The full extent of the Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying “salaries” to terrorists and their families was revealed this week, with the bill said to have exceeded $1bn over the last four years.
The figure was revealed by Brig.-Gen (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, a former director general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and ex-head of the army’s intelligence and research division, in evidence to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
The PA denies it is the source of the salaries, which it claims are social welfare payments made by the PLO. However, investigations by Palestinian Media Watch last year uncovered that soon after publicly claiming to no longer be making the payments, the PA began transferring sums equivalent to the salary bill directly to the PLO.
Kuperwasser suggested to the committee that the PA’s claims that the payments to terrorists’ families are social welfare benefits to the needy are also untrue. The Palestinians’ own budgetary documents, he said, “clearly state that these are salaries and not welfare payments”.
That the payments are designed to incentivise terrorism is also clear, with longer sentences rewarded with higher salaries. “Anyone who has sat in prison for more than 30 years gets $3,360 per month,” said Kuperwasser. “When they’re released, they get a grant and are promised a job at the Palestinian Authority. They get a military rank that’s determined according to the number of years they’ve served in jail.”
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, the allowances range from $364 a month for a term of up to three years in prison to $3,120 for a term of 30 years. Terrorists from Jerusalem receive a monthly $78 supplement, while Arab Israeli terrorists receive a $130 supplement.
The PA’s payments, Kuperwasser charged, break several international agreements: “Assurance of a cash prize for acts of terror is encouragement to terrorism, and is against international law, international conventions, the Oslo accords, and other agreements that they have signed on.”
The payment of salaries to terrorist prisoners is perhaps the most egregious example of the PA’s policy of incitement, but it is simply one strand of it. Aside from a heavily anti-Semitic discourse on official PA media, including children’s TV programmes, the authority also regularly names schools, sports tournaments and youth camps after convicted terrorists.
International pressure on the PA now appears to be mounting. This week, Norway demanded the PA return funds to it that were used to build a women’s centre in the West Bank which was then named after Dalal Mughrabi. Mughrabi led the infamous ‘Coastal Road Massacre’ which killed 38 civilians, 13 of them children, and wounded over 70 in 1978. Norway’s foreign minister, Borge Brende, also demanded the logo of the Norwegian representation office be removed from the building immediately and said that Norway would no longer participate in similar projects until the country receives assurances “that nothing of this nature happens again”.
The UN subsequently followed suit and announced it was halting support for the women’s centre. “The glorification of terrorism, or the perpetrators of heinous terrorist acts, is unacceptable under any circumstances,” it said.
At the same time, Denmark announced a review of its funding to Palestinian NGOs amid concerns about their role in promoting incitement and the BDS movement. “We must be sure that Danish assistance contributes in a positive way to the advancement of human rights in the Palestinian territories,” a Danish Foreign ministry spokesman said.
The US Congress is also currently considering the Taylor Force Act, a bill named after a U.S. citizen murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Jaffa. It would cut all American funding to the PA – estimated at $300m per year – unless payments to terrorists prisoners cease.
The British government, however, appears to be dragging its feet. Just before Christmas, it announced some tweaks to its approach. Henceforth, it suggested: “UK support will now focus solely on vital health and education services … Funding will only go towards the salaries of health and education public servants on a vetted list”. Last month, however, LFI supplied the Department for International Development with a dossier containing details of more than 20 Palestinian schools in the West Bank and Gaza which are named after terrorists or Nazi collaborators. In subsequent Parliamentary Questions by LFI’s chair, Joan Ryan, the department refused to say whether any of the several thousand teachers and other “essential” education public servants it helps pay the salaries of work in those schools. Ms Ryan has repeatedly called for an independent review of how British aid can best support a two-state solution. Ministers have rejected her calls, while refusing to publish internal DfiD assessments as to whether the PA is honouring its commitment to pursue non-violence and respect for human rights.
President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, claimed earlier this month after a meeting at the White House: “We are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace.”