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memri
July 6, 2016 No.
97

MEMRI President Yigal Carmon's Testimony To House Committee On Foreign Affairs, July 6, 2016: Palestinian Authority Support For Imprisoned, Released, And Wounded Terrorists And Families Of 'Martyrs'

The following is written testimony submitted to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, July 6, 2016, by Yigal Carmon, President and Founder, The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Washington, D.C.

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Members, and Members of the Committee,

My testimony today is dedicated to a persistent problem: the financial and other support given by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to those who have continued their terrorist activities after the Oslo Accords, in which Yasser Arafat made a commitment, on behalf of the Palestinian people, to stop all terrorist activity.

By providing this support, the PA is encouraging terrorism in violation of its Oslo commitment.

Furthermore, the PA has been using money granted by donor countries for this purpose, and by doing so, has made them complicit in encouraging terrorism as well.

The details of this support, which I will cite in my testimony, may sound somewhat tedious, and I apologize for this in advance. They are taken both from the Palestinian media and from official PA records, available online.

MEMRI, as you may know, has been monitoring and analyzing the Middle East media for nearly 20 years. My testimony today is based not only on an analysis of the PA 2016 budget, but on years of research.

Details of the PA Support for Terrorists

The PA transfers the funds through two PLO organizations:

· The National Palestinian Fund, which transfers moneys for the prisoners and released prisoners (further to be disbursed by the Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs)

· The Institute for Care for the Families of Martyrs, which transfers moneys for the families of martyrs.

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. [1] (For the text of the law, see Appendix 2). 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. It is also stated that the PA will provide the allowance to "every prisoner, without discrimination."

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.

Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas has stressed more than once that "the prisoners are top priority."[2] As a result of this commitment, the PA invests significant sums in underwriting the expenses of the prisoners and their families - $137.8 million according to the PA's 2016 budget (about 7% of which is for officials' salaries and operating expenses) (see Appendix 1, Figure 1).[3] Over the years, the Palestinian government has taken a series of decisions implementing the laws.[4]

The allowances are currently paid based on PA Government Decision No. 23 of 2010, which specifies the prisoners' monthly allowance according to length of sentence. It ranges from $364 a month for up to three years imprisonment to $3,120 for 30 years and more. There is a $78 supplement for terrorists from Jerusalem and a $130 supplement for Arab Israeli terrorists. (For the full chart, see Appendix 1, Figure 2):[5]

The PA also provides prisoners with a monthly allowance for canteen expenses, totaling $780,000 per month.[6]

Although the law states that prisoners should be given allowances "without discrimination,"[7] sometimes the PA has cut allowances for political reasons. For example, in December 2015, allowances were cut from $338 to $208 for released prisoners who are members of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, and, recently, for members of the PFLP as well, following political tension between these organizations and the PA.[8]

This political decision aroused the protest of the director of the Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, 'Issa Qaraqe', who said that "it is unacceptable for the Ministry of Finance to cut a prisoner's salary."[9] His statement proves two things: that it is the PA that is funding these allowances and that the PA can and does cut allowances to prisoners when it wishes.

In May 2014, An Administrative Change Took Place

'Abbas issued a presidential order according to which the payments to prisoners would no longer be made by the PA's Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs. Instead, they would be disbursed by a PLO Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs.

The aim of this deliberately misleading move was to alleviate pressure on the PA by donor countries that do not wish their money to be channeled to support terrorism. However, the offices remained the same and the official in charge remained the same under a new job title. The source of the money remains the PA, which receives them from donor countries, and the overseeing body remains none other than the PA.

Several High-Ranking Palestinian Officials Have Addressed This Change:

In June 2014, the former Deputy Minister for Prisoners' Affairs, Ziyad Abu 'Ayn, explained that "the national interest requires" this change because the donor countries "have established dozens of investigative committees focusing on the issue of [their] funds that are transferred from the PA to the prisoners."[10]

PA officials have admitted that the PA remains the financer and the decision-maker in all things pertaining to support for the prisoners and the martyrs' families.

For example, in September 2014, the director for detainees and ex-detainees affairs in Hebron, Ibrahim Najajra, said that the change of status from ministry to commission "would not detract from the prisoners' value or from their legal, moral, or political status, since the services extended to them are anchored in law." He added that the commission would be under the direct supervision of the Palestinian presidency, and that the payments would be made directly by the PLO's National Palestinian Fund.[11]

In December 2015, PA Cabinet Secretary 'Ali Abu Diyak announced that the PA government was committed to continuing to pay allowances to fighters imprisoned for their national struggle and to the families of the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners.[12]

Let Me Move To The PA Support For Families Of "Martyrs"

The 2016 budget describes the PLO's Institute for Care for the Families of Martyrs as the body "responsible for ensuring a dignified life to the families of all those martyred and wounded as a result of being participants or bystanders in the revolution."

