It’s bad enough that the blood of American and Israeli victims of Palestinian terror is cheap; it is outrageous that it is subsidized. Including by the U.S. government. Isn’t it time to put a stop to this most obscene use of American tax dollars?
It is bad enough that the blood of American and Israeli victims of Palestinian terror is so cheap; it is outrageous that it is subsidized.
But it is unconscionable that the shedding of American and Israeli blood through Palestinian terror is subsidized with U.S. tax dollars. Yet, unbelievably, the Congressional attempt to rectify this situation through the Taylor Force Act has run into opposition.
If that sounds implausible, consider some context. Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel made stunning concessions to the Palestine Liberation Organization, then-led by Yasser Arafat. Israel allowed the PLO to establish the Palestinian Authority, governing the vast majority of Palestinians. In exchange, Israel was to receive peace: the Palestinians committed to permanently abandon the goal of destroying Israel, and to fight terrorism.
The world (including the U.S.) has since showered the PA with billions of aid dollars. But rather than pursue actual peace or build a functioning economy, the PA has invested heavily in systemic demonization of Israel and of Jews. For 24 years, the PA has bombarded its population with anti-Semitic, anti-coexistence, pro-“liberation” and pro-terror propaganda and incitement. It is everywhere, infecting children’s books and TV programming, schoolrooms, textbooks, summer camps, mosques, broadcasts and newspapers. Terrorists are heroes and role models. Streets, parks, schools and even soccer tournaments are named in honor of the most murderous of them.
It also infects bank accounts. The most explicit form that the PA’s pro-terror policy takes is payment to terrorists and their families. The PA has codified laws granting regular payments to “anyone incarcerated in [Israel’s] prisons for his participation in the struggle against the occupation.” Under PA law, terrorists are “a fighting sector and an integral part of the fabric of Arab Palestinian society.”
In this so-called “pay-to-slay” system, the PA provides convicted terrorists and their families with substantial salary and health benefits, free tuition and, for those sentenced to five or more years, a guaranteed government job upon release from prison. Murderers “earn” over $40,000 per year. Longer terror sentences and greater crimes qualify for higher salaries and positions. The families of “martyrs” receive additional large payments and benefits.
These payments amount to over $300 million per year–nearly 10% of the entire PA budget. As it happens, U.S. payments to the Palestinians during the Obama era averaged $400 million per year ($363 million last year). Is there a more obscene use of American tax dollars?
The PA may not know how to increase GDP, but it has been wildly successful at cultivating a rabidly anti-Israel/anti-Jewish population. (Not to mention anti-American: Palestinians danced in the streets on 9/11.) The “peace” that Israel actually received from the peace process has included a never-ending stream of thousands of attempted Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli targets. Since Oslo, Palestinian attacks have killed over 1,600 Israelis, and wounded some 9,000. (As a fraction of the population, that would be the equivalent of approximately 64,000 American dead–equal to suffering a 9/11 attack every year–and 360,000 wounded.)
In fact, scores of the Palestinians’ victims have been U.S. citizens. Last June, Hallel Ariel, a bright and graceful 13-year old Jewish girl, was asleep in her room in the Israeli town of Kiryat Arba. Mohammad Tarayrah, a 19-year old Palestinian from a nearby village, broke into her home and stabbed her to death in her bed. He was subsequently killed by security forces. For his hands-on, heroic murder of a defenseless, sleeping American-Israeli girl, he was hailed by the Palestinian Authority as a “shahid” (martyr), Islam’s highest honor.
His mother was interviewed in the aftermath; where one might expect some expression of humanity–of sadness, shame, regret or empathy, she only praised her son effusively: “My son is a hero. He made me proud. My son died as a Martyr defending Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, he [my son] has joined the Martyrs before him…Allah willing, all of them will follow this path, all the youth of Palestine. Allah be praised.”
Congratulations, Mrs. Tarayrah; you’ve just been awarded thousands of dollars, courtesy of the American taxpayer.
Some weeks prior, Taylor Force, a 28-year old American MBA student, was in Tel Aviv. A Texas native, Force was an Eagle Scout, a West Point graduate, and a U.S. Army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Walking with friends near the beach promenade, he was attacked by 22-year old Bashar Masalha, a Palestinian in Israel illegally, who killed Force and stabbed 10 others before being shot dead by police. The PA declared Masalha to be a hero and martyr, entitling his survivors to substantial payments.
Force’s parents and sister, already grieving, were appalled at this discovery. They joined with several Senators to promote a bill to cut funding to the PA unless the president certifies that the PA is “taking credible steps to end acts of violence against Israeli citizens” and that it had “terminated payments for acts of terrorism against Israeli citizens.” In other words, says the Taylor Force Act, America will no longer play “pay-for-slay.”
As morally straightforward as this bill may be, it has detractors both in the American and Israeli policy establishments. Opponents fear that cutting off funds could damage the peace process (to the extent one exists), or that it could cause an already weak PA to collapse. Thus, these opponents are effectively asking America to continue to pay diplomatic protection money to preserve the PA, even if it rewards the murderers of Americans.
Even putting aside the offensiveness of such payments, that seems like a bad bargain. To begin with, a peace process predicated on allowing one side to promote murder of the other is not going anywhere good.
In addition, the PA has, by design, thoroughly institutionalized sponsorship of terrorism through its incitement, legislation and budgets. After 24 years of immersion in PA terror-worship, the Palestinian population today is even less prepared for peaceful coexistence with a Jewish state than it was pre-Oslo. Appeasing a PA that will shape yet another generation to glorify terror and martyrdom as the highest manifestations Palestinian identity–whatever the price in foregone economic, cultural or political advances–only leads to a more intractable problem down the road.
Opponents of the bill are repeating the same mistake made in the early years of the Oslo process, and compounded by the Obama administration: pursuing the process at all costs without requiring accountability from one side. The PA can make empty anti-terror promises all day, but why should it keep those promises when breaking them comes without a price? And where the same un-kept promise can be made repeatedly as currency for new concessions?
If America is serious about battling terrorism around the world, the second-to-last thing we should do is give a green light to the glorification, promotion and appeasement of terror against a major ally and against dozens of American citizens; the last thing we should do is subsidize it.
Abe Katsman is an American attorney and political commentator living in Israel. He serves as Counsel to Republicans Overseas Israel.