Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

PA subsidising terror on foreign dime

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Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release last week calling attention to the Palestinian Authority's ongoing policy of financial assistance to security prisoners in Israeli jails, as well as grants and guaranteed well-paid government jobs upon their release.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is giving very large grants and generous monthly stipends to terrorists. These convicted murderers - 52 of whom already have been released from prison by Israel in the framework of the negotiating process with the Palestinians - are receiving grants of up to $50,000 and monthly stipends of up to nearly $4,000.

Thus the PA is supporting incitement to terrorism, including through the misuse of foreign financial assistance.

The pay and bonus scale is especially shocking when compared to the average income for Palestinians in general, the press release continued.

The amounts of money being bestowed upon these terrorists are large not only in and of themselves, but in particular in contrast to the average monthly salaries of Palestinian workers in the West Bank, which stands at $641 [or $7,692 per annum], according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

This means that a $50,000 bonus is equal to 6.5 times the average Palestinian annual salary! By comparison, Australians make an average of about A$70,000 a year (including benefits). 

Picture the immorality, then, of giving a brutal convicted murderer six and a half times that average - A$455,000 - upon his release from prison, as well as that murderer collecting a salary in the six digits while still sitting in his cell, and a job with an even fatter salary and responsibilities waiting for you when you get out.

Incredibly, this is not only the situation in the Palestinian Authority, but it is being paid for almost entirely through foreign aid, as is the rest of the Palestinian government enterprise.

Edwin Black, author of Financing the Flames: How Tax-exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terror in Israel, explained the situation this way in a recent article:

Under a sliding scale, carefully articulated in the Law of the Prisoner, the more heinous the act of terrorism and the longer the prison sentence, the higher is the salary. Detention for up to three years fetches a salary of almost $400 per month. Prisoners incarcerated between three and five years will be paid about $560 monthly - a compensation level already higher than that for many ordinary West Bank jobs. Sentences of 10 to 15 years fetch salaries of about $1,690 per month. More severe acts of terrorism, those punished with sentences between 15 and 20 years, earn almost $2,000 per month. These are the best salaries in the Palestinian territories. The Arabic word ratib, meaning "salary," is the official term for this compensation. The law ensures the greatest financial reward for the most egregious acts of terrorism.

Just to clarify, Black's figures refer to the prisoners while they are in jail - as the Israeli Foreign Ministry report explains, their guaranteed income increases again after they are released from prison.

Unfortunately, the PA's policy of making heroes out of freed prisoners is nothing new, though the outrage surrounding the large sums of money being transferred to the former convicts and the honour and prestige given by the PA to recently released murderers of men, women and children has been well covered in the Israeli press.

For Israel, the message the Palestinian Authority is sending to clear: If you're unemployed and you are looking for a way to make a good income, why not try to kill an Israeli? The longer your jail term, the more you will earn. You will come out of jail a celebrity, with a large bonus and an important, well-paid job waiting for you.

The PA's incitement, which is not only an obstacle to peace, but antithetical to peace, has permeated the Palestinian government to the point where it has become part and parcel of the government institutions. The payment scheme from the PA to security prisoners in Israeli jails was formally put in place by a Palestinian law enacted in 2011.

The Palestinian Authority now devotes 6% of its budget to payments for security prisoners in Israeli jails.

This "salary" was increased by the PA last year even as the Palestinian government struggled to pay the wages of actual public servants (Ha'aretz subscription required).

As mentioned before, this is not the first time this story has been in the news. A freelence article on the subject in the UK's Daily Mail by Jerusalem Post correspondent Jonny Paul last year was met by incredulous and outraged response in the online feedback.

There's an 80 million quid saving straight away. How dare our taxes be used to pay terrorists! This is outrageous if true.

An op-ed by Douglas Murray in the Wall Street Journal, published about the same time, also brought to light British taxpayer funding of Palestinian prisoner stipends.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) director Itamar Marcus and senior analyst Nan Jacques Zilberdik produced a report for the Gatestone Institute in 2011 showing that the payments made by the PA to convicted terrorists violated US law regarding the use of foreign aid.

Some European governments have defended the payments issued as "social welfare" to the families of the prisoners, deferring to the explanation given to them by the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian viewpoint was expressed succinctly by Joharah Baker, Director of the Media and Information Department at Hanan Ashrawi's Palestinian NGO MIFTAH in a shameless 2011 op-ed for the Palestine Telegraph website titled "Let us honour our own":

These men and women are not imprisoned for stealing cars, or for selling drugs. They are there because they are resisting a belligerent military occupation of their land, which has oppressed them and their people for decades. The PA's allocations to prisoners and their families is in no way an endorsement of "terrorism and violence" but rather a means of helping mostly young men and women and their families to resume a life that has been interrupted by an occupying authority. Any other country would have done the same.

However, the claim that subsidies constitute social welfare for the families of prisoners was debunked earlier this year, when it came to light that a prisoner had been depriving his family access to his stipend. The money is clearly a monetary reward directly to the violent offender.

When the Palestinian government ensures that people who perpetrate acts of violent terrorism receive better pay and a brighter future in society than those who don't, this isn't "honoring those who resist" - it's encouraging more and more Palestinians to pursue terrorism simply as a sensible career choice.

The onus is now on the US, EU and other financial backers of the PA to refuse to continue to fund this deplorable policy - in the interests of peace, as well as basic morality.

Rounding out the story, the press monitoring organisation Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) issued a report earlier this month revealing some candid interviews with Palestinian prisoners convicted of murder, showing many have no regrets about what they did and also contradicting the oft-heard allegations that Palestinian prisoners are mistreated in Israeli jails.

On October 30, Asrar Samrin who was serving a life sentence for the murder of Israeli Tzvi Klein (Dec. 3, 1991) recently told Palestinian reporters:

"Through the great PA TV, I say to the Israelis: There is no Palestinian who did something for the homeland and his nation who will regret it. We don't regret what we did and we will not regret what we did."

The same PMW report revealed an interview earlier this year with released Palestinian terrorist Muhammad Hilal, contradicting the accusation often made by the Palestinians to foreign media that Palestinian prisoners are routinely mistreated in Israeli prisons.

"In the morning we'd exercise from 7:00 until 8:00... Then the guys would get together in the prison yard and we'd chat, talk, eat, drink, joke and play, etc., throughout the day... Noon roll-call is from 11:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Roll-call time is time for resting in the rooms... Nap time, reading time, study time... At 1:30 or 12:30 p.m. they'd take us out to the yard again. We'd spend [time] with the guys walking, laughing, playing, joking, etc., until dark."

The question should be asked - why would a released prisoner have two opposing narratives of their incarceration: One for foreign consumption, which speaks of mistreatment, and another for Palestinian audiences, which admits it is not particularly unpleasant.

The inescapable conclusion is that, this too is part of the message being disseminated from the PA to Palestinian society. Namely, the reassurance to potential terrorists that Israeli prisons aren't really bad at all, and that the life of a convicted terrorist may not only be a sensible career choice leading to ample financial rewards and to becoming an admired celebrity in Palestinian society, but one which doesn't necessarily require a great deal of sacrifice or hardship.

Ahron Shapiro