Watch: Congressmen voice concern over Palestinian stipend program for convicts

Jpost Reports-

WASHINGTON — Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee agreed on Wednesday to strategize an end to a Palestine Liberation Organization program that offers monthly stipends to convicted murderers and terrorists.

At a hearing on the matter, Democratic and Republican members vowed to coordinate on closing a loophole in US foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority, which allows parent and subsidiary Palestinian organizations, such as the PLO, to continue the decade-old practice.

Roughly a third of the PA’s annual budget is financed through foreign aid, and roughly ten percent of that budget goes to the Palestinian National Fund, the Institute for the Caring of Families of Martyrs, and other agencies which provide education, healthcare and other subsidies to the relatives of those who have been convicted of murder or terror in Israel, according to Yigal Carmon, president and founder of The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) in testimony to the committee.
Longstanding US law prohibits the State Department from continuing aid to the PA should it continue such programs or incorporate Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, into its government. But the PA has allegedly circumvented the letter of that law by transferring enforcement of the program to alternative Palestinian leadership.

“It’s an official government operation– it’s not some rogue act under the table,” said Carmon. “This is what the PA stands for, ideologically and in money. So the information is there. It’s the will to act upon it.” According to Carmon’s research in his written testimony, the PA transfers funds through two PLO organizations: First to The National Palestinian Fund, which transfers money to prisoners and released prisoners via the Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs. It then transfers money through the Institute for Care for the Families of Martyrs, which passes money to relatives.

Such financial support for prisoners is anchored in various laws and government decrees, mainly PA Laws No. 14 and 19 of 2004, and Law 1 from 2013, he explained.

The prisoners are described as ‘a fighting sector and an integral part of Arab Palestinian society’ and it is stated that ‘the financial rights of the prisoner and his family’ must be assured,” continued Carmon. It is also stated that the PA will give an allowance to “every prisoner, without discrimination.”

The Palestinian Authority continues to support terrorism by using donor country funds, making “these countries complicit in the encouragement of terrorism,” asserted Carmon.

Also according to the laws, the PA must provide prisoners with a monthly allowance while in jail and when released salaries or jobs as well as exemptions from paying for education, health care, or professional training.

“It should be noted,” stated the MEMRI head, “that whoever was imprisoned for five years or more is entitled to a job in a PA institution. Thus, the PA gives priority in job placement to people who were involved in terrorist activity.”

Carmon also mentioned that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said multiple times that “the prisoners are top priority.”

According to the 2016 PA budget, $137.8 million dollars went towards the prisoners and their families. Monthly payments, according to PA Government Decision No. 23 of 2010, should be adjusted according to the sentence length. Payments range from $364 per month for up to three years imprisonment to $3,120 for 30 years or more.

“There is a $78 supplement for terrorists from Jerusalem and a $130 supplement for Arab Israeli terrorists,” he added.

According to the 2016 PA budget, $137.8 million dollars went towards the prisoners and their families. Monthly payments, according to PA Government Decision No. 23 of 2010, should be adjusted according to the sentence length. Payments range from $364 per month for up to three years imprisonment to $3,120 for 30 years or more.

“There is a $78 supplement for terrorists from Jerusalem and a $130 supplement for Arab Israeli terrorists,” he added.

However, said Carmon, Abbas made an administrative change in May 2014, ordering that the payments would no longer be made by the PA Ministry of Prisoner’s Affairs, but instead by the PLO Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs.

“The aim of this deliberately misleading move was to alleviate pressure on the PA by donor countries that do not wish their money to be channeled to support terrorism. However, the offices remained the same and the official in charge remained the same under a new job title.” The chairman of the House committee, Ed Royce (R-California), characterized the program as a “pay to slay” system that amounts definitively to government incitement to violence.

“Perversely, the PA uses a sliding scale: the longer the jail sentence, the greater the reward. The highest payments go to those serving life sentences– to those who prove most brutal,” Royce said.

“The PA allots nearly $140 million of its budget for this purpose. The monthly salary ranges from $364 a month for three years imprisonment to over $3,000 a month for 30 years or more. And whoever was imprisoned for five years or more is entitled to permanent employment in a PA institution.” Royce’s Democratic counterpart, ranking member Eliot Engel (D-New York), said that the program “won’t be tolerated” by Congress going forward.

“It is absolutely outrageous to pay cold-blooded killers and call them martyrs,” Engel said. “For them to do this just makes you scratch your head.” One question that appeared to divide the committee was over the extent to which Palestinian aid should be cut in the event the PA does not comply. Both the House and Senate have already written into fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills language that attempts to completely shut the loophole.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairman of the subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, said that Abbas, “who is in his 11th year of a 5 year term as President of the Palestinian Authority – is both the President of the PA and the Chairman of the PLO. He continues to support incitement and he has promised to pay the salaries of terrorists and terrorists’ families rather than promise the Palestinian people peace, security and a state of their own.” Some Republican members, including Ros-Lehtinen, suggested the PA office in Washington should be closed, while others still called for a complete suspension of Palestinian aid. Democrats, and the panel of witnesses before the committee, disagreed, noting that neither the US nor the Israeli government would benefit from what would invariably follow: A PA collapse.

“There have been calls for a total cutoff,” said Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia), who warned that such a scenario would force Israel to either either exert more control over the West Bank or cede the territory to Hamas.

Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), who recently returned from the region, said he thought that funding should be “extracted” from annual aid to the PA, should they fail to comply.

“Not only are the programs destructive,” testified Robert Wexler, president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, “but they’re also destructive in terms of the implications for the two societies.” Israelis see the program as a sign the PA is not a partner for peace, Wexler argued, and Palestinian children are incentivized to join an increasingly violent resistance movement.

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About johnmhummasti

Was the victim of Human Rights Abuses (e.g. Hummasti v Bell, 98-3651-JTC) while a patient in the custody of the US Attorney General and hospitalized under 18 USC 4241 through 4244, et seq.! Interests: Biblical Studies, Talmudic Studies, Dead Sea (Yam Melek [Sea of Kings Soferim]) Scrolls, Scribal (Stam Sofer) Traditions, Cantorial (Hazzan) Psalms (Tehillim). Illustrated Calligraphy (e.g. Ketuvim [Jewish Marriage Contracts], Poetry). Self Published Manuscripts and Screen Plays at yhummastiscribd web site:
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