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Funding terror

Nearly every day since the New York Times reported that the Palestinians will end terror funding, the PA has denied it.

By Itamar Marcus, Nan Jacques Zilberdik, and Maurice Hirsch, Adv., Palestinian Media Watch

The New York Times apparently was deceived by the Palestinian Authority, which resulted in the prominent Times story this week headlined: “Seeking Restart With Biden, Palestinians Eye End to Prisoner Payments.”

Nearly every day since the Times’ report, one or more senior PA officials has denied that Palestinian prisoners’ “rights” will be hurt. The head of the PA Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr himself, who was quoted by the Times as saying “economic need must serve as the basis, a single man should not be earning the same as someone with a family,” denied the information when interviewed by a Palestinian TV station. Abu Bakr said that the source was “an American paper… unfortunately we [Palestinians] have adjusted to them and repeated the same things.”

Independent Palestinian news agency Wattan host: “Are there really news reports about transferring these [prisoners’] allowances (i.e salaries) to the [Ministry of] Social Affairs [and paying] according to the prisoner’s living conditions, and not [as is PA law] according to the number of years of his sentence?”

Director of PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr: “[The New York Times] published it, and [so did] the Israeli papers. Unfortunately we [Palestinians] have adjusted to them and repeated the same things.”

[Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, Nov. 22, 2020]

Another top Palestinian official, Fatah Central Committee Secretary Jibril Rajoub, said not only will things not get worse for the prisoners, as the Times reported, “if we want to change it, we will make it better”:

Rajoub: “I emphasize to them [the prisoners] – in no way will any decision be made that detracts from any right they receive today. On the contrary – if we want to change it, we will make it better to take care of them, to take care of their families and to provide them with everything that gives them ability to deal with this prison guard and so that they will integrate into the Palestinian national reality by joining the [PA] institutions [upon their release].”

[Official PA TV, Nov. 23, 2020]

Repeating his denial that prisoners will lose their high salaries, but without referring to the Times article, Abu Bakr said at a vigil outside the house of a terrorist prisoner:

“There is a comprehensive plot being carried out against the prisoners, both the released prisoners and those who are in the occupation’s prison, in order to bring about the stopping of their salary payments… The commission has come a long way on everything connected to absorbing the [released] prisoners within the [PA] governmental institutions and government ministries. There will be no bargaining over the prisoners’ rights…There is a new bank that has been established, and in addition there are other means that can be invented so that the prisoners’ rights will be realized. We also deny that the prisoners’ allowances will be paid through social institutions. These news [reports] are completely unfounded.”

[Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 24, 2020]

Significantly, Abu Bakr went on to confirm what Palestinian Media Watch exposed already in 2013, that European countries have been pushing the PA to camouflage its payments to terrorist prisoners under the title of social welfare payments, for years. He said the Europeans continued to say that they have no real objection to the PA policy of paying monthly salaries to terrorist prisoners and released prisoners and allowances to the families of dead terrorists (cumulatively known as the PA’s “Pay-for-Slay” policy) as long as the payments are made through the PA Ministry of Social Affairs:

Abu Bakr: “Many of the Europeans have said: “We are not against you paying salaries. How much are you paying one? 3,000? Give him 6,000, but via the [Ministry of] Social Affairs.” The Europeans have been proposing these things for years.”

[Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, Nov. 22, 2020]

Abu Bakr further exposed that the sole purpose of the PA’s creation of a new terror bank is to be able to make the “Pay-for-Slay” payments to terrorists and their families.

The PA has been working to establish the terror payments bank since May 2020. The idea was conceived as a means to try and circumvent Israeli anti-terror legislation.

Shortly before the PA decided to create the terror bank, Palestinian Media Watch wrote to all the banks operating in the PA and warned them that new Israeli anti-terror legislation provided that any person who facilitates the payment of a reward for an act of terror – including by conducting a bank transfer – is committing an offence. PMW added that once the new legislation would come into force, the banks and their personnel could be found both criminally and civilly responsible for supporting terror.

The banks quickly responded by informing the PA Minister of Finance that they were no longer willing to receive the terror reward payments and that they intended to close the accounts of all the terrorists and transfer the balances back to the Ministry of Finance.

A New Terror Bank

In order to try and circumvent the new Israeli legislation, the PA decided to create the new terror bank. Called the “Independence Bank”, according to Abu Bakr, the terror bank will be a “stand alone” bank that will not have any external ties, and will therefore not be susceptible to lawsuits in foreign jurisdictions.

Explaining how the terror bank will work and asked if it will serve all potential clients, Abu Bakr responded that the bank will serve everyone, but primarily prisoners:

““It is for everyone. But especially for the prisoners, because this bank is not subject to blackmail like the other banks [that are closing terrorists’ accounts] … If there are [legal] proceedings against it, the PA is the one that will bear [responsibility] for this. Because it is only through the PA.”

[Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, Nov. 22, 2020]

It goes without saying that if the PA was honestly planning to abolish its “Pay-for-Slay” policy, as the New York Times reported, it would not need the new bank for terror payments. Abu Bakr’s description of the progress establishing the new bank further confirms that the PA will not be abolishing its terror reward policies.

