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PA banks heed PMW warning and start closing terrorist bank accounts

Maurice Hirsch Adv. and Itamar Marcus  |
  • PMW cracks the weakest link in the PA’s “Pay for Slay” payments
  • Banks closing “will anger the prisoners’ family members and various groups in the Palestinian people”
  • PMW will be watching closely to see how the PA will attempt to transfer monthly salaries amounting to nearly 50 million shekels to 6,000 terrorist prisoners, without using the banking system  

Banks operating in the Palestinian Authority are heeding the warning of Palestinian Media Watch and have started closing bank accounts of Palestinian terrorist prisoners. PMW’s recent letter warned bank officials that failing to close the accounts could result in potential criminal and civil action for aiding and abetting the payment of the PA’s terror rewards to terrorist prisoners when Israeli legislation regarding this procedure is applied in two days. In recent days different Arab media outlets have reported that some banks active in the PA are already rushing to close the accounts of terrorist prisoners and released prisoners before the new law takes effect. 

PMW’s warning letter informed the banks of the new Israeli legislation that explicitly criminalizes the PA’s salary payments to the terrorist prisoners and also prohibits facilitating the payment of these rewards for terror. In the letter, PMW warned the banks of the legal repercussions they would face. 

Based on the speed by which the PA banks are responding to PMW’s letter, it seems that PMW accurately identified the banks as the weak link in the PA’s terror reward program. Many of these banks are foreign banks that conduct business internationally and would not want to be tainted by the threat of criminal or civil proceedings for supporting terrorism. 

Significantly, the reports about the banks closing accounts of the terrorist prisoners did not appear in the official PA-controlled media, but rather appeared in independent Palestinian or Arab news sources.  

PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs spokesman, Hassan Abd Rabbo, confirmed that families of terrorists are already complaining that their bank accounts have been closed and he also confirmed that the PA is holding discussions about this new crisis: 

“[PLO] Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Spokesman Hassan Abd Rabbo confirmed to the [independent Palestinian] paper Al-Hadath that complaints have come in from the families of prisoners and released prisoners against two banks that are active in the Palestinian territories, because they have closed the prisoners’ bank accounts.
He added that today, Wednesday [May 6, 2020], a meeting will be held on the matter between the [PA] Monetary Authority and the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs.” 
Documents obtained by Al-Hadath revealed that Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) Director of Legal Strategies and former Head of Israeli Military Prosecution Itamar Marcus (sic., Maurice Hirsch; Itamar Marcus is PMW director) warned the Palestinian banks of the consequences that there will be for continuing to maintain the prisoners’ accounts, through which the PA pays them salaries… It should be noted that PMW, which Marcus directs, issued a special report at the end of 2019 regarding the amount of money that the PA pays the prisoners, which according to the report had reached $517 million.”

[Al-Hadath, independent Palestinian weekly paper, May 6, 2020]

One Palestinian source depicted the decision of the banks with this cartoon, showing a credit card of the Jordan-based Cairo Amman Bank, which recently closed accounts of terrorist prisoners. The card is superimposed on a prison cell with a Palestinian flag on it, which is surrounded by barbed wire. 

[Credit for the image at bottom: “Palestine Live”]

An article published by Wattan, an independent Palestinian news agency, titled “Hello, close the account – Jordanian banks that are active in Palestine close released prisoners’ accounts, and other banks are on the way”, exposed that one of the banks had ordered the prisoners to pay off their debts and move their accounts to other banks: 

“Prisoners confirmed that today, [May 6, 2020], one of the Jordanian banks that is active in Palestine, [the Cairo Amman Bank,] closed bank accounts of prisoners who were released from the occupation’s prison, and this was in submission to pressures exerted by the occupation authorities.
According to the prisoners, the bank management demanded that they pay off their debts and transfer their accounts to other banks.

[Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, May 6, 2020]

Explaining the decision to close the accounts of the terrorists, the article continued:

“In the coming days, additional banks are expected to follow the [Cairo Amman] Bank and make similar decisions that will harm the released prisoners – which will anger the prisoners’ family members and various groups in the Palestinian people…
It should be noted that a former senior Israeli army member (i.e., PMW Director of Legal Strategies Maurice Hirsch) last month [April 2020] announced new legislation that would come into effect on May 9 [2020], which forbids the Palestinian banks from cooperating with the prisoners’ salaries [from the PA], and if not – they will find themselves exposed to a series of severe measures and sanctions, which are liable to go as far as lawsuits being submitted against them.
The new legislation, some of whose details were recently exposed by former Head of the Israeli Military Prosecution in the West Bank Maurice Hirsch, warns the banks against cooperating with the prisoners’ salaries, because this is an illegal act. It determines that ‘the monthly salaries the PA pays to the prisoners constitute forbidden payments, and it will be possible to confiscate this money from any person who is holding it.’
[Hirsch] told the banks that their continued cooperation with this ‘forbidden’ policy will expose them to civil suits.”

[Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, May 6, 2020]

Former PA Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, Wasfi Kabha, also responded to the new development in a post on his Facebook account expressing his surprise that the banks were preferring their own interests “over the prisoners’ interests”: 

“The bank must refuse the occupation’s dictates and cooperate with the other banks and banking institutions, in coordination with the relevant institutions in the PA and official institutions that deal with the prisoners and released prisoners’ affairs, in order to reject the occupation’s decisions and arbitrary measures.”

[Facebook of Wasfi Kabha]

The internet edition of the Qatari Al-Jazeera news agency also confirmed that both Jordanian and Palestinian banks havealready begun closing the accounts of the terrorist prisoners and the Martyrs. 

“Sources in the PA (sic., PLO) Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs confirmed that Palestinian and Arab banks have begun to close the accounts of the prisoners and Martyrs, in submission to Israeli pressures.
The sources said that two Jordanian banks and other Palestinian banks have already begun to close the accounts of the prisoners and Martyrs and have asked their owners to sign the closure documents, shortly before the Israeli ultimatum to these banks to close the accounts expires.”

[Al-Jazeera.net website, May 6, 2020]

Al-Jazeera further quoted the Director of the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Office in Bethlehem, Munqidh Abu Atwan, who called on the PA Monetary Authority to take a firm stand and close the banks that ordered the closure of the accounts of the terrorists:

“The Monetary Authority must take a firm stand regarding the banks that have frozen the prisoners’ accounts and cooperated with the occupation authorities’ decision… The Monetary Authority, which serves as the central bank, [must] close the banks and not give them privileges and easements.”

The PA Commissioner of Prisoners’ Affairs explained that the PA is trying to find a solution:

“Director of [PLO] Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr confirmed to [the UK Arab news website] Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that two of the banks that are active in Palestine have decided to close the prisoners’ accounts, because they fear the Israeli army order that was signed on Feb. 9 [2020] and will take effect on May 9 [2020].
Abu Bakr added: ‘The banks are afraid of dealing with the money of the prisoners and released prisoners, and are afraid that proceedings will be taken against them, including lawsuits by settlers.’
Abu Bakr noted that a meeting was held with the banks, the Monetary Authority, and the [PA] Ministry of Finance, and that an additional meeting will be held with the prisoners’ institutions in order to search for an opening.”

[Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, UK Arab news website, May 7, 2020]

PMW notes that the official PA media’s silence about the banks’ closing terrorist prisoners’ accounts, which for the PA is an issue of highest urgency, is an indication of how challenging this new situation is for the PA. 

PMW will be watching closely to see how the PA will attempt to transfer monthly salaries amounting to nearly 50 million shekels to 6000 terrorist prisoners, without using the banking system.  

The following are longer excerpts of the reports cited above

Headline: “The [PLO] Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs: Some of the banks have begun to close prisoners’ accounts”
“[PLO] Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Spokesman Hassan Abd Rabbo confirmed to the [independent Palestinian] paper Al-Hadath that complaints have come in from the families of prisoners and released prisoners against two banks that are active in the Palestinian territories, because they have closed the prisoners’ bank accounts.
He added that today, Wednesday [May 6, 2020], a meeting will be held on the matter between the [PA] Monetary Authority and the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs.
Documents obtained by Al-Hadath revealed that Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) Director of Legal Strategies and former Head of Israeli Military Prosecution Itamar Marcus (sic., Maurice Hirsch; Itamar Marcus is the director of PMW) warned the Palestinian banks of the consequences that there will be for continuing to maintain the prisoners’ accounts, through which the PA pays them salaries (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.)…
It should be noted that PMW, which Marcus directs, issued a special report at the end of 2019 regarding the amount of money that the PA pays the prisoners, which according to the report had reached $517 million. It called on the occupation government and the American administration to exert more pressure on the PA so that it would stop paying the prisoners’ salaries.”

[Al-Hadath, independent Palestinian weekly paper, May 6, 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.