It is allocated just under $173 million ($172,534,733) for families of martyrs and the wounded within the homeland and outside it. The Institute's operating expenses comes to about $1.5 million. (See Appendix 1, Figure 3).

The budget also states that the Institute provides allowances "without discrimination" – in other words, also from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and so on.[13]

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said recently, on June 17, 2016, that "the government will continue to act together with the PLO institutions to improve the allowances of the families of the martyrs as soon as possible."[14]

What Are The Details Of The Payments To The Families Of The Martyrs?

According to reports from 2011 in the Palestinian media, the family of every "martyr" receives a one-time payment of $1,560, as well as a monthly allowance of $364. There are also additional payments based on various criteria, including family status – the family of a married martyr receives an additional $104, and if he has children, the family receives $52 per child[15] – whether the martyr was a civilian or a member of the PA military force, and on his or her rank. (For some of the criteria, see Appendix 1, Figures 4, 5).

In Conclusion

Let me stress again that as in the case of the support for prisoners, support for the families of martyrs who committed their acts prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords and the PLO commitment to end all forms of terrorism could perhaps be understandable in the context of an overall reconciliation process.

However, the fact that such payments are also given to families of people from various organizations who continue to commit acts of terrorism in violation of the peace accord constitutes deliberate encouragement of terrorism. Consequently, money that originates from donor countries and is used for this purpose makes these countries complicit in the encouragement of terrorism.

*Yigal Carmon is President and Founder of MEMRI.

Appendix 1

Fig. 1: PA payments to prisoners (in NIS) – 2016 Budget[16]

Fig. 2: Monthly allowances for prisoners (in NIS) – PA Government Decision No. 23, 2010[17]

Fig. 3: Budget of the Institute for Care for the Families of Martyrs for 2016 (in NIS)[18]

Fig. 4: Allowance for families of martyrs, by family status (in NIS)[19]

Fig. 5: Allowance for families of martyrs, by military rank (in NIS)[20]

Appendix 2: The Laws

Law No. 14 (2004) on Aid for Prisoners in Israeli Prisons

Following an examination by the Palestinian Authority Chairman of the Amended Basic Law, and in accordance with what was approved by the Legislative Council in its November 24, 2004 session, we issued the following Law:

Article 1:

All instances of the following terms and expressions have the specific meaning defined below, unless the context indicates otherwise:

Prisoner: anyone incarcerated in the occupation's prisons for his participation in the struggle against the occupation.

The account: the special account for prisoners within the Aid Fund for Victims of Israeli Aggression in the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

The fund: the Aid Fund for Victims of Israeli Aggression in the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

Article 2:

Under this Law a "special account" will be opened as part of the fund, dedicated to supporting the steadfastness of the prisoners and their families.

Article 3:

The account's sources of funding will consist of the following:

1. Moneys deducted from the salaries of Palestinian Authority civil servants and employees in favor of the account. [The overall sum deducted] will not exceed the wages [paid out for] one day out of the fiscal year, and the government will take a decision regarding [the deduction] following the Legislative Council's approval.

2. A budget allotted by the [Palestinian] Finance Ministry for the account out of the general budget.

3. Donations, grants and aid [moneys] forwarded to the account.

4. Any additional source designated by the fund's board of directors for this purpose.

Article 4:

1. The government is entitled to demand that bodies in the private and [non-governmental] public sector deduct one day's wages from [the salaries of] all their employees in favor of the account.

2. The sum deducted will not exceed one day's wages in the body's fiscal year.

Article 5:

The provisions of the Fund Law will apply to the moneys in the account.

Article 6:

The government will determine the regulations necessary to implement the provisions of this law.

Article 7:

All the relevant parties, each in its domain, must implement the provisions of this Law and act according to it, from the date of its approval, and it will be published in the register.

Published: Gaza, December 1, 2004,

Rouhi Fatouh, Palestinian Authority Chairman

Amended Palestinian Prisoners Law No. 19 (2004)

Palestinian Authority Chairman

After examining the amended Basic Law and in accordance with what was ratified by the Palestinian Legislative Council in its session on December 22, 2004, we have issued the following Law:

Article 1: Definitions

The following terms and expressions have the specific meaning defined below, unless the context indicates otherwise:

The National Authority: the Palestinian National Authority.