These PA denials of changes in the payments to salaries are in addition to what was exposed by PMW, immediately after the publication of the Times article.

When Rajoub and Abu Bakr referred in the quotes above to the integration of the released terrorists into the PA institutions, they were referring to another case of PA deception, also recently exposed by PMW. Many donor countries have complained to the PA that released terrorists who spent over 10 years in prison, receive lifetime high PA salaries for doing nothing, which is clearly a terror reward.

According to the new PA plan, up to 8,000 released terrorist prisoners, will be given government jobs in various PA ministries, including the PA security services. This way, the payments that are actually terror rewards, can be camouflaged as “salaries” for “honest work” inside the different ministries’ budgets.

Finally, given the prominence the New York Times gave to the false information from the PA, PMW has given the correct information to the paper, hoping that they will give equal prominence to the story that they have been deceived.

The following are longer excerpts of the items mentioned above:

Dozens of citizens participated in a protest vigil yesterday [Nov. 23, 2020] in front of the home of prisoner Nael Barghouti (i.e., terrorist, murdered 1 together with an accomplice) – who has begun his 41st year in the occupation’s prisons – in the village of Kubar northwest of Ramallah.

The vigil was organized by the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs and the [PA-funded] Prisoners’ Club…

Director of Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr said that there is a comprehensive plot being carried out against the prisoners, both the released prisoners and those who are in the occupation’s prison, in order to bring about the stopping of their salary payments.
He noted that the commission has come a long way on everything connected to absorbing the [released] prisoners within the [PA] governmental institutions and government ministries. He emphasized that there will be no bargaining over the prisoners’ rights.

Abu Bakr continued: ‘There is a new bank that has been established, and in addition there are other means that can be invented so that the prisoners’ rights will be realized. We also deny that the prisoners’ allowances will be paid through social institutions. These news [reports] are completely unfounded.’

Ramallah and El-Bireh District Governor Laila Ghannam said that the long years that prisoner Nael Barghouti has sat in the occupation’s prison testify to the great sacrifices that our Palestinian people have made. She added: ‘We must always stand by the prisoners’ families, because their sons have sacrificed the best years of their lives inside the occupation’s prisons.’

Years ago, the late [Palestinian] poet Samih Al-Qassem wrote of prisoner Nael Barghouti: “I am embarrassed of my freedom in light of your glorious captivity. Every Palestinian, Arab, and free person must be embarrassed – truly and at every moment – facing these heroes.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 24, 2020]

Interview with Abu Bakr

Independent Palestinian news agency Wattan host: “Are there really news items about transferring these allowances [for released prisoners] to the social development institution according to the prisoner’s living conditions, and not according to the number of years of his sentence?”

Director of PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr: “This was perhaps heard more in the American media. [The New York Times] published it, and [so did] the Israeli papers. Unfortunately we [Palestinians] have adjusted   to them and repeated the same things …Many of the Europeans have said: ‘We are not against you paying salaries. How much are you paying one [prisoner], 3,000 [Israeli shekels]? Give him 6,000, but through the [PA Ministry of] Social Affairs. The Europeans have been proposing these things for eight years already.”

Host: “Not according to the number of years of his sentence?”

Qadri Abu Bakr: “They have no problem [with that].”

Host: “This is how they want it.”

Qadri Abu Bakr: “That it not be a political matter. We are paying salaries and they are considering this a policy and a prize, but we have explained to them that everyone who spends longer terms in the prisons of course deserves [more money]. In other words, someone who enters prison married and with children who have grown up and the like, and they go to the schools and universities – of course their expenses will be higher.”

Host: “Let us move to the point about the solution that you have spoken about, which is the banks. [You have said] that there is going to be a bank.”

Qadri Abu Bakr: “The national bank. Its name is Independence Bank.”

Host: “Yes. In other words, when will it start to be active?”

Qadri Abu Bakr: “It will start to be active at the beginning of next year [2021]. I sat with clerks and they said that on Jan. 1 [2021] the work will begin, and they will set up ATMs in all the districts.”

Host: “It will be designated only for the prisoners?”

Qadri Abu Bakr: “It is for everyone.”

Host: “For everyone?”

Qadri Abu Bakr: “But especially for the prisoners, because this bank is not subject to blackmail like the other banks (refers to the application of much of Israel’s Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank, including rendering banks liable to punishment for facilitating PA terror salaries -Ed.). All the other banks’ money is within the Green Line (i.e., Palestinian term for Israel; the Green Line is the ceasefire line between Israel and the neighboring Arab countries, 1949-1967) and in the Bank of Israel.”

Host: “And the deducted money and the like (refers to Israel’s Anti “Pay-for-Slay” Law to deduct PA terror salaries; see note below –Ed.).”

Qadri Abu Bakr: “The daily [matters] and the deducted money and the like. This bank has no connection with Israel and has no connections abroad.”

Host: “It is national and local.”

