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The PA’s responsibility for terror

Maurice Hirsch, Adv.  |

One of the main reasons to hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for all Palestinian terror is the fact that the PA refers to all terrorists, irrespective of their terror group affiliations, as its “soldiers” who acted upon its “orders.” The messaging of the PA is so clear on the subject, that even the terrorists themselves and their families see the terrorists as “soldiers.” PA leaders and terrorists also often invoke different provisions of the Third Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, which applies only to soldiers and lawful combatants, as the basis for the rights and privileges of the terrorist prisoners.

A recent expression of this clear feeling of “agency” - the legal term that refers to a relationship between a principal (the PA) and that person's agent (the terrorists) - came from Munir Zgheir, the father of terrorist Ashraf Zgheir, who clarified that Palestinians see the terrorists as “soldiers” who have the “right to fight” according to the Geneva Convention:

“We were surprised that he was a fighter and that he was one of the soldiers ending the occupation. [This is what] we call all our prisoners, and they are considered soldiers ending the occupation. They have a right to fight against the occupation in their land according to Article 81 of the Geneva Convention, which gives them authority to fight in their land. Therefore, they are actually soldiers… I say to the entire world: Our guys in prison, our prisoners, including my sons, are the best people in the land. They are a school for virtues, a school for giving, a school for altruism.”

[Official PA TV, Jerusalem Prisoners, Dec. 27, 2021]

The terrorist “soldier” who earned the adulation of his father, Ashraf Zgheir, is a Palestinian terrorist and Hamas member who drove suicide bomber Iyad Raddad to Tel Aviv’s Allenby Street on Sept. 19, 2002, where Raddad boarded a bus and detonated a bomb, murdering 6 people and wounding 84 others. Zgheir used his Israeli residency status to be able to move around freely and select targets. On Oct. 11, 2002, Zgheir attempted to facilitate another bombing, driving suicide bomber Rafat Mouqadi to the Tel Aviv promenade where he instructed him to detonate a bomb at a restaurant. Israeli security guards thwarted the attack and arrested Mouqadi. Two days later, Zgheir received instructions from Hamas to carry out another bombing, but he was arrested before he could do so. Zgheir is serving 6 life sentences.

As Palestinian Media Watch has already shown, the Palestinian terrorists are not lawful combatants and the Third Geneva Convention does not apply to them in any way. Even the ex-PA Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, Ashraf Abu Ajrami, has conceded that the Palestinian terrorists couldn’t be considered as “Prisoners of War.”

The PA acceptance of all the terrorists as their soldiers is expressed in numerous ways.

Firstly, section 2 of the 2004 PA Law of Prisoners and Released Prisoners, declares that “The prisoners and released prisoners are a fighting sector, and an inseparable part of the Palestinian society, and this law is meant to ensure dignified lives for them and their families.” Section 4 of the law mandates that the PA “will not sign and will not participate in the signing of a peace agreement for a solution of the Palestinian problem without the release of all the prisoners.”

Secondly, PA leaders constantly refer to the terrorists as “prisoners of war” i.e. soldiers and occasionally directly call them “soldiers”. Just recently, the Chairman of the PA-funded Prisoners’ Club Qadura Fares again reaffirmed the PA position. Fares stated that all prisoners are “soldiers” who “fought according to instructions” from the Palestinian leadership:

Chairman of the PA-funded Prisoners’ Club Qadura Fares: “[Prisoners from] the Palestinian national movement (i.e., Fatah) and the Palestinian national and Islamic factions (i.e., the PFLP, Hamas, Islamic Jihad) fought according to instructions from them. They are their soldiers in the battle.”

[Facebook page of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Feb. 2, 2021]

When explaining the PA demand that Israel release all the Palestinian terrorists, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas left no room for misconceptions:

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas: "I demand [the release of] prisoners because they are human beings, who did what we, we, ordered them to do. We - the [Palestinian] Authority. They should not be punished while we sit at one table negotiating…

This is war. One (i.e., Israel) ordered a soldier to kill, and I ordered my son, brother, or others, to carry out the duty of resistance (i.e., euphemism for terror). This person killed and the other person killed. So why say this person's hands are stained with blood, and [he] must be kept in prison? He is a fighter just like any other fighter…”

[Official PA TV, Feb. 14, 2005]

Thirdly, section 7 of the PA Law of Prisoners and Released Prisoners provides that the PA will pay a monthly salary to every terrorist arrested by Israel as a result of his participation in the “struggle against the occupation.”   

Accordingly, if the PA sees all the terrorists as it soldiers, pays them a salary as if they are PA employees and claims that they should be released by Israel because they acted as “soldiers” on the orders of the PA, and the terrorist themselves also see themselves as “soldiers,” both sides give rise to the principle of “Agency”, and the PA is responsible for all Palestinian terror.

Finally, it should be noted that the reference by the terrorist’s father to “article 81 of the Geneva Convention, is entirely unclear. Article 81 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV), deals only with the treatment of “internees” and the support of their dependents. Article 81 applies only to “internees” and not to terrorists who are standing trial, convicted, or released from prison or to the families of dead terrorists. The only “internees” held by Israel are Palestinian terrorists held in administrative detention in accordance with Article 78 of GCIV, and Israel fulfills all its obligations vis-a-vis these “internees.” Article 81 of the Third Geneva Convention (GCIII) refers to preferential treatment for the representatives of prisoners of war. Neither Article 81 of GCIV nor Article 81 of GCIII gives anyone "authority to fight." Neither of the provisions authorizes indiscriminate terror attacks on a civilian population. 

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