Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
- The direct and indirect channeling by the Palestinian official bodies of international donor funding to pay salaries of Palestinians imprisoned for acts of terrorism raises serious legal and moral issues that must be addressed.
- Such financial support for Palestinian terror prisoners is a formal component within internal legislation of the Palestinian Authority.
- In attempts to sidestep international criticism of such direct funding, the Palestinians have tried to conceal it through channeling donor funding through the PLO, the Palestinian umbrella organization.
- Financial or other support for terrorists is a clear violation of PLO obligations pursuant to the Oslo Accords, and as such, an abuse of the bona fides of the U.S., European, and other government signatories to the Oslo Accords.
- Transferring funding to terrorists runs counter to international counter-terrorism conventions and resolutions of the UN calling upon the international community to prevent terrorism financing.
There has recently been considerable media coverage of the transfer of donor funding from foreign governments (including the United States, the UK, Denmark and other EU countries) to official Palestinian governing bodies, and its use for salaries and other benefits to Palestinians serving prison sentences for acts of terror.1
Clearly, the channeling of donor funding to compensate terrorists and thereby to encourage further terror raises serious legal and moral questions, both for the governments contributing the funds, but also in the context of international law and practice.
Current Palestinian Practice
According to the Guardian and Daily Mail newspapers:
About 6 percent of the Palestinian budget is diverted to prisoner salaries. All this money comes from so-called ‘donor countries’ such as the United States, Great Britain, Norway, and Denmark.”2 (The Guardian)
British aid money is helping to pay ‘salaries’ to Palestinian prisoners – some of them convicted terrorists – serving time in Israeli jails, according to a report.
The Palestinian Authority is paying them up to £1,957 a month – more than the average salary of a UK worker.
The Department for International Development spends around £80million a year in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, of which around £30million goes to the general budget, which funds prisoners’ allowances.”3 (Daily Mail)
Britain gives £72 million a year to Palestine, more than one-third of which goes straight to the PA. It openly admits supporting terrorists whom it hails as heroes for fighting illegal occupation, awarding lifetime payments that rise depending on time spent in jail and the seriousness of crimes.
One Hamas master bomber has reportedly been given more than £100,000. Other ‘salaries’ go to the families of suicide bombers and even teenagers involved in the latest upsurge of deadly attacks on Israel.”4 (Daily Mail)
In his recent testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on July 6, 2016, Yigal Carmon, President and Founder, of the “Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI),” provided detailed statistics on the extent of the Palestinian payments to terrorist prisoners. In his testimony, he stated:
This financial support for prisoners is anchored in a series of laws and government decrees, chiefly Laws No. 14 and No. 19 of 2004, and Law No. 1 of 2013. The prisoners are described as ‘a fighting sector and an integral part of the weave of Arab Palestinian society’ and it is stated that ‘the financial rights of the prisoner and his family’ must be assured.
According to the laws, the PA must provide prisoners with a monthly allowance during their incarceration and salaries or jobs upon their release. They are also entitled to exemptions from payments for education, health care, and professional training. Their years of imprisonment are calculated as years of seniority of service in PA institutions. It should be noted 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.5
Official legislation of the Palestinian Authority from 2010 places all Palestinians and Israeli Arabs imprisoned in Israel for terror crimes on the PA payroll to receive a monthly salary from the PA.6 Earlier legislation defines “prisoners” benefiting from this requirement, as “Anyone imprisoned in the occupation’s prisons as a result of his participation in the struggle against the occupation.”7
While ordinary prisoners, such as car thieves do not receive a salary, every person committing acts of terror are on the PA payroll. The salary goes directly to the terrorist or the terrorist’s family, and prisoners receive salary from the day of arrest.8 More than 5,500 Palestinian prisoners serving time for terror-related offenses are recipients.
This situation, in effect, constitutes a manipulation of international funding for the PA, through channeling donor funds to reward and compensate acts of terror and as such to encourage continued terror, in clear contravention of national and international norms and obligations.
Palestinian Attempts to Conceal Direct Payments to Terrorists
Following criticism and pressure by donor governments, the PA announced in August 2014 that it had closed its Ministry of Prisoners Affairs, which funneled monthly salaries directly to terrorists.9
A fictional replacement infrastructure for the continued transfer of prisoners’ salaries and benefits – purportedly independent of the PA and entitled the “Commission of Prisoners Affairs,” – was established within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The PLO is the internationally recognized Palestinian umbrella organization within which the PA operates as the administering body for those West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria under Palestinian jurisdiction. As such the PLO, as the parent organ of the PA, is no less obligated and committed, by its agreements with Israel to refrain from all activity connected to terrorism, including the transfer of funds to terrorists.
In this manner, the Palestinian leadership hoped that indirect funding of prisoners through the PLO would not be seen by foreign donors to contravene national and international counter-terror legislation, policies and instruments. In fact, governments tended to view this fiction as a satisfactory solution to the issue.
