Former leader of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat pictured with current Palestinian Authority leade, Mahmoud Abbas (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
by Jonathan Wasserlauf
Abbas vows to maintain the PA’s “pay-for-slay”
The Palestinian Authority (PA) funds a financial reward system, the Martyrs Fund, that pays families and their terrorist family members who are jailed or maimed as a result of attacks on Israeli soldiers or civilians, hence, “pay-for-slay”. Seeking a resolution to end Palestinian incentivization for killing innocent Jews and Israelis alike, the Israeli government, just a few months prior, decided to withhold tax money collected for the PA in an amount equalling that of the stipends paid to terrorist prisoners.
President of the PA Mahmoud Abbas recently admitted that the PLO, which was established by Egypt in 1964, had been supporting the family members of killed terrorists since 1965. Abbas rationalizes these payments as a necessary responsibility to the “martyrs” and their families.
Bizarrely, as a reaction to Israel’s unwillingness to hand over money that will only be used to fuel more bloodshed, the PA rejected any tax money from Israel. Punishing its own people even further, the PA’s net loss of over half the budget forces a strenuous financial burden on the PA’s mandate.
(Video courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch)
The EU’s unbearable promises
Mahmoud Abbas continues to insist that it is the PA’s obligation to pay “martyrs”. As a result of the budget cuts, the PA halved the salaries of its public employees and then lobbied the European Union for more money. The PA sought to convince EU administrators that the burden of blame for their self-imposed dilemma falls on Israel’s shoulders.
While the EU claims that its monetary aid will see satisfied service people in the PA, the truth remains that it is most likely to be spent covering for “pay-for-slay” salaries. Johannes Hahn, the EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, revealed that the EU is well-aware of the PA’s financial crisis, but insists that it is up to both the PA and Israel to find a compromise
On the one hand, Hahn explains that Israel breaks current protocols in place regarding the withholding of finances. On the other hand, Hahn concedes that there is a legitimate concern about the PA’s martyr system. The EU does not seem to act on this concern. Instead, most recently, the EU decided to send €15 million ($17 million) to the Palestinian Authority. This value covers the salaries cut by the Palestinian Authority in order to maintain payments to dead, imprisoned, or injured terrorists.
Canadian support for the PA
In October 2018, Canadian Minister of International Development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, announced that Canadians will donate $50,000,000 over the course of the next two years through UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The declaration of commitment to the Palestinians by Canada came just two months after the United States made public that it was canceling its financial support for the PA, including its entire UNRWA budget.
When Hamas established its de facto government in the Palestinian Authority in 2006, Canada became one of the the first Western countries to stop funding the government. In 2007, under the guise that PA President Abbas would uphold his promise of relinquishing corruption within government and cracking down on security matters, Canadian Prime Minister Harper restored funding to the PA beginning with $8,000,000 which would grow to over $30,000,000
In 2014, Prime Minister Harper, visiting President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA, emphasized Canada’s position in not choosing sides in the conflict. Canada’s position, as PM Harper suggests, is that support for the Palestinians is to occur through measures of improving life and progress of the Palestinian people, and, their state.
PM Harper, during this time, proclaimed his refusal to single-out and criticize Israel and its policies. Despite maintaining the typical Canadian peacekeeping position, PM Harper still pledged $66,000,000 to the Palestinians to be spent over three to five years. Furthermore, Ottawa provided the Palestinians with a $300,000,000 aid package between 2008 and 2013.
This aid money was supposed to be invested in economic development, as well as the justice and security sectors. The government was not as clear about where else finances donated would be invested but the Canadian federal government did mention that there are some specific programs that were not detailed.
It is difficult to pinpoint, track, and identify, where exactly money in the PA is being spent. It was not too long after the Americans recently decided against funding UNRWA that PA President Abbas reacted angrily, expressing his adamant desire to keep up fiscal transfers to martyrs, prisoners and their families, even if this would force him out of office:
“If we had only a single penny left, we would pay it to families of the martyrs and prisoners.”
Given that the Palestinian Authority receives billions of dollars in foreign aid yearly, and that Abbas is open about his responsibility for funding the Martyrs Fund by any means, the situation should leave Palestinian global donors in an uncomfortable position.
Jonathan Wasserlauf is a researcher and publisher for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, a political science major, graduate student, and founder & editor-in-chief of King David’s Journal.