US Assistant Secretary of State gives incorrect testimony to Congress about PA salaries to terrorists
US Assistant Secretary of State gives incorrect testimony to Congress about PA salaries to terrorists,
disregards Palestinian Media Watch's repeated documentation
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
In testimony to Congress, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, defended the Palestinian Authority practice of paying salaries to terrorists in prison saying "they have to provide for the families." [April 29, 2014]
Palestinian Media Watch has documented repeatedly that this is not correct. According to PA law and in practice the PA does not give stipends to terrorist prisoners' families but salaries to the terrorist prisoners themselves. PMW has already reported that the PA Minister of Prisoners vocally rejected the claim that the payments are social welfare aid to the prisoners' families, stressing instead that the prisoners receive salaries "out of esteem." [WAFA, the official PA news agency, Dec. 27, 2012, see full quote below] This was likewise corroborated by Chairman of the PA-funded Prisoners' Club Qadura Fares when he announced that the PA had decided on a final version of the law, "which considers payments made to prisoners 'salaries,' (Arabic: ratib) to which no other term applies." [Al-Quds Internet edition, Dec. 27, 2012]
In addition, when challenged by Congressman Weber at the hearing on the Administration's Middle East and North Africa Budget Request for 2015 about possibly cutting off US funding because of the PA salary program to terrorists, Assistant Secretary Patterson twice told the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa that she "knows" that the PA "are going to try to phase that out, and we should give them an opportunity to do so."
There is nothing in all the activities and statements of the PA to back up that claim. PMW has not encountered any PA statements regarding a "phasing out" of the salaries to terrorists. To the contrary, in 2013 and 2014, PA officials have regularly been adding additional regulations and benefits for prisoners. In addition, they have reiterated in government meetings and in public statements to Palestinians that the salaries and other benefits to prisoners is a high priority for the Palestinian Authority and will continue. At a government meeting earlier this month, the PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said the PA places "prisoners at the top of its priorities" and that they will continue to implement the "Prisoners' and Released [Prisoners'] Law" - which specifically refers to salaries and other payments to prisoners:
"During its weekly meeting, which was held in Ramallah yesterday [April 1, 2014], [and] chaired by [PA] Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah... the government respectfully and admiringly saluted our heroic prisoners in the occupation prisons, and also proudly saluted our released prisoners... In accordance with the leadership's position, which places the issue of the prisoners at the top of its priorities, and in accordance with the President's [Mahmoud Abbas'] instructions, the government emphasizes its commitment to implement the Prisoners' and Released [Prisoners'] Law, and to take any [steps] that may enable the prisoners, the released [prisoners] and their families to live in dignity, out of loyalty to their sacrifice."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 2, 2014]
Patterson's statement that the PA is "phasing out" these payments to terrorists contradicts the public policy and statements by PA officials.
In 2013, when the British and Norwegian governments told their parliaments that the PA told them the money was for "families," PMW released a report entitled "Is the PA lying to European governments in order to receive European funding?" After this report's release, the Norwegian Foreign Minister publicly acknowledged that PMW's documentation was correct and said he had reported incorrectly to parliament because "it is unfortunate that the information that was first communicated [by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry] to Parliament and which was based on information obtained from the PA at the time, in retrospect, is imprecise."
When asked if she know how much the PA pays prisoners a year by Congressman Weber, Assistant Secretary Patterson only mentioned PA's payments to families, and the PA's payments to "people after they're released," leaving out the largest payments going to imprisoned terrorists:
"No, I don't have a figure, they pay families whose relatives are imprisoned and then they do pay some of these people after they're released..."
PMW's special report to a UK Parliamentary Committee investigating payments to the PA, which was publicized earlier this year documents that in 2013 the PA paid over $100 million to terrorist prisoners, and more benefits totaling an additional $46 million dollars are being added in 2014.
Asked why the US has not acted on the issue of the PA's payments to terrorists, despite knowing about it for a long time, Assistant Secretary Patterson said:
"I think, one, it is a political issue for the Palestinians, that these people are in jail, they have to provide for the families, and again I think they plan to phase it out." [April 29, 2014]
During his question time, Congressman Weber also asked Assistant Secretary Patterson if she knew "who initially sounded the alarm that this money was going to those terrorists," the Assistant Secretary did not know, but answered it had "been the case for some time."
The PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs has also rejected the European demand not to pay salaries to terrorist prisoners saying last November:
"The Europeans want their money that comes to us to remain clean - not to go to families of those they claim to be terrorists... These [prisoners] are heroes..."[Official PA TV Live, Nov. 4, 2013]
In a recent interview with the British daily The Telegraph, the PA also corroborated that the salary figures exposed by PMW are correct:
"When the Sunday Telegraph approached the Palestinian Authority to investigate these claims, officials confirmed that the payments quoted by PMW are 'around the real figures'. And they were unapologetic." [The Telegraph, April 27, 2014]
This broadcast also refutes the claim made by Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Patterson that they give salaries to terrorists because "they have to provide for the families."
Click to view additional PMW reports and documentation of by PA leaders confirming the policy of rewarding terrorists with salaries.
Excerpts from testimony by Assistant Secretary of State, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson at congressional Subcommittee Hearing on the Middle East and North Africa: TheAdministration's FY 2015 MENA Budget Request: Priorities, Objectives and Challenges, April 29, 2014:
Congressman Weber: Ambassador Patterson, do you have a dollar figure
on the amount of stipends, or I forget what they call it, going to the terrorists in prison and the salaries?
Assistant Secretary Patterson: No I don't have a figure, this is, they pay families
whose relatives are imprisoned and then they do pay some of these people after they're released and I don't have that figure...
Congressman Weber: If the PA is paying for terrorists in prison, we ought to also be willing to hit them with some economic sanctions of that sort, don't you agree?
Assistant Secretary Patterson: Sir, I think this obviously is a difficult problem, and when they pay the families of people that are in prison and they pay stipends, I would say that is a political prison and I frankly know that they're going to try and phase that out and we should give them an opportunity to do so.
Congressman Weber: But we can help them phase that out. We could give them some encouragement.
Assistant Secretary Patterson: I would be hard pressed to say which of the programs for the PA we should cut, I would be very hard pressed to say that.
Congressman Weber: Well, I think if we made it clear that we were cutting that dollar amount... Who brought this to light that they were paying terrorists in prison and the families of terrorists, the PA was, do you know?
Assistant Secretary Patterson: I don't know.
Congressman Weber: Why do you think we haven't acted on it to date?
Assistant Secretary Patterson: Because I think, one, that it is a political issue for the Palestinians, that these people are in jail, they have to provide for the families, and again I think that they plan to phase it out.
[House Committee on Foreign Affairs' website, April 29, 2014]