The government: the government of the National Authority.

The ministers: the Ministry of Prisoners and Released Prisoner Affairs or [any other] ministry dealing with [prisoners and released prisoners].

Prisoner: anyone incarcerated in the occupation's prisons for his participation in the struggle against the occupation.

Released prisoner: any prisoner released from an occupation prison.

Article 2: The right to a dignified life

The prisoners and released prisoners are a fighting sector and an integral part of the fabric of the Arab Palestinian society. The provisions of this Law guarantee them and their families a dignified life.

Article 3: The National Authority's duties towards the prisoner

To actualize the objectives of this law, the National Authority will take every possible measure to do the following:

1. Release the prisoners from the prisons of the occupation.

2. Extend every legal aid to the prisoner.

3. Grant the financial rights of the prisoner and his family as specified in the provisions of this Law and in accordance with the salary chart that is in force.

4. Enable the prisoner and his children to obtain an education.

5. Rehabilitate released prisoners.

6. Guarantee [released prisoners] positions according to the length of their imprisonment and their level of education, as will be specified in a regulation to be issued by the government.

Article 4: The release of prisoners is a fundamental condition in a peace agreement

The National Authority is prohibited from signing or participating in the signing of a peace agreement to resolve the Palestinian problem without releasing all the prisoners.

Article 5: Preferential treatment for released prisoners

1. Any released male prisoner who was incarcerated in an occupation prison for five years or more, and any female prisoner who was incarcerated for three years or more, will be exempt from the following:

a. Tuition fees at government schools and universities.

b. Health insurance payments.

c. Tuition fees for all professional training programs offered by the relevant official bodies.

2. The government will stipulate the exemptions set out in the previous sub-article in a regulation to be issued on this matter.

Article 6: Monthly salary and clothing allowance

The National Authority will grant every incarcerated prisoner a monthly salary, without discrimination, and twice annually a clothing allowance, in accordance with a regulation to be issued in this matter.

Article 7: Monthly salary

1. The National Authority is obligated to pay every prisoner a monthly salary as specified in the regulation [to be issued in this matter]. The sum will be linked to the cost-of-living index.

2. The prisoner's family will receive a portion of his salary, according to the legal criteria that are in force.

3. The prisoner will choose his representative for the purpose of collecting his monthly salary or [the portion] that remains of it.

Article 8: Years spent in prison recognized as tenure

1. [In the case of] a released prisoner working as a civil servant, the years spent in prison will be calculated [as part of his tenure] as defined in Article 107 of the Civil Service Law of 1998 and related regulations.

2. [In the case of] a released prisoner working as a civil servant, the National Authority shall pay his social security and pension fees to the social security and pension fund for the years he spent in prison.

Article 9: Preparing a prisoner database

The [Prisoner Affairs] Ministry, in cooperation with the relevant bodies, will prepare a document-based database on prisoners and released prisoners, including [information on] the grounds for their arrest, the circumstances of their arrest and the crimes of the occupation against them.

Article 10: Filing lawsuits regarding the occupation's crimes against the prisoners

The National Authority will be entitled to file lawsuits pertaining to the occupation's crimes against the prisoners and demanding reparation for damages caused to them as a result [of these crimes]. Every prisoner or released prisoner is entitled to file such lawsuits.

Article 11: Issuing regulations

The government will issue the regulations necessary for implementing the provisions of this Law.

Article 12: Eliminating contradictions

Any article that contradicts the provisions of this Law shall be [considered] null and void.

Article 13: Action and implementation

All relevant parties are obligated to carry out the provisions of this Law. The Law shall come into force 30 days after its entry into the register.

Published: Gaza, December 27, 2004.

Rouhi Fatouh, Palestinian Authority Chairman

Decree Law No. 1 (2013) on the Amendment of the Prisoners and Released Prisoners Law No. 19 (2004)

According to the provisions of the Amended Basic Law of 2003 and its amendments, in particular Article 43; following an examination of the Prisoners and Released Prisoners Law No. 19, of 2004; based on the government recommendations of June 19, 2012 and in accordance with our powers; in the interest of the public good and on behalf of the Arab Palestinian people, we issue the following Decree Law:

Article 1

For the purpose of this amendment, "the original law" refers to the Prisoners and Released Prisoners Law No. 19 of 2004.

Article 2:

Article 1 of the original law shall be amended as follows:

The following terms and expressions have the specific meaning defined below, unless the context indicates otherwise:

The State: The State of Palestine.

