PMW presents "PA's Billion Dollar Fraud" to Norwegian government
Norway's Foreign Ministry confirms PMW's findings:
The PA still pays salaries to terrorists
- and still receives foreign aid
Norwegian MPs demand to cut aid to the PA
Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus travelled to Norway and presented PMW's new report "The PA's Billion Dollar Fraud" to officials of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and Members of Parliament. The report exposes that the Palestinian Authority continues to pay salaries to terrorist prisoners, contrary to its claim to donor countries to have stopped funding these salaries already in 2014. The report sparked a debate among three Norwegian political parties - all from the coalition - about whether to continue funding the PA. It also led to a debate in parliament with the Foreign Minister. (Transcripts follow below)
Marcus met with Norwegian NRK TV investigative journalist, Tormod Strand, who asked Norwegian MPs and the Foreign Ministry to respond to PMW's findings in the report. Significantly, Norway's State Secretary of the Foreign Ministry immediately confirmed PMW's main charge, that the PA is still funding salaries to terrorist prisoners by transferring money to the PLO.
Transcript of main parts of NRK TV news broadcasts:
PMW director Itamar Marcus:
"Not only do we have the [PA] leadership's statements that they were paying [salaries to terrorists], but we actually found the money transfers from the PA to the PLO, that would fit the exact amount they [the PLO] needed to pay the salaries to terrorists."
NRK TV reporter Tormod Strand:
"Surprisingly, [the Norwegian] Foreign Ministry confirms PMW's claim."
State Secretary Tore Hattrem (Conservative Party):
"We became aware that the PA was transferring money to the PLO... For us, it was just as unacceptable as if the money had come directly from the PA."
MPs from two coalition parties immediately demanded that Norway stop funding the PA:
Spokesperson on foreign aid, Progress Party, Jorund H. Rytman:
"It's news to me that the Palestinians did it this way. And this must have consequences in terms of cutting the aid money so that [Norway] does not just protest, but shows it will act."
Acting parliamentary leader, Christian Democrats, Hans Olav Syversen:
"If this is true, I believe there must be consequences. It would be subversive for us if money that is given to build up Palestinian society, in reality is used to pay salaries to prisoners who have carried out very extreme acts in many cases."
A few days after this was exposed, the MPs brought the PA salary issue up in parliament in a debate with the Foreign Minister. Foreign Minister Børge Brende again confirmed PMW's findings that the PA is still paying salaries to terrorists, but said that Norway would not cut off funding because the PA is not using Norwegian money to pay the terrorists. He added that he would be meeting PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas the following week and stated: "I promise you I will bring this up again and increase the pressure on the Palestinians" - to stop the salaries for prisoners program.
The following are longer excerpts from two broadcasts about PMW's report on PA salaries to terrorists on Norwegian TV and an excerpt from the debate in Norwegian Parliament:
Norwegian Parliament, April 27, 2016:
MP Hans Olav Syversen (Christian Democrats):
"My question is to the Foreign Minister.
In this room, we have previously debated that the Palestinian Authority rewards those who perpetrate terror against Israel [with salaries]...
What has been done from the Palestinian side? Well, they've just unscrewed a sign saying "Ministry [of Prisoners' Affairs]" and put up another saying "Commission of Prisoners' Affairs" - but it is the same money that goes to exactly the same people. (i.e., terrorists.)... So my question is: What consequences does the foreign minister believe this should have on Norwegian aid to the Palestinian Authority?"
Foreign Minister Brende (Conservative Party):
"Thanks to MP Syversen for bringing up an important question... There are many Palestinians who actually are imprisoned in Israel for no reason, and where you can seriously question the due process. These funds that MP Syversen referred to also go to these groups. But for Norway, it is of course totally unacceptable that Norwegian aid funds should go to the families of those who have carried out criminal acts against Israelis, meaning Palestinians who are in Israeli prison...
I promise you I will bring this up again and increase the pressure on the Palestinians because this is not something that serves the Palestinian Authority."
MP Hans Olav Syversen (Christian Democrats):
"It is safe to say that it does not serve them, because what happens is that they are working against what is really the goal with Norwegian aid money... In what way will the foreign minister follow up on this..."
Foreign Minister Brende (Conservatives):
"...Next week, I have a scheduled meeting with President Abbas, and I promise MP Syversen that not only will I once again have the guarantees repeated that Norwegian aid money does not go to this - which it doesn't - but I will also use the opportunity to say to President Abbas, that with all the challenges the Palestinians now face, not least because of the lack of opportunity for development in the West Bank, it is in their best interest to abolish this program for its [the PA's] own legitimacy's sake."
MP Astrid Aarhus Byrknes (Christian Democrats):
"It is very sad to hear about these cash rewards to imprisoned terrorists, convicted terrorists who receive payments higher than the salary of government officials. They are being glorified - at sports tournaments, at youth gatherings - and Fatah actively uses both its Facebook and Twitter accounts in this area. [PMW note: MP Byrknes also learned this at the PMW lecture to MPs] So I wonder: Does the foreign minister think that this is compatible with the main objective of the Norwegian Palestine-aid, which is to promote mutual trust and the basis for a peace process with Israel?"