Qadri Abu Bakr: “If there are proceedings against it, the PA is the one that will bear [responsibility] for this. Because it is only through the PA.”

Host: “And the prisoners’ money will be transferred through this bank?”

Qadri Abu Bakr: “They will receive it through this bank and not through [the Ministry of] Social Affairs.”

Host: “I asked you about the tax return money, in other words, there is talk about accepting them, accepting them again once more after [the PA] stopped accepting them for a while. Regarding this tax return money, the occupation placed a condition that it would not transfer it without deduction, and that it would deduct from it the prisoners’ salaries. Those that the PA is paying the released prisoners or those who are in prison. Okay, currently on what basis will the tax return money be accepted? Will these allowances be deducted from it? Do you know if the prisoners’ salaries will be deducted from it or not? Because that was the condition that the occupation set, and accordingly the PA refused to accept it.”

Qadri Abu Bakr: “The [Israeli] Hebrew press that mentioned the issue also said that the tax return money will be transferred to the PA – with European intervention of course – without deducting a single shekel. They themselves have said-”

Host: “On what basis? Because that was their condition that-”

Qadri Abu Bakr: “As a result of the European pressure. First they informed us after a year of deducting the prisoners’ [money] from the tax returns: ‘We have stopped.’ A year, the decision was for a year, but we also did not accept the amount. Here, for 4-5 months already they are deducting- they are not deducting, they are stopping the transfer or the PA stopped accepting it, because there is talk that maybe they want [security] coordination and the like.”

‘We Won’t Renounce it’

Host: “Okay, of course as you mentioned we hope that the prisoners’ issue will remain fundamental and a non-negotiable national issue. This is what you said, and that is of course a promise and commitment to our prisoners.”

Qadri Abu Bakr: “Indeed, that is of course my promise, and that has also been emphasized by our brother [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas, who emphasizes this at every meeting. And when the issue of [the Ministry of] Social Affairs was raised, he said that the prisoners’ issue is a political issue of the highest order. It is national, it is [an issue] of struggle, and we won’t renounce it.”

[Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, Nov. 22, 2020]

Jibril Rajoub: “I emphasize to them [the prisoners] – in no way will any decision be made that detracts from any right they receive today. On the contrary – if we want to change it, we will make it better to take care of them, to take care of their families and to provide them with everything that gives them ability to deal with this prison guard and so that they will integrate into the Palestinian national reality by joining the [PA] institutions [upon their release].”

[Official PA TV, Nov. 23, 2020]

Jibril Rajoub made this comment following statements by Director of PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr to the New York Times, in which he said that the PA was going to change the salaries of the prisoners (i.e., terrorists) to be paid according to need only, and not according to the length of the prison sentence (i.e., the severity of the crime). Abu Bakr later denied having made such a statement and vowed that the PA will continue paying salaries to prisoners as it has done.

Jibril Rajoub also serves as Head of the PLO Supreme Council for Youth and Sports, Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, Chairman of the Palestine Olympic Committee, and Chairman of the Palestinian Scout Association (PSA).

Israeli army legislation applies parts of Israel’s 2016 Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank (Judea and Samaria, taking effect on May 9, 2020). The law prohibits numerous terror related offenses, including terror funding/rewarding and holds heads of terror organizations responsible for murder committed by members of the organization. The law criminalizes the provision of funds for or the payment of rewards for the commission of terrorist offenses, such as the salaries the PA pays to terrorist prisoners and released prisoners. The provision also applies to any person or body – such as a bank – that facilitates such funding or rewarding of terror offenses.

Based on this last provision, PMW sent letters in April 2020 to the heads of banks in the PA areas warning them that they must freeze the accounts of terrorists and their proxies and transfer them to the Israeli army or face legal consequences.

Green Line – 1949-1967 ceasefire line between Israel and the neighboring Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) following Israel’s War of Independence (1948-1949). Land within the Green Line is all part of the State of Israel since 1949. Land outside the Green Line includes East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights.

Israel’s Anti “Pay-for-Slay” Law – Israeli law stating that the PA payments to terrorists and the families of dead terrorists is a financial incentive to terror. The law instructs the state to deduct and freeze the amount of money the PA pays in salaries to imprisoned terrorists and families of “Martyrs” from the tax money Israel collects for the PA. Should the PA stop these payments for a full year, the Israeli government would have the option of giving all or part of the frozen money to the PA.

The law was enacted by the Israeli Parliament on July 2, 2018, and its first implementation was approved by Israel’s Security Cabinet on Feb. 17, 2019, when it decided to withhold 502,697,000 Israeli shekels (approximately $138 million) from the PA. In response, the PA announced it would not accept any of the tax money collected by Israel unless it also included the frozen amount. During the initial parliamentary vote in 2018, the law’s sponsor Avi Dichter said: “The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee received much help in its deliberations… from Palestinian Media Watch who provided us with authentic data that enabled productive and professional deliberations, nuances that are very difficult to achieve without precise data.” [Israeli Parliament website, July 2, 2018]

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