Western Journalism on PMW report
"The PA's Billion Dollar Fraud"
Headline: Palestinian Authority Deceives US, Uses Taxpayer Money To Pay Jailed Terrorists
by Yochanan Visser
Palestinian Media Watch, an organization that not only monitors Palestinian media but also does research on issues related to the Palestinian Authority, just released a new report detailing a billion-dollar fraud with money donated to the PA by Western countries, including the United States.
The PMW report is based on PA documents and other Palestinian sources and reveals that despite assurances in 2014 to the Obama administration and European governments that donor money would no longer be used to pay Palestinian Arabs who are jailed in Israel, the payments continue.
The only thing that has changed after the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs was closed in 2014 is the Palestinian Authority now transfers funds to the newly founded Palestine Liberation Organization body that takes care of the payment of terrorists’ salaries.
The PA was forced to close the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs after several Western donor countries threatened to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority. This happened in the spring of 2014 after PMW had delivered the evidence that the PA used more than $110 million of funds per year that had been donated by the U.S. and European countries to pay salaries of terrorists who served jail time in Israeli prisons. The Palestinian Authority receives more than a billion dollars in financial support annually.
PMW revealed that after the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs was closed, the PA Ministry of Finance simply raised the budget that the PLO receives by roughly $128 million in order to finance the newly formed PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, the body that now pays the salaries of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons.
The new body uses the same website as the old Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs (www.freedom.ps) and is supervised by Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority.
PMW reports that PA officials openly talk about the continued payment of salaries to the jailed terrorists, which they claim is based on current PA law that mandates the government in Ramallah to “pay the salaries of roughly 200,000 civil servants, the families of so-called Shahids (terrorists who died in action), as well as prisoners and released prisoners.”
For example, In January 2015, the PA Ministry of Finance announced that the PA budget for the Gaza Strip “includes salaries to prisoners from there who are in Israeli jails.”
The PMW report gives another example of the openness of the PA about the deception of Western donors by continuing the payment of salaries of terrorists after the cosmetic changes in 2014.
“In December 2015, an internal dispute started within the PA,” PMW wrote. “The PA, not the PLO, had decided to stop salary payments to a small number of prisoners and released prisoners for various reasons. This is significant because the PLO Commissioner of Prisoners’ Affairs and PA officials all criticized the PA Ministry of Finance for stopping the salaries. No one complained to the PLO, as they should have, were it the PLO that paid the salaries. Nearly a year and half after the PA claimed not be involved in salaries, the PA was still deciding and allocating the money for the terrorist prisoners’ salaries. Significantly, the head of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Karake, personally complained to the PA Ministry of Finance over the new PA policy regarding salaries to prisoners. Why would he complain to the PA if he himself and the PLO were in charge of the salaries?”
The U.S. accepted the reassurances of the PA about the measures it would take to stop the funding of the salaries in 2014. On April 29, 2014, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson assured the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that the PA “would phase out” the practice and hence there was no reason to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority.
“I frankly know that they’re going to try and phase that out and we should give them an opportunity to do so,” Patterson said at the time.
Since 2008 U.S. assistance has averaged around $400 million with that amount divided between direct budget support to the PA and project assistance by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Palestinians are the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid worldwide. U.S. donor money is supposed to promote preventing or mitigating terrorism against Israel and to foster prosperity, stability and self-governance in the so-called West Bank that may incline Palestinians toward peaceful coexistence with Israel, the Congressional Research Service wrote in a recent report.
The salaries jailed terrorists receive are linked to length of time in jail. Some terrorists who murdered Israelis and serve more than 30 years in an Israeli prison receive as much as $3,200 a month, which is four times the average monthly wage of a civil servant in the Palestinian Authority. Somebody with only three years in prison will receive much less, roughly $380 a month. Prisoners who have been imprisoned between three and five years will be paid $530, and so on.
“The creation of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs has not changed the PA law or the PA policy of paying salaries to terrorists. The PLO Commission was created to deceive international donors, who do not want the PA to give salaries to terrorists and certainly do not want their own money given in good faith to be used to reward terrorists,” PMW wrote at the end of the report.
“The documents from the PA Ministry of Finance indicate a money trail from the PA to the PLO to fund the salaries. As a result of the PA’s deception of the donor countries, they continue to give the PA approximately one billion dollars in aid, while the PA continues to pay salaries to terrorists in prison,” PMW concluded.
Itamar Marcus, the director of Palestinian Media Watch, said his organization found not only the statements by PA leaders that confirmed the fraud but also the money transfers from the PA to the PLO that fit the exact amount of money they needed to pay the terrorists.
Marcus told Western Journalism on Monday that he gave a copy of the report to U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who immediately brought it up in the committee and questioned Patterson.
“Did you know they were going to simply transfer this to the PLO? In that sense, they were phasing it off their books, but they weren’t phasing it out. They were simply disguising the funding,” Royce asked Patterson at a hearing April 13.
“No, I didn’t know that. What I was basing that on was my own discussion with Palestinian members who said they had been phasing it out for financial and the other reasons that you discussed,” Patterson replied.
“I totally agree with you that this is an egregious practice,” Patterson added, before stressing that the PA does also “many beneficial things” with the U.S. aid. She promised to continue to press the PA on the issue but also denied that U.S. taxpayer money is going directly to Palestinian terrorists.
“None of our money goes to this. It’s not fungible in that respect. Our money goes essentially to pay PA debts to Israel and to other creditors. So the budget reliefs, the budget support that you see in the budget, goes to creditors and cannot be diverted to these stipends,” Patterson claimed before reassuring Royce that she would bring up the issue with European and other donors.