and [if] he is [also] the person with power of attorney to whom his prisoner brother's allowance money is sent, then this means that the bank must freeze this person's account.
The letter does not stop with orders to freeze accounts that are not subject to the Central Bank of Israel's authority. In addition to the fact that the letter is not yet Israeli legislation, it views the payments as 'reward for committing acts of terror,' which turns the Palestinian bank into 'a body that provides material support to terror, with everything this implies, including civil lawsuits to compensate the victims of the acts [of terror].' 
In other words, if the bank does not accede [to the demand to freeze the accounts], then Israeli wounded who were wounded in [Palestinian] acts of resistance, or the families of those killed, will be able to sue and demand compensation.
The threat is a completion of the freezing of the accounts of the relatives of the 1948 prisoners in the Israeli banks

The new threat, as Atty. Amani Ibrahim says to [Lebanese paper] Al-Akhbar, is ‘a completion of the decision issued by the Israeli army recently about freezing the accounts of relatives of the prisoners from among the 1948 Palestinians (i.e., Israeli Arab terrorists), and who the army thinks (since there is no evidence) [parentheses in source] is the beneficiary to whom the prisoners' allowance money is transferred. The army thinks for instance that Sana'a Salameh, the wife of prisoner Walid Daqqa (i.e., terrorist, involved in murder of 1), is his beneficiary, and therefore it froze her account, and this was also done with Jamal Bayadseh, the brother of prisoner Ibrahim [Bayadseh] (i.e., terrorist, responsible for the murder of 1).' Despite this, relatives of the 1948 prisoners, whose accounts have been frozen have submitted lawsuits in which they are attempting to prove that the money in their accounts is private money, and that there is no proof that it is their relatives' allowance money, in an attempt that 'will apparently succeed in overcoming the freeze decisions,' added [Atty. Amani] Ibrahim.
It seems that the occupation authorities have understood that this path is efficient for taking over the allowances of the 1948 prisoners, or freezing them, and therefore they sent a threatening letter to the Palestinian banks that contain all of the prisoners' [accounts], including people of occupied Palestine who they think have accounts there. What Israel wants [to achieve] with this threat is more than control over the allowances, as it is an invasion of their relatives' privacy by government order. All of this joins the legislation that has been passed in the Israeli Parliament in the last two years, which has been used more than once to refrain [from transferring] the money that Israel collects for the PA, which are estimated to be $190 million a month – and these are taxes on merchandise that passes through the Israeli ports and crossings on their way to the Palestinian markets. Israel has used the card of this pressure more than once, and this has left Ramallah with a large deficit, which has forced it to cut the salaries of its employees by half for a number of months. 
Since the PA recognizes the sensitivity of the matter of the prisoners and Martyrs in the Palestinian society, and that every step taken on this matter is liable to cause negative effects in this society, which might be turned against the PA itself – it has attempted more than once to bypass the Israeli decisions and the European and American pressures on this matter in recent years. 
This began with the dismantling of the [PA] Ministry of Prisoners and Released Prisoners' [Affairs], and turning it into an authority that is associated with the [Palestinian] Liberation Organization (PLO), so that the transfer of the allowances to the prisoners would be done from the [PLO] organization. However, now it is still not known what solution or maneuvering can be implemented if lawsuits are submitted against Palestinian banks, or if direct steps are taken against them, whether by Ramallah or the banks themselves – with all of the major and severe effects that these steps are liable to have on the situation of the prisoners and their relatives, and on their future.”

[Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), April 22, 2020]

Headline: "Abu Bakr after Israel threatened the banks: The attempts to make the prisoners' salaries illegal is a continuation of the policy of unruliness"
"Director of [PLO] Commission of Prisoners' Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr said on Tuesday [April 21, 2020]: The talk in Israel about passing a new occupation law that considers the money paid to the prisoners forbidden money is a continuation of the Israeli policy of piracy and unruliness against the rights of our prisoner fighters for freedom.
In a press release, Abu Bakr added that according to information published in the media, the Palestinian banks were given a notice on the matter so that they would implement it and act on the matter, along with a threat of legal proceedings and that the banks will be punished if they don't implement this…
He explained that the prisoners' cause is a top national priority and that we will not agree to it being harmed or to attempts to define it as crime through such racist and terrorist laws.
He added that it is not possible to ignore these racist steps and laws, which arbitrarily violate all international laws and harm the legitimacy of the Palestinian prisoner, who is fighting in order to be freed from the last terrorist occupation in the world.
It should be noted that former Military Advocate General Atty. [and PMW’s Head of Legal Strategies] Maurice Hirsch warned the Palestinian banks not to cooperate on the matter of the Palestinian prisoners' salaries because it is considered an illegal act…
He added that all of the Palestinian banks were sent notices regarding the new legislation."