However, this fictional manipulation has not altered the fact that foreign donations are being used to pay salaries and benefits to terrorist prisoners.
As stated by Palestinian Media Watch:
…the PLO commission was new only in name. The PLO body would have the same responsibilities and pay the exact same amounts of salaries to prisoners; the former PA minister of prisoners’ affairs, Issa Karake, became the director of the new PLO commission and PA President Mahmoud Abbas retained overall supervision of the PLO Commission.10
This manipulation of the bona fides of foreign donor governments constitutes, however, a clear violation both of national counter-terror legislation of the donor countries, as well as the agreements between the PLO and Israel, witnessed by the same governments (including the U.S. and EU) providing the donor funding.
It also seriously violates and undermines accepted and agreed-upon norms of international law as set out in international counter-terror conventions and UN Security Council resolutions.
The PLO-Israel Agreements
The “Oslo Accords” and their related documents, signed between the Palestinian leadership and Israel (the Declaration of Principles on interim Self-Government Arrangements, commonly known as “Oslo I” (1993),11 the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, commonly known as “Oslo II” (1995)12 and other related documents, constitute the accepted and recognized framework that determines all aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.
The Oslo Accords are a series of agreements between the “Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), representing the Palestinian People,” and the Government of the State of Israel.
The PLO is an umbrella organization whose members include a number of Palestinian terror groups such as al Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). For a full list of constituent terror groups within the PLO see footnote.13
The Palestinian Authority (PA), as distinct from the PLO, is the subordinate governing body established by agreement between Israel and the PLO in the Oslo Accords for the purpose of administering the areas and implementing the powers and responsibilities transferred to it by Israel.14
The PA was established only for the purpose of administration and governance, and its responsibilities are limited solely to this sphere. In this context, both the PLO and the PA are prohibited by the Oslo Accords from conducting foreign relations or signing agreements or doing anything that does not relate to the internal governance of the areas under its jurisdiction.
As such, the PA is nothing more than a “creature of the PLO-Israel agreements. “Accordingly, the obligations of the PLO pursuant to the Oslo Accords – including the obligation to refrain from, to act against, and to discourage terror – are equally applicable to the PA.
In the Oslo Accords, the PLO is formally committed to combat all forms of terrorism, violence, and incitement.
This commitment appears first and foremost in an exchange of letters between PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, dated September 9, 1993.
The PLO considers that the signing of the Declaration of Principles constitutes a historic event, inaugurating a new epoch of peaceful coexistence, free from violence and all other acts which endanger peace and stability. Accordingly, the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators.15
- 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, signed at Washington D.C. (commonly known as Oslo II), and specifically its “Protocol concerning Redeployment and Security Arrangements (Annex I), second article on “Security Policy for the Prevention of Terrorism and Violence.”16
- Within the context of the Oslo Accords, it is agreed that agreements between the PLO and countries donating funds for the PA are to be limited to implementing arrangements for assistance to the PA in the fulfilment of its17
Clearly, transfer of donor funding for payment of salaries and benefits to persons imprisoned for acts of terror would appear to be incompatible with this requirement, whether such payments are channeled through the PLO or the PA.
Accordingly, transfer by the PLO of donor funding for payment of salaries to terrorists in prison runs solidly counter to PLO obligations vis-à-vis Israel pursuant to the Oslo Accords, as well as vis-a-vis the U.S., the EU and the other signatories who signed the Accords as witnesses.
By the same token, transfer of such donor funds by the PA as the subordinate, implementing authority, constitutes no less a violation of the Palestinian obligations.
National Counter-Terror Legislation
Channeling donor funds to terrorists is contrary to the national law in the donor countries as well as to international counter-terrorism law.
In the United States, the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010: Assistance for the West Bank and Gaza”, Section 7039(b) requires that:
Prior to the obligation of funds appropriated by this Act under the heading ‘Economic Support Fund’ for assistance for the West Bank and Gaza, the Secretary of State shall take all appropriate steps to ensure that such assistance is not provided to or through any individual, private or government entity, or educational institution that the Secretary knows or has reason to believe advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in, terrorist activity…
International Law and Practice
From the very beginning of the international efforts to counter terrorism, the issue of financing terror has consistently figured as a major and central component of international terror. Hence the obligations in international and regional treaties as well as UN resolutions, to act to prevent terror financing, especially inasmuch as it constitutes a form of encouragement and support, both moral and practical, for terrorism.
- The 1977 European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, as amended, reaffirms all the counter-terrorism conventions, including the 1999 Terrorism financing convention.18
- The 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism19 (to which the United States is party since 2002) is one of a series of international counter-terror conventions. It criminalizes the provision of funding, directly or indirectly, for any use connected with terrorism.