Foreign Minister Brende:
"Norway has a good relationship with both Israel and the Palestinians. When I'm in a meeting with the Israeli authorities, there are many questions we need to address... there is no excuse for establishing a program in which money is given to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prison, which also includes those who have committed criminal offenses. The Palestinians should stop doing that now - we have requested that [of them]. But what is most crucial is that Norwegian aid money is not going there.
You may think that [Norway] should stop giving aid to Palestine and the Palestinians altogether, because of the existence of this program, and to ensure that Norwegian money will not fund this.
If we are to begin [thinking] this way, I think we will find that there are quite a few aid-receiving countries that have different programs with which we do not agree."
The following is the longer transcript of the NRK report on PMW and the MPs responses calling to cut off funding.
NRK TV newsreader, 7 p.m. news: "The PA, which is receiving aid from Norway, is still paying salaries to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists."
NRK TV newsreader, 7 p.m. news: "Norway and other donor countries protested against this several years ago, but the practice continues, the money is just going to the prisoners by a circuitous route."
NRK TV reporter Tormod Strand: "Malki [Roth] only reached the age of 15 because a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at this pizza shop in Jerusalem in 2001. 15 civilians were murdered. The person responsible for making the bomb, Abdallah Barghouti, is imprisoned in an Israeli jail. Palestine honors hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, among them many terrorists, with a monthly salary. Every month, Abdallah Barghouti receives about ten thousand Norwegian kroner from Palestine. The worse the terror, the higher salary the prisoners receive. NRK TV reported on [PMW's report] about this [PA] program in 2013, and that the money was being paid by the PA. Norway gives 200 million kroner to Palestine annually, and demanded along with other donor countries that the program be stopped. In 2014, Palestine's President Mahmoud Abbas gave in to the pressure, and said that the program would be stopped. Now it was the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization, that would be paying money to prisoners, with the help of Arab donors. He [Itamar Marcus] heads Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli organization on the right that monitors Palestinian media. Palestinian Media Watch claims in a report that the PLO is only a cover to appease Norway and other donor countries and that the PA continues to pay money to terrorists in prison."
PMW director Itamar Marcus: "We found - not only do we have the [PA] leadership statements that they were paying, but we actually found the money transfers from the PA to the PLO, that would fit the exact amount they [the PLO] needed to pay the salaries to terrorists."
NRK TV reporter Tormod Strand: "Surprisingly, [the Norwegian] Foreign Ministry confirms PMW's claim."
State Secretary Tore Hattrem (Conservative Party): "In 2014, we became aware that the PA was transferring money to the PLO, which then funded this support program for prisoners. For us, it was just as unacceptable as if the money had come directly from the PA."
NRK TV reporter Tormod Strand: "The Foreign Ministry will not do anything but protest. It is not relevant to cut Norwegian aid to Palestine. One of the government parties [the Progressive Party] disagrees."
Spokesperson on foreign aid, Jorund H. Rytman (Progress Party): "It's news to me that the Palestinians did it this way. And this must have consequences in terms of cutting the aid money so that [Norway] does not just protest, but shows it will act."
NRK TV newsreader, 7 p.m. news: "NRK TV has given the Palestinian embassy in Norway access to the [PMW] report and asked for a comment. The [PA] ambassador replied that he did not want to comment now."
NRK TV newsreader, 11 p.m. news: "The Christian Democratic Party (KrF) is very surprised that the [Norwegian] Foreign Ministry has known that the PA has continued the program in which prisoners convicted of terror offenses receive salaries from Palestine. Norwegian aid to the Palestinians must be reconsidered if this is not stopped, says the Christian Democratic Party..."
NRK TV reporter Tormod Strand: "NRK TV reported on [PMW's report] about this [PA] program in 2013, and that the money was being paid by the PA. Then, Norway demanded that the program be stopped... But this evening, the [Norwegian] Foreign Ministry confirms that it is still the PA that continue to make the payments..."
Hans Olav Syversen, acting Parliamentary leader, Christian Democrats: "It is very surprising information for me that the Norwegian Foreign Ministry has been completely aware of this and even has let this practice continue..."
NRK TV reporter Tormod Strand: "The Progress Party wants to stop [Norwegian] aid [to the PA], the Christian Democrats agree in that direction."
Hans Olav Syversen, acting Parliamentary leader, Christian Democrats: "If this is true, I believe there must be consequences. It would be subversive for us if money that is given to build up Palestinian society, in reality is used to pay salaries to prisoners who have carried out very extreme acts in many cases."
State Secretary Tore Hattrem (Conservative Party): "Norwegian aid funds have not gone to this [salary] program. We have received written assurances of that from the PA."
[NRK TV (Norway), April 24, 2016]
Abdallah Barghouti - serving 67 life sentences for preparing explosives for terror attacks in which 67 people were murdered: Sbarro restaurant (15 killed, Aug. 9, 2001, Jerusalem), Sheffield Club (15 killed, May 7, 2002, Rishon LeZion), Moment Café (11 killed, March 9, 2002, Jerusalem), triple attack at Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall (11 killed, Dec. 1, 2001, Jerusalem), Hebrew University (9 killed, July 31, 2002, Jerusalem), and Bus 4 in Tel Aviv (6 killed, Sept. 19, 2002).
Having been imprisoned for 13 years (2003-2016), Barghouti should be receiving 6,000 shekels/month (1,600 USD) according to PA law.