Will international pressure end “pay for slay?”

A new trend of legislation against the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) “Pay for Slay” – the PA Government’s “martyr funding” program – is under way. The “martyr” program creates incentives for terrorists by providing a lifetime of monthly stipends to convicted terrorists and to the families of dead terrorists. The monthly stipends given to the terrorists and their families both support them financially and glorify terrorism. Further, the program provides incentives for family members and others to commit more attacks.

Payments to these Palestinian prisoners are under the PA’s “fighting sector” category and terrorists’ families receive monthly salaries that are considerably higher than poor families’ quarterly “monetary aid,” not to mention the average wage for Palestinians. Further, a terrorist’s socioeconomic status is not a factor in determining how much money they receive. The payments are based on how long the prison sentence is, which is a reflection of the severity of their crime – the more brutal the terrorist attack is, the more money the terrorist will be paid. The PA has a schedule for these payments, where recipients need to be sentenced to at least 5 years in prison if male and at least 2 years if female to get a lifetime annuity. Today, there are 6,500 prisoners who are paid by the PA. Notably, the PA set aside $360 million in their budget for these specific payments, which is more than 45 percent of the foreign aid that it received in 2018.

Efforts by governmental leaders to stop “Pay for Slay”

Efforts by the United States, Israel, and Australia are now in place to help stop the funding of Palestinian terrorists by restricting direct funding to the PA.

The action against the PA’s use of funds to incite terror began with the United States’ passage of the Taylor Force Act on March 23, which fully cut off funds for terrorism in the West Bank and Gaza. The US will halt all direct aid to the PA until the Palestinian Authority  terminates financial transfers to terrorists, denounces the Palestinian terrorists and properly investigates the terrorists’ crimes. The Act is named after a US army veteran named Taylor Force who was killed in a stabbing attack in Jaffa in 2016. Shortly after the attack, “the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party glorified the terrorist who killed Force.”

According to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee aide, the US funding to the West Bank and Gaza Strip is on hold pending a formal review of the situation. The USAID office in charge of the Palestinian territories is currently without a budget for the next year in order to figure out a way of making aid payments to Palestinians without directly benefiting the PA itself. Further, the Taylor Force Act exempts various PA projects that will continue to receive US funding, which includes hospitals in east Jerusalem, wastewater programs and child vaccination missions.

Inspired by the passage of the Taylor Force Act, July 2 saw Israeli lawmakers approve legislation by an overwhelming majority to withhold tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority to harm the PA’s “pay for slay” program. The amount to be withheld will be equal to the amount paid by the PA to terrorists and their families as part of the Martyr funding program.

Elazar Stern, a Yesh Atid Knesset member, stated, “We must stop the economic incentive the Palestinian Authority provides to terrorists, an incentive that encourages others to commit terror. Every Palestinian youth will understand it doesn’t pay to choose the path of terror.” The idea behind this new legislation is also to force the PA into funding infrastructure and development versus terror and bloodshed.

In line with Israel’s efforts, Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Julie Bishop MP, announced, on the same day as Israel’s new legislation, that the Australian Government will no longer fund the World Bank’s Multi-Donor Trust Fund for the Palestinian Recovery and Development Program. The announcement came after Bishop wrote to the Palestinian Authority on May 29 to seek assurance that Australian funds were not being used for politically motivated violence. There is concern that these funds may be currently being used for these purposes. The Australian Government will ensure that vulnerable Palestinian civilians will not miss out on access to basic services, such as healthcare, food, water, improved sanitation and shelter as a result of this decision. The $10 million budget will now be sent to the United Nations’ Humanitarian Fund for the Palestinian Territories.

The whole Australian budget for Palestinians this year totalled $43.8 million. Twenty million dollars of the budget is given to the UN Relief and Works Agency, which is known to spend a significant amount of funds buying PA textbooks. The issue with this is that these textbooks do not advocate for peace, according to a recent report from the Centre for Near East Policy Research in Jerusalem. The report said that none of these books “advocates peace and coexistence with Israel, or hints at the possibility of solving the conflict peacefully.” Further, these books advocate for only one solution to the conflict: “violent struggle for the liberation of the whole of Palestine.” Australia should therefore consider withdrawing funds from this program in addition to no longer funding the PA.