- The 1994 UN Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism (General Assembly resolution 49/60)20 which calls upon states to refrain from organizing, instigating, facilitating, encouraging, tolerating and financing terror activities.
- Similar regional counter terrorism instruments obligating member states to act against the financing of terrorism include the 2002 “Inter-American Convention against Terrorism,” which contains a specific article 4 detailing measures to prevent, combat, and eradicate the financing of terrorism, article 5 on the seizure and confiscation of funds or other assets, and article 6 relating to money laundering.21
UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001)22 was adopted following the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. This obligatory resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter which addresses threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression, recognized “the need for States to complement international cooperation by taking additional measures to prevent and suppress, in their territories through all lawful means, the financing, and preparation of any acts of terrorism.”
The resolution obliged states to cooperate in combating international terror and criminalized all provision of funding for terrorist use, determined a freeze on, and prohibition of transfer of funds and assets of persons who commit terrorist acts.
- The 2006 UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy Plan of Action (annexed to General Assembly resolution 60/288) repeats the resolve of member states to prevent and combat terrorism, including through refraining from financing terror, and specifically encourages states to implement international standards on money laundering and terrorist financing.23
In light of the above, it is clear that the use of international funds for the purpose of paying the salaries and benefits of terrorists serving prison sentences for acts of terror is the very antithesis of any bona fide, positive international action to encourage peace and stability in the Middle East.
It constitutes first and foremost a violation both of the specific Palestinian obligations pursuant to the Oslo Accords. It undermines and contravenes accepted norms and obligations encapsulated in international legal instruments, including the 1999 UN Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terror and the 2001 UN Security Council resolution to combat international terror, and others.
The use of U.S. and European governmental funds for the direct or indirect payment of prisoners’ salaries runs against the very spirit of their respective counter-terrorism policies, as well as against their active involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
* * *
5 testimony by Yigal Carmon, President of Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) to House Committee On Foreign Affairs, July 6, 2016: “Palestinian Authority Support For Imprisoned, Released, And Wounded Terrorists And Families Of ‘Martyrs’” http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/9305.htm
6 Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 15, 2011
7 See Palestinian Prisoners law, 2004/19, published in December 2004 by the PA Chairman and Government, December 2004. The Prisoners’ Centre for Studies, www.alasra.ps, Accessed May 9, 2011. See also https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/11/british-american-aid-subsidises-palestinian-terrorism and http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/2302/palestinian-authority-terrorist-salaries.
8 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 15 and July 14, 2011
10 Op.cit at footnote 1
- Fatah – Largest faction, secular, left-wing nationalist.
- The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – Second largest, radical left militant and communist
- The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) – Third largest, communist
- The Palestinian People’s Party (PPP) – Socialist
- The Palestine Liberation Front (PLF, Abu Abbas faction) – Minor left-wing faction
- The Arab Liberation Front (ALF) – Minor faction, aligned to the Iraqi Ba’ath Party
- As-Sa’iqa – Syrian-controlled Ba’athist faction
- The Palestinian Democratic Union (Fida) – Minor democratic socialist, 2 state solution, non-militant faction
- The Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF, Samir Ghawsha faction) – minor socialist faction
- The Palestinian Arab Front (PAF) – minor pro-Fatah, former Iraqi Ba’athists faction”
14 Article 1 of the Declaration of Principles defines the PA as follows:
“The aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within the current Middle East peace process is, among other things, to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, the elected Council (the “Council”), for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years, leading to a permanent settlement.”
Article III of the 1995 interim Agreement defines the PA as follows:
- The Palestinian Council and the Ra’ees of the Executive Authority of the Council constitute the Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, which will be elected by the Palestinian people of the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip for the transitional period agreed in Article I of the DOP.
- The Council shall possess both legislative power and executive power, in accordance with Articles VII and IX of the DOP. The Council shall carry out and be responsible for all the legislative and executive powers and responsibilities transferred to it under this Agreement. The exercise of legislative powers shall be in accordance with Article XVIII of this Agreement (Legislative Powers of the Council).”
16 Interim Agreement, see footnote 2, at Article XV, in Annex I, ARTICLE II – Security Policy for the Prevention of Terrorism and Violence http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/ForeignPolicy/Peace/Guide/Pages/THE%20ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN%20INTERIM%20AGREEMENT%20-%20Annex%20I.aspx
17 See Article IX of the Interim Agreement, according to which:
“Notwithstanding the provisions of this paragraph, the PLO may conduct negotiations and sign agreements with states or international organizations for the benefit of the Council in the following cases only:
(l) economic agreements, as specifically provided in Annex V of this Agreement:
(2) agreements with donor countries for the purpose of implementing arrangements for the provision of assistance to the Council,
23 https://www.un.org/counterterrorism/ctitf/en/un-global-counter-terrorism-strategy, see Part II (Measures to Prevent and Combat Terrorism), Paragraphs 1 and 10