Headline: “Hello, close the account – Jordanian banks that are active in Palestine close released prisoners’ accounts, and other banks are on the way”
“Prisoners confirmed that today, Tuesday (sic., Wednesday) [May 6, 2020], one of the Jordanian banks that is active in Palestine, [the Cairo Amman Bank,] closed bank accounts of prisoners who were released from the occupation’s prison, and this was in submission to pressures exerted by the occupation authorities.
According to the prisoners, the bank management demanded that they pay off their debts and transfer their accounts to other banks.
Released prisoner Wahid Abu Maria published a post on his Facebook page in which he called on all the institutions and organizations to work quickly and take practical steps on the ground regarding the bank…
Abu Maria added that this decision, if it passes, will soon apply to all the other banks. He also said that what this means is that there will be an internal battle [within Palestinian society], which is what the occupation is striving for…
On the same matter, former [PA] Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Wasfi Kabha said in a post on his Facebook page that he was surprised that one of the Jordanian banks that is active in Palestine obeyed the occupation’s decisions and submitted to its pressure, while giving the bank’s interests priority over the prisoners’ interests… by closing the released prisoners’ accounts…
Kabha added: ‘The bank must refuse the occupation’s dictates and cooperate with the other banks and banking institutions, in coordination with the relevant institutions in the PA and official institutions that deal with the prisoners and released prisoners’ affairs, in order to reject the occupation’s decisions and arbitrary measures…
The bank’s decision is not new. In the past, another Jordanian bank refused to activate the account of the daughter of prisoner Marwan Barghouti (i.e., terrorist, orchestrated three attacks in which 5 were murdered), because her father is a prisoner in the hands of the occupation. Ruba Barghouti said at the time on her Facebook page that she contacted one of the bank’s branches in order to activate her private account, which had been deactivated for a while, but when the bank clerk discovered that she was the daughter of prisoner Marwan Barghouti, he refused to activate the account. Ruba explained that the bank clerk informed her that he could not activate her account because she was the daughter of Marwan Barghouti, and this is against the bank’s policy.
Ruba noted that she contacted the bank’s deputy manager, who echoed the clerk’s words and explained this was because the bank’s policy does not allow opening accounts for some of the prisoners in the occupation’s prison and for their family members…
In the coming days, additional banks are expected to follow the [Cairo Amman] Bank and make similar decisions that will harm the released prisoners – which will anger the prisoners’ family members and various groups in the Palestinian people…
It should be noted that a former senior Israeli army member
(i.e., PMW Director of Legal Strategies Maurice Hirsch) last month [April 2020] announced new legislation that would come into effect on May 9 [2020], which forbids the Palestinian banks from cooperating with the prisoners’ salaries [from the PA], and if not – they will find themselves exposed to a series of severe measures and sanctions, which are liable to go as far as lawsuits being submitted against 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 new legislation, some of whose details were recently exposed by former Head of the Israeli Military Prosecution in the West Bank Maurice Hirsch, warns the banks against cooperating with the prisoners’ salaries, because this is an illegal act. It determines that ‘the monthly salaries the PA pays to the prisoners constitute forbidden payments, and it will be possible to confiscate this money from any person who is holding it.’
[Hirsch] told the banks that their continued cooperation with this ‘forbidden’ policy will expose them to civil suits.”

[Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, May 6, 2020]

Marwan Barghouti – Palestinian terrorist and member of the Palestinian Authority parliament who is serving 5 life sentences for orchestrating three shooting attacks in which 5 people were murdered: one attack on the Jerusalem-Maale Adumim road (June 12, 2001) in which Greek Orthodox monk Tsibouktsakis Germanus was murdered by terrorists Ismail Radaida and Yasser Ah'Rabai, another attack at a gas station in Givat Zeev near Jerusalem (Jan. 15, 2002) in which Yoela Hen was murdered by terrorists led by Mohammed Matla, and one shooting and stabbing attack at the Seafood Market restaurant in Tel Aviv (March 5, 2002) in which Eli Dahan, Yosef Habi, and Police Officer Sergeant-Major Salim Barakat, were murdered by terrorist Ibrahim Hasouna. When arrested by Israel in 2002, Barghouti headed the Tanzim (Fatah terror faction). After he was convicted and imprisoned, he was re-elected as a member of the Palestinian Authority parliament. On Dec. 4, 2016, he was elected to Fatah's Central Committee.