The reactions from the Palestinian Authority

Although the efforts listed above are a positive step towards ending “Pay for Slay,” the Palestinian Authority does not have any intention of ending the programs.

Instead of accepting that the “pay for slay” program is an unacceptable activity, members of the PA claim that Israel’s recent fund withdrawal defines resistance as a crime. The PA uses the word resistance regularly because they claim that the Palestinians have “a right under international law to murder Israeli civilians because it is legitimate ‘resistance,’” according to Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik from Palestinian Media Watch.

Marcus and Zilberdik further argue that Senior Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) official, Hanan Ashrawi, claims that Palestinian terrorist prisoners should receive their monthly payments because the murder of Israeli men, women, and children is not considered a crime. Additionally, Abbas’ deputy chairman of Fatah, Mahmoud Al-Aloul, the man who may replace Abbas as the leader of the PA, eulogizes terrorist murderers as “heroes” and “freedom fighters.”

In response to the new foreign legislation to condemn the PA’s program, Al-Aloul underlined the PA’s intention to continue to sponsor the terrorists and their families. He proclaimed: “We are speaking about [imprisoned] heroes and fighters, about freedom fighters. We will continue to support them and struggle for their freedom, and we will refuse to bargain over this. We oppose the American Congress’ decisions (i.e., to stop funding the PA until it stops rewarding terror) on this matter. Even if we are left with only a few pennies, we will allocate them only to the families of the Martyrs and to the prisoners.”

A case study

On July 5, Islam Abu Hmeid was arrested for committing an act of terror and joined his four brothers in prison who are all serving several life sentences for murder and participating in terror attacks. The PA declared a fifth brother, also involved in murdering Israelis, a Martyr as he was killed while being arrested. Due to the Martyr program, the Abu Hmeid family receives a considerable amount of income, a cumulative sum of US$1,007,611 in May 2018 to be exact.

Below is a breakdown of each brother and what they make through the terrorist funding program:

Nasser Abu Hmeid: serving 7 life sentences for murdering 7 Israeli civilians and 12 attempted murders. He receives US$2,900 a month

Nasr Abu Hmeid: serving 5 life sentences for involvement in 2 terror attacks. He receives US$2,300 a month

Sharif Abu Hmeid: serving 4 life sentences for accompanying a suicide bomber to his attack in 2002. He receives US$2,300 a month.

Muhammad Abu Hmeid: serving 2 life sentences and 30 years for involvement in terror attacks. He receives US$2,000 a month.

One month before Islam Abu Hmeid’s attack, his mother, Latifa – also known as Khansa of Palestine, after Al-Khansa from early Islam, whose four sons died as Martyrs – was hosted by Abbas for the second time in a year. Latifa is paid a monthly stipend of $400 a month. By way of comparison, the average Palestinian makes 99.4 shekels (US$28.4) per day in the West Bank and 58.1 shekels (US$16.6) per day in Gaza.

After the arrest of her son for the murder of staff sergeant Ronen Lyubarsky, the PA again honoured Latifa. Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki praised Latifa as the mother “who paid the price of the homeland with the sacrifices her heroic sons made from a young age.” He also called her “an example of the Palestinian mother, before whose willpower and determination we bow.”

Latifa has been honoured several times in the past, including recognition on International Women’s Day in 2015 when she was presented with a rose and a plaque of honour. It is truly no wonder so many Palestinian youth go down the path of terrorism.

Conclusion

The PA’s “Pay for Slay” program incentivizes the desire to commit acts of terrorism by not only paying the terrorists and their families, but also by glorifying their family names. Although there is now political pressure from the US, Israel and now Australia to stop the programs, the PA has no intention of doing so. Frighteningly, the PA claims that these terrorists are not truly criminals and deserve to be treated as freedom fighters. One can only hope that enough economic pressure can force the PA to start using its funds for development and infrastructure, but for now, it seems as Abbas and other Palestinian leaders will keep the program until every last penny is gone.