The government: the government of the State of Palestine.

The ministry: the Ministry of Prisoners and Released Prisoners Affairs, or the relevant ministry.

The minister: the Minister for Prisoners and Released Prisoners Affairs, or the relevant minister.

Prisoner: anyone incarcerated in the occupation's prisons for his participation in the struggle against the occupation.

Released prisoner: any prisoner released from an occupation prison.

House arrest: a decision by the occupation to place a person under house arrest and prevent him from leaving his home or place of residence for a specified period of time, for resisting the occupation.

Expulsion: a decision by the occupation to expel any Palestinian by force from his usual place of residence [to a location] inside or outside Palestine.

The prisoner's family: the [prisoner's] father, mother, spouse, children and any dependent member of his household.

Period of incarceration: the time actively spent in prison, whether continuous or intermittent.

Unemployment benefits: regular monthly payments provided for a specified period of time in accordance with the regulation issued pursuant to the provisions of this Decree Law.

Article 3:

All references to "the National Authority" in the original law shall be replaced with the term "State of Palestine"

Article 4:

Article 3 of the original law shall be amended as follows:

To actualize the objectives of this Decree Law, the State will take every legitimate measure to do the following:

1. Release the prisoners from the prisons of the occupation.

2. Extend every legal aid to the prisoner during his incarceration.

3. Grant the financial rights of the prisoner and his family, and every other right that can be granted to him in accordance with the provisions of this Law and the regulation issued pursuant thereto.

4. Enable the prisoner, his spouse and his children to obtain an education.

5. Rehabilitate released prisoners according to the provisions of the regulation issued pursuant to the provisions of this Law.

6. Provide health insurance to the prisoner and his family.

Article 5:

A new article shall be added to the original law, after sub-article 3, whose number will be 3', as follows:

1. The State will guarantee employment to released prisoners, according to criteria that take into consideration the number of years spent in prison, the prisoner's level of education and his employability.

2. Released prisoners will be given priority in annual job placements in all State institutions, according to the laws that are in force.

3. If the State is unable to guarantee the prisoners employment according to the previous sub-article, it will be obligated to do as follows:

a. Pay a monthly salary to every released male prisoner who spent five to ten years in prison and every released female prisoner [who spent] two to five years in prison.

b. In the event of the death of a released male or female prisoner mentioned in clause (a) of this sub-article, the State will undertake to provide for their families, in accordance with the regulation issued pursuant to the provisions of this Decree Law.

c. A permanently disabled male prisoner will receive 50% or more [of the sums specified] in clauses (a) and (b) of this sub-article, providing he spent two and a half years in prison, or one year in the case of a female prisoner.

d. A male prisoner who was incarcerated for ten years or more, and a female prisoner who was incarcerated for five years or more, will be given a salaried position in a State institution, without detracting from the rights of the released prisoners [employed as] civil servants.A prisoner who was incarcerated for one to five years and did not receive benefits under the previous articles will be entitled to unemployment benefits for a period equal to the period of his incarceration.

4. Every prisoner who was incarcerated for one year or more is entitled to a one-time release grant upon his release.

5. The provisions of this Article will be [implemented] according to the regulation issued pursuant to this Decree law.

Article 6:

Sub-article 1 of Article 5 of the original law will be amended as follows:

Any released male prisoner who was incarcerated in an occupation prison for a year or more will be wholly or partially exempt from the following payments:

a. Tuition fees at Palestine universities.

b. Health insurance payments.

c. Tuition fees for all professional training programs offered by the relevant official bodies.

Article 7:

A new article shall be added to the original law, after Article 5, whose number will be 5', as follows:

1. A prisoner who dies in prison will be recognized as a member of the Martyrs' Families Institution and will receive an augmented salary, according to the time he spent in prison and according to the Palestinian Security Service Law that is in force.

2. The provisions of sub-article 1will [also] apply to any released prisoner who died within a year of his release of a health problem related to his incarceration.

Article 8:

Two sub-articles will be added to Article 8 of the original law, after sub-article 2, as follows:

1. The State will continue paying the salaries of released prisoners [employed as] civil servants.

2. If the salary of a released prisoner [employed as] a civil servant is lower than the salary he received in prison, the State will make up the difference.

Article 9:

A new article shall be added to the original law, after Article 10, whose number will be 10', as follows:

1. The provisions of this Decree Law will [also] apply to persons who have been expelled and to those under house arrest.