Headline: “In submission to Israeli pressures, banks close the accounts of prisoners and Martyrs”
“Sources in the PA (sic., PLO) Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs confirmed that Palestinian and Arab banks have begun to close the accounts of the prisoners and Martyrs, in submission to Israeli pressures.
The sources said that two Jordanian banks and other Palestinian banks have already begun to close the accounts of the prisoners and Martyrs and have asked their owners to sign the closure documents, shortly before the Israeli ultimatum to thesebanks to close the accounts expires.
Director of the [PLO] Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Office in Bethlehem Munqidh Abu Atwan said that a number of the banks have already closed the prisoners’ accounts, while all the other banks are on the way to closing these accounts.
He placed the responsibility on the Palestinian [PA] Monetary Authority, because it is not obligating the banks to continue their activity as [banks] that are subordinate to the Palestinian regulations.
Abu Atwan said that the Monetary Authority must take a firm stand regarding the banks that have frozen the prisoners’ accounts and cooperated with the occupation authorities’ decision (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 called on the Monetary Authority, which serves as the central bank, to close the banks and not give them privileges and easements.
It should be noted that the Israeli army commander of the West Bank decided to consider the salaries that the PA pays the prisoners in the Israeli prisons as ‘forbidden payments.’ The Palestinian banks were warned not to carry out forbidden acts connected to money associated with ‘terror’…
Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Spokesman Hassan Abd Rabbo previously told Al-Jazeera.net [on April 28, 2020] that the decision of the occupation’s military commander is ‘theft of Palestinian money, which is liable to increase the suffering of the prisoners and their family members.’ He noted that at the beginning of the current year, the money of more than 50 prisoners from the occupied Interior (i.e., Palestinian term for Israel) and Jerusalem was confiscated (refers to seizure of PA terrorist salaries from Israeli Arab terrorists –Ed.).
The official spokesman promised to continue to provide the prisoners and their family members with all that they require, in the framework of the authorities given to the Commission [of Prisoners’ Affairs] according to the Palestinian regulations and laws, as if the military order does not exist. 
In this way he hinted at the examination of alternatives for paying the money to which the prisoners are eligible.”

[Al-Jazeera.net website, May 6, 2020]

Headline: “Palestinian banks close the prisoners’ accounts for fear of being targeted by the occupation”
“Mahmoud Hammash, a resident of the Deheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, which is in the southern West Bank, was released from the Israeli occupation’s prison in 2018 after 14 years of imprisonment (PMW was unable to determine the nature of his crimes –Ed.). Since his release, he has been receiving the salary from the PA to which he is eligible as a former prisoner, in accordance with the [PA] Law of Prisoners and Released Prisoners, through a bank that is active in the Palestinian territories.
But on Tuesday [May 5, 2020], at the time of the payment of the salary, Mahmoud was surprised by a letter informing about the cancellation of his ATM card and urging him to close his account at the bank, because soon an Israeli army order banning cooperation with the prisoners’ salaries would come into effect (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.)…
Hammash is considering contacting another bank, but fears that the pressures will reach all the banks. He has demanded that the PA and the [PA] Monetary Authority stand against the occupation’s policy…
Many families have talked about a similar process that was not implemented only against released prisoners, but also included salaries of prisoners who are still imprisoned in the occupation’s prison. This is what happened to the family of prisoner Khaled Nawawreh (Nawawreh is serving a sentence of 25 years in prison, but PMW was unable to determine the nature of his crimes –Ed.) from Bethlehem who has been imprisoned since 2003. On Wednesday they contacted [the bank] to withdraw the salary, and the bank conditioned this on closing the account before withdrawing the money…
Despite the many complaints, Palestinian [PA] Monetary Authority Governor Azzam Al-Shawa… said that as of now ‘The banks have not closed accounts’ …
In contrast to these statements, Director of [PLO] Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr confirmed to [the UK Arab news website] Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that two of the banks that are active in Palestine have decided to close the prisoners’ accounts, because they fear the Israeli army order that was signed on Feb. 9 [2020] and will take effect on May 9 [2020].
Abu Bakr added: ‘The banks are afraid of dealing with the money of the prisoners and released prisoners, and are afraid that proceedings will be taken against them, including lawsuits by settlers.’
Abu Bakr noted that a meeting was held with the banks, the Monetary Authority, and the [PA] Ministry of Finance, and that an additional meeting will be held with the prisoners’ institutions in order to search for an opening. He anticipated that the issue would end at the start of next week, because they are discussing a number of proposals to extricate the bank (sic., banks) from the crisis and protect the prisoners’ salaries, in order to reach an appropriate and safe solution…

Qadri Abu Bakr noted that the goal of these measures is to define the Palestinian struggle as a crime and eliminate the Palestinian cause…
It should be noted that [the Israeli news website] Arutz Sheva revealed last month… that former Head of the Military Prosecution for the West Bank and Palestinian Media Watch Director [of Legal Strategies] Maurice Hirsch sent the Palestinian banks a letter warning them about being arrested and put on trial.”

[Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, UK Arab news website, May 7, 2020]