[Amad, independent Palestinian news website, April 21, 2020]

Official PA TV program Giants of Endurance hosting Director of PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr
Director of PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr: “Regarding what we noted about the banks and the seizure of the prisoners’ allowances (mukhassasat), there was confusion on this. A few days ago the [Israeli] Military Advocate General published in a Hebrew paper that [the occupation] will seize the prisoners’ money and also notify the banks within the occupied land about the matter. After I made inquiries, [it turned out] this was the former [Israeli] Military Prosecutor General [in the West Bank and PMW Head of Legal Strategies Maurice Hirsch]. He [currently] has no [official] title at all. He submitted this proposal in the hopes that the government would adopt it. But the truth is that there is an order that was accepted and signed by the military governor in the occupied land regarding adding authorities to the army (refers to the application of much of Israel's Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank, including rendering banks liable to punishment for facilitating PA terror salaries -Ed.). He signed it on Feb. 9 [2020], and they will begin to implement it on May 9 [2020]; in other words, after three months. There are two basic clauses, including: an attorney who visited two or three [prisoners] in the same prison will be allowed to visit only one prisoner. This is a reduction from- Also, regarding someone who was recently arrested or suspected – the army surrounds his house and the military forces are allowed to seize anything they find. In other words, [if] there is a car in his home – they will seize it. That is new. Property and everything in his home – the army has been given authority to seize everything in his possession.”

[Official PA TV, Giants of Endurance, April 26, 2020]


Official Fatah Facebook page
Posted text: 
"In the name of All Merciful Allah
A statement by the Fatah Movement – Ramallah and El-Bireh Branch…

  1. Resistance against everything that will be declared after the assembly of a new occupation government that is based on its plans to continue new policies of annexation and expansion, expropriation of lands, legitimizing settlements, discrimination against the holy sites, giving a free hand to the herd of settlers in their continued destruction of the land, and exploitation of the international situation in order to implement the so-called deal of the century (i.e., US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan; see note below).
  2. Resistance against the occupation's new law that threatens the Palestinian banks not to cooperate and pay the rights to the families of the Martyrs, the prisoners, and the wounded and to continue the theft and piracy of the money of this fighter sector, which are [part of] the rights of the Palestinian people and its money."

Text on image: "Blessed Ramadan; happy holiday."

[Official Fatah Facebook page, April 23, 2020]

Headline: “The [PA-funded] Prisoners’ Club: The occupation is committing new terror against the prisoners and their families”
“The [PA-funded] Prisoners’ Club said yesterday [April 23, 2020] that the Israeli occupation government is committing new terror against the Palestinian people by issuing a new military order that persecutes and punishes all of the people, institutions, and even banks that work with the prisoners and their families and open bank accounts for them (refers to the application of much of Israel’s Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank –Ed.). The Prisoners’ Club said in a statement it issued that this military order, which will take effect on May 9 [2020], is a dangerous turning point that requires the Palestinian people with all its official frameworks and bodies – the civilian ones and those of the factions – to prepare for a new confrontation with the occupation. He added: ‘The Israeli occupation with all its tools is continuing the attempts to harm the rights of the Palestinian prisoners and their families, and also of the released prisoners, by imposing additional laws and military orders. This is after its failure to stop the allowances (mukhassasat) of the families of the prisoners and the Martyrs given the Palestinian leadership’s insistence on paying them (refers to Israel’s Anti “Pay-for-Slay” Law to deduct PA terror salaries; see note below –Ed.).
The Prisoners’ Club explained that throughout recent years the occupation has attempted to connect the Palestinian struggle and mix it with what is called the war on terror, so that this trend would include the Palestinian Martyrs and prisoners who have fought for their right to freedom and independence.
The Prisoners’ Club continued: ‘The occupation is beginning this new policy that attempts to impose terror on the Palestinian banking system, which will have consequences for tens of thousands of families of prisoners and released prisoners. This is especially because it has already actively begun to confiscate the money of families of prisoners and released prisoners from the territories that were occupied in 1948 (i.e., Israel) and from Jerusalem (refers to seizure of PA salaries paid to Israeli Arab terrorists –Ed.).’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 24, 2020]
 

Israeli army legislation which applies parts of Israel's 2016 Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank (taking effect on May 9, 2020). The law prohibits numerous terror related offenses, including terror funding/rewarding and holds heads of terror organizations responsible for murder committed by members of the organization. The law criminalizes the provision of funds for or the payment of rewards for the commission of terrorist offenses, such as the salaries the PA pays to terrorist prisoners and released prisoners. The provision also applies to any person or body - such as a bank - that facilitates such funding or rewarding of terror offenses. Based on this last provision, PMW sent letters in April 2020 to the heads of banks in the PA areas warning them that they must freeze the accounts of terrorists and their proxies and transfer them to the Israeli army or face legal consequences.

Israel's Anti "Pay-for-Slay" Law - Israeli law stating that the PA payments to terrorists and the families of dead terrorists is a financial incentive to terror. The law instructs the state to deduct and freeze the amount of money the PA pays in salaries to imprisoned terrorists and families of "Martyrs" from the tax money Israel collects for the PA. Should the PA stop these payments for a full year, the Israeli government would have the option of giving all or part of the frozen money to the PA. The law was enacted by the Israeli Parliament on July 2, 2018, and its first implementation was approved by Israel's Security Cabinet on Feb. 17, 2019, when it decided to withhold 502,697,000 Israeli shekels (approximately $138 million) from the PA. In response, the PA announced it would not accept any of the tax money collected by Israel unless it also included the frozen amount. During the initial parliamentary vote in 2018, the law's sponsor Avi Dichter said: “The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee received much help in its deliberations... from Palestinian Media Watch who provided us with authentic data that enabled productive and professional deliberations, nuances that are very difficult to achieve without precise data.” [Israeli Parliament website, July 2, 2018]

Walid Daqqa - Israeli Arab member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). He is serving a life sentence for being part of the squad that kidnapped and murdered Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984. 

Israeli Arab terrorist and member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror organization who led the terror cell that kidnapped and murdered Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam in August 1984. The cell was apprehended in 1986 and its members were sentenced to life, but Israeli President Shimon Peres reduced their sentences in 2012 to terms of 35 to 45 years.

The Trump peace plan – US President Donald Trump announced his Israel–Palestinian peace plan "Peace to Prosperity" – commonly known as “the deal of the century” - on Jan. 28, 2020. Main points of the plan: 1- Israeli sovereignty would be applied to the Jordan Valley and all Israeli towns and cities in the West Bank. 2- Jerusalem, including all its holy sites, would remain under Israeli sovereignty with accommodations made to enable access for Palestinians. 3- The remainder of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and part of what is currently Israeli land in the Negev, the Galilee, and Jerusalem - creating a territory almost equal in size to the West Bank and Gaza Strip - would form the Palestinian state, with its capital in neighborhoods in East Jerusalem that are outside of Israel's security wall. 4- The Palestinian state would be demilitarized, with Israel responsible for external security and controlling all airspace. 5- All Palestinian prisoners except murderers, and those who attempted or conspired to murder would be released. 6- Palestinians in refugee camps would be absorbed into their host countries and, subject to certain limitations, into the Palestinian state. 7- Before becoming a state, the Palestinians would have to carry out extensive reform of their laws and institutions, including implementing a new governing system; granting its people due process and basic human rights and freedoms; end all incitement to and incentivizing of terror; end all glorification of terror and martyrdom; disarm Hamas; and adopt a culture promoting peace. The goal of the plan is to create a Palestinian state beside Israel, living in peace and security. The implementation would be facilitated through extensive international investment.