The Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund is a fund operated by the Palestinian Authority (PA) for the purpose of paying a monthly cash stipend to the families of Palestinians killed, injured or imprisoned for involvement in attacking, assisting in attacking, or planning to attack Israelis, or for other types of politically-inspired violence, including riots, violent demonstrations, and throwing rocks, and also for paying cash stipends to the families of innocent bystanders killed during violent events. In addition, it provides pocket money to all Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails for ordinary crimes. The Fund traces its origins to a fund created by Fatah in 1964 to support the widows and orphans of Palestinian fedayeen. The scheme has been described as "pay for slay", and has been criticised as encouraging terrorism.
In 2010 (or 2014), the mounting criticism of the payments led to the PA transferring management of the Martyrs Fund to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which now disburses the government-funding to recipients and their families.
The Palestine Mujahidin and Martyrs Fund was established in 1964 by Fatah to recompense the families of dead and wounded militants. In 1971 it was replaced by the Society for the Care of Palestinian Martyrs and Prisoners. The Society defined as "military martyrs" not only as Palestinian fedayeen killed during terrorist operations, but to include fedayeen who died of natural causes while on active service. Their families received cash stipends. Non-members of the Palestine Liberation Organization killed during any kind of encounter with Israeli security forces were given a one-time payment; this created an incentive for families to apply posthumously to have their dead relatives reclassified as fighters.
SAMED, the Palestine Martyrs Works Society, was founded in 1970, and handled some of the martyr payments and provided employment in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon in the 1970s.
The payments were routinized during the Second Intifada (2000–2005). In 2016, payments were made to 35,000 families, including the families of suicide bombers, from a 2016 annual budget of $170 million. The stipend is higher than the average Palestinian wage.
The question of whether militants from all political factions will receive such payments from the PA has been highly contested within Palestinian society, with President Mahmoud Abbas withdrawing, then in 2009 restoring, such payments for prisoners belonging to the PLO, but the government claims that it does not make such payments to families of prisoners belonging to Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
In July 2018, Australia ended direct aid to the PA through the World Bank, amid growing concerns that Australia’s tax dollars may be helping to fund terrorism.
The fund is often referred to as the Martyrs Fund, and, pejoratively, as "Pay for Slay."
A series of funding agencies have existed over the decades, including "Fund for Families of Martyrs and the Injured."
The funding system pays regular stipends to imprisoned individuals and to the surviving families of deceased individuals. The agencies that disburse the funds employ over 500 bureaucrats. Funds are dispersed via separate agencies, one for families of prisoners and the other for the general population. Both agencies are "PLO institutions," but they are both funded by the PA.
According to a report by Yossi Kuperwasser, of the Israeli advocacy group Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, in 2017 half of the $693 million that the PA receives as foreign aid, $345 million, was paid out as stipends to convicted terrorists and their families. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, repeated this claim in a speech to AIPAC in 2018. According to the Washington Post's fact checking, the $350 million figure requires a broad brush classifying all recipients as terrorist; and the picture regarding funding is considered fuzzy because Palestinian budget lines combine terrorist and non-terrorist funding and primarily since the definition of a terrorist is disputed.
The Washington Post’s analysis showed that in 2017, $160 million was paid to 13,000 beneficiaries of “prisoner payments” ($12,307 per person) and $183 million was paid to 33,700 families in about in “martyr payments” ($5,430 per family), of which.
$36 million is estimated to be paid to prisoners serving sentences of >20 years
$10 million is paid to former members of the security forces
$1 million is estimated to be paid to families of the 200 suicide bombers
$10 million is paid to the families of the Palestinians with life terms, lengthy sentences and in the security forces
Under the Amended Palestinian Prisoners Law No. 19 (2004), prisoners who have served a year or more in an Israeli prison are entitled upon release to health insurance and tuition free school, university and professional education. If they become civil servants, the law stipulates that the Palestinian Authority will "pay his social security and pension fees . . . for the years he spent in prison.” Incarcerated individuals are entitled to monthly stipends "linked to the cost-of-living index." The 2013 amendments to the law entitle indiviuals released from prison a preference in getting jobs with the Palestinian Authority, and stipulates that the PA "will make up the difference" if the civil service salary "is lower than the salary he received in prison." Females who have served 2 years in prison, and males who have served 5 are entitled to receive stipends for the rest of their lives.
FOUNDATION FOR THE CARE OF THE FAMILIES OF MARTYRS
The Foundation is dedicated to assisting an Arab who has been "wounded, killed, or otherwise affected as a result of their joining the revolution or the presence of the revolution" against Israel and operates within the PA's Ministry of Social Affairs. In 2016 it supported 35,100 families.
Countering Palestinian Authority claims that this is a welfare fund, the World Bank has stated that, "the program is clearly not targeted to the poorest households. While some assistance should be directed to this population, the level of resources devoted to the Fund for Martyrs and the Injured does not seem justified from a welfare or fiscal perspective."
Stipends are paid to families of both prisoners and Palestinians killed in contexts ranging from political demonstrations that turn violent where protesters are killed by non-lethal riot control methods (such as being hit by a tear gas canister) and to individuals imprisoned for "common crimes". The fund also pays $106 a month in "canteen money" to all imprisoned Palestinians, including those imprisoned for non-political crimes such