2. [In addition,] the provisions of this Decree Law will apply to members of PLO factions arrested outside of Palestine for participating in the struggle for the independence and liberation of Palestine.

Article 10:

According to the Minister's recommendation, the government will issue the regulations necessary for implementing the provisions of this Law.

Article 11:

Any [article] that contradicts the provisions of this Decree Law shall be [considered] null and void.

Article 12:

This Decree Law will be submitted to the Legislative Council for ratification at its next session.

Article 13:

All relevant parties are obligated to carry out the provisions of this Decree Law. The Decree Law shall come into force 30 days after its entry into the register.

Published: Ramallah, January 8, 2013.

Mahmoud 'Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, PLO Chairman

 


[1] For Law No. 14 of 2004, see: Muqtafi.birzeit.edu/pg/getleg.asp?id=14741; for Law No. 19 of 2004, see: Muqtafi.birzeit.edu/pg/getleg.asp?id=14777; for Law No. 1 of 2013, see Muqtafi.birzeit.edu/pg/getleg.asp?id=16458.

[2] See for example Wafa.ps, February 21, 2005; Al-Rai (Jordan), April 28, 2013; Shasha.ps, April 27, 2013.

[3] For the budget, see: Pmof.ps/documents/10192/654283/BUDGET+BOOK+2016.06.22.pdf/1b8b37ef-fe73-4ea8-80b3-2ab3bd8c3c68, pp. 753-760.

[4] See for example Government Decision No. 19 of 2010, Muqtafi.birzeit.edu/pg/getleg.asp?id=16255; Government Decision No. 21 of 2010, Muqtafi.birzeit.edu/pg/getleg.asp?id=16257; Government Decision No. 22 of 2010, Muqtafi.birzeit.edu/pg/getleg.asp?id=16258; Government Decision No. 23 of 2010, Muqtafi.birzeit.edu/pg/getleg.asp?id=16259; Government Decision No. 15 of 2013, Muqtafi.birzeit.edu/pg/getleg.asp?id=16556.

[5] Al-Waqi' Al-Filastiniyya, Issue No. 90, March 30, 2011, p. 106.

[6] Maannews.net, September 9, 2014.

[7] Let me give just two examples: The perpetrators of the August 9, 2001 attack on the Sbarro café in downtown Jerusalem, that killed 15, including seven children, and wounded 130, and of the July 31, 2002 attack on the cafeteria of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, that killed nine, four of whom were U.S. citizens. The imprisoned attackers are Hamas members and they receive these allowances. I am holding in my hand an original document that was introduced by a U.S. court in New York City; it is from the PA/Ministry of Detainees Affairs, and it sets out in detail the payments to one of the members of the Hamas cell that carried out the Hebrew University attack. Thus, the PA is paying Hamas members who killed U.S. citizens nine years after the Oslo Accords – and the funds for this come from the donor countries, including the U.S.

[8] Al-Resala (Gaza) December 15, 2015, Pnn.ps, April 14, 2016.

[9] Paltimes.net, December 9, 2015.

[10] Eqtesadia.ps, June 4, 2014.

[11] Hr.ps/ar, September 1, 2014.

[12] Feneeqnews.com, December 9, 2015. For the budget, see: Pmof.ps/documents/10192/654283/BUDGET+BOOK+2016.06.22.pdf/1b8b37ef-fe73-4ea8-80b3-2ab3bd8c3c68.

[13] Pmof.ps/documents/10192/654283/BUDGET+BOOK+2016.06.22.pdf/1b8b37ef-fe73-4ea8-80b3-2ab3bd8c3c68, pp. 729-736.

[14] Palestinecabinet.gov.ps/WebSite/AR/ViewDetails?ID=37799.

[15] Lajeen-db.ps, August 9, 2011.

[16] Pmof.ps/documents/10192/654283/BUDGET+BOOK+2016.06.22.pdf/1b8b37ef-fe73-4ea8-80b3-2ab3bd8c3c68, p. 760.

[17] Al-Waqi' Al-Filastiniyya, Issue No. 90, March 30, 2011, p. 106.

[18] Pmof.ps/documents/10192/654283/BUDGET+BOOK+2016.06.22.pdf/1b8b37ef-fe73-4ea8-80b3-2ab3bd8c3c68, p. 735.

[19] Aman-palestine.org/data/itemfiles/b3dd98a029db76be614d1a64dd10604e.pdf, p. 16.

[20] Aman-palestine.org/data/itemfiles/b3dd98a029db76be614d1a64dd10604e.pdf, p. 17.