WOMEN WALK past pictures of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, in Nablus in May.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the center of attention in world media and political discourse. Unfortunately, the international debate has largely been biased, misinformed and even malicious, which has ultimately led to counterproductive solutions. Even though Israel has consistently proven its desire for peace, most of the world’s criticism has been aimed at Israel and most of the solutions have been based on punishing Israel. The Palestinian leadership, on the other hand, has been given a carte blanche to continue rejecting peace, oppressing its own population and promoting terrorism against Israeli Jews.
If the international community genuinely desires to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians it must end its obsession with criticizing Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, and instead apply pressure on the dictatorial and terrorism- supporting Palestinian Authority to radically change course. A critical step in this direction would be to join the World Jewish Congress in its demand for the PA to end its outrageous policy of paying salaries to convicted Palestinian terrorists and their families.
In the past two years, Israel has faced a new wave of terrorism, mainly consisting of stabbings and vehicular ramming attacks – methods of terrorism that have also reached Europe – resulting in the murder of 55 people and more than 800 wounded. These individual acts of terrorism did not occur in a vacuum; the PA has spent decades creating an industry of antisemitic and anti-Israel incitement that encompasses every sphere of Palestinian society. The Palestinian education curriculum teaches children to hate Jews, honor Hitler and to use violence against Israel, with similar messages being broadcast daily in the PA-controlled media. Palestinian schools, youth summer camps, sports tournaments, streets, squares and monuments are named after Palestinian terrorists who are also frequently praised and honored by Palestinian leaders.
Additionally, and perhaps most damaging of all, the PA financially rewards acts of terrorism against Israel by paying salaries to Palestinian terrorists and their families – totaling $1.1 billion in the past four years. In the PA budget for 2017, about half of the foreign aid donated to the PA goes to terrorist salaries, according to a report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
More than 5,500 Palestinian prisoners serving time for terrorism-related offenses are recipients of these salaries, together with over 21,000 families of terrorists. Palestinian terrorists receive salaries of up to $3,500 per month – approximately twice the average Palestinian salary. In the US that would be like getting $120,000 per year, tax free, for life. In addition to the monthly salary, terrorists also receive onetime grants of up to $25,000.
The PA law that allocates financial rewards and salaries to terrorists is very detailed, deliberate and highly cynical.
Terrorists serving longer prison sentences for more severe crimes receive higher salaries, and higher-ranking governmental jobs and higher military ranks after prison. In other words, the more Jews you murder, the greater the salary, recognition and fame.
This heinous practice is permitted to continue because the international community, which funds about a quarter of the PA’s budget, refuses to condition the aid on an end to terrorist salaries. Most governments justify the enormous sums of aid to the terrorism-sponsoring PA by claiming that the money they donate does not reach the pockets of terrorists but is solely used for humanitarian purposes.
This argument is not only logically flawed but morally reprehensible. Governments that send unconditional aid to the PA must realize that while their aid may go to harmless parts of the PA budget, their aid increases the PA’s overall budget, which frees up more money to be used for terrorist salaries. Therefore, governments that send unconditional aid to the PA are indirectly (and sometimes directly) funding terrorism against innocent victims. It is as simple and clear-cut as that.
Imagine the good these massive sums of money could be used for if directed toward the needs of the Palestinian people and not terror salaries. For example, if the PA would stop paying salaries to terrorists for just one year, every Palestinian child aged five to 14 could get a free computer or free lunch every day for an entire year, or every Palestinian aged 18 to 20 living in poverty could go to college for free.
For all of the reasons stated above, the World Jewish Congress has initiated a worldwide campaign - #StopTerrorPay - encouraging the general public to suggest ways the money currently used for terror salaries could better serve the Palestinian people. Submit your ideas to stophate@ wjc.org or post to social media using the hashtag #StopTerrorPay and let your voice be heard. The World Jewish Congress will ensure that your ideas will reach key decision makers and donor countries around the world.
By ending salaries to Palestinian terrorists, the international community would save countless lives of Israelis while at the same time significantly improving the quality of life of the Palestinian people.
That is a proposition that should be enticing to those who are pro-Palestinian, pro-Israel – and everyone in between.The author is a member of the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps and the former political adviser at the Embassy of Israel in Sweden. Follow him on Twitter: @ GabRosenberg.