Killing Jews has become a profitable business. Palestinians who think of launching a terror attack against Jews can rest assured that their well-being and that of their family will be guaranteed while they are in Israeli prison. Here is how it works:
The Western-funded Palestinian Authority (PA) government, through its various institutions, provides a monthly salary and different financial benefits to jailed Palestinian terrorists and their families. Upon their release, they will continue to receive financial aid, and are given top priority when it comes to employment in the public sector. Their chances of getting a job with the PA government are higher than those who went to university, because by carrying out an attack against Jews they become heroes, entitled to a superior job and salary.
For the record, these people have not been imprisoned for running a red light. Most of them are behind bars because they have masterminded suicide bombings and other terror attacks that have killed and maimed hundreds of innocent civilians during the past few decades. In the U.S., these convicted Palestinian terrorists would have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty. What they would not be receiving are the privileges offered to them by Abbas and the PA leadership.
Ready for a dose of linguistic reality? In addition to his title as president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas is also chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). So it makes no difference at all whether the PA or the PLO is paying salaries to the terrorists: the same man is authorizing the funds. In reality, the PA and the PLO are one and the same. Israel signed the Oslo Accords with the PLO, and as a result of these agreements, the PA was created. We are dealing with the same people and same ideology.
So, when you hear that it is the PLO, not the PA, that pays the terrorists' salaries, you might want to mention that this statement is a sleight of hand designed to dupe unsuspecting and well-intentioned American and European donors.
Let us look beyond the smoke and mirrors: Palestinians and their families are being financially rewarded by the West for taking part in terror attacks against Jews. It does not take a brain surgeon to figure out that this promotes terrorism. A Palestinian who kills or wounds a Jew can lie comfortably in his prison cell, secure in the knowledge that his future and that of his wife and children taken care of.
Welcome to the world of President Abbas and his government. By providing financial and other aid to those involved in terrorism against Israel, these leaders actively encourage Palestinians to choose the path of violence, and not peace, in dealing with the Israelis.
Let us get specific. The more time you spend in an Israeli prison, the more prestigious the job you will receive. If, for example, you spent more than 15 years in an Israeli prison, and you are affiliated in one way or another with Abbas's ruling Fatah faction, you will most likely be offered the rank of Colonel or Lieutenant General in one of the Western-funded PA security services.
If, by chance, you masterminded a series of terror attacks that resulted in the deaths of multiple Jews, and your name is Marwan Barghouti, your chances of becoming the next Palestinian president are very high. Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in an Israeli prison for his role in a series of terror attacks that killed at least five Jews, is so popular that he won the first slot in the Fatah "primaries" that were held in Ramallah in late October.
Issa Qaraqi, the head of the Palestinian National Commission for Prisoners and Detainees Affairs, described the election of Barghouti as a "victory for the prisoners and their sacrifices." In other words, the terrorists should be happy because a bright future awaits them.
Qaraqi's description is accurate. Like many Palestinians, he too believes that a terrorist who was responsible for the killing of Jews should be honored and offered the finest privileges. Palestinian public opinion polls indicate that Barghouti's chances of succeeding Abbas as the next PA president are very strong. According to these polls, Barghouti, who has been imprisoned for 15 years, is the Palestinians' front-runner for the presidency.
These polling results should come as no surprise whatsoever. Palestinians regularly rise to power on the fact of having killed or wounded a Jew. These are, shall we say, optimum credentials for leadership. "Graduating" from an Israeli prison is better than graduating from an Ivy League university.
Moreover, the payments made to the prisoners and their families are far from "humanitarian" in nature. Many of those who receive the benefits are, in fact, not in need of the money: they own their own houses and their families own agricultural lands and farms. In addition, the Palestinian tribal system, where the clan rallies behind one of its members, allows for the prisoners and their families to benefit from financial and moral support. The family bond is very strong in these instances, and it is the duty of each member of the clan to help in accordance with his or her abilities.
Instead, the payments have a political and national goal, as Palestinian leaders themselves remind us again and again. The declared goal is to support the "steadfastness" of the prisoners and their families, "alleviate their suffering," and pave the way for their "rehabilitation and reintegration" into Palestinian society.
The Palestinian leadership and many Palestinians consider the terrorist prisoners "heroes" -- "soldiers" in the fight against Israel. These are the "good boys," who "sacrificed their lives and freedom" in order to fight the "Zionist enemy." Take, for example, Maher Hashlamoun, a 32-year-old Palestinian man from Hebron who was recently sentenced to two life terms in prison for murdering a Jewish woman and wounding others in a car-ramming and stabbing attack near Bethlehem. Hashlamoun is now being praised by the PA and many Palestinians as a "hero" and "struggler." At his sentencing, Hashlamoun laughed, sarcastically telling the judge: "Do you think you will remain on my homeland for another 200 years?"
Maher Hashlamoun (center), a Palestinian from Hebron, was recently sentenced to two life terms in prison for murdering a Jewish woman and wounding others in an attack near Bethlehem. He is pictured above, smiling and laughing at his sentencing. (Image source: Palestinian Authority Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs)
The terrorist had good reason to laugh in the face of the judge. He knows that Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, or some other entity will look after his family and him while he is sitting in prison. He knows that thanks to Western donations to the Palestinians, his family and he will enjoy monthly payments. The family will even be exempt from paying school and university tuition, as well as their electric and water bills, which will be fully covered by the PA government, directly or indirectly. He also knows that if and when he is released from prison, his chances of finding a job in the public sector are much higher than those of someone who did not kill a Jew or spend time in an Israeli prison.
Until a few years ago, the PA government was dealing with the Palestinian prisoners held in Israel through the Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, which was established in 1995, shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords.
The ministry aims, among other things, to "ensure a decent life for prisoners and care for their children and their families." Its mission also includes the "rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-detainees into Palestinian society."
In 2014, the Palestinian Authority, under pressure from Western donors, abolished the ministry and replaced it with a new body called the Higher National Commission for Prisoners and Detainees Affairs. The decision to abolish the ministry and turn it into a PLO-associated commission was seen as an attempt by Abbas to appease Israel and the Western donors. As a consequence of the change, the PLO, and not the PA government, would be in charge of paying salaries and other social benefits to the prisoners and their families. The move was aimed at showing Western donors that their financial aid to the Palestinian Authority was not going to support terrorists in Israeli prison. (The PLO does not receive direct funds from Western donors).
But Abbas's move was nothing but another dirty deception. The so-called Higher National Commission for Prisoners and Detainees Affairs is actually the same abolished ministry, but under a different name. The commission is directly linked to the Palestinian Authority government and appears as one of its institutions on its official website. The website declares that the Commission provides the prisoners and their families with "legal and material services," as well as professional training, health insurance, loans, grants and university scholarships for ex-prisoners.
While many in the international community have fallen for Abbas's trickery concerning the support of convicted terrorists who are imprisoned by Israel, a few have discovered the ploy. Earlier this year, the British government's Department for International Development reportedly froze part of its aid to the PA, following demands for action from UK lawmakers, after revelations that British aid was being used to fund payments to Palestinian terrorists. Some of the funds were reported to have gone to families of Palestinian suicide bombers and teenagers who have attacked Israelis.
But the world according to the PA is still not the world according to the international community. Taxpayers have the right to know if their money is covering the dental expenses of a terrorist and his family. It is time to tell Abbas and his associates, in terms that they understand, that the West will no longer fund terrorists. This message, above all others, will discourage terrorism -- and perhaps even encourage peace.
Bassam Tawil is based in the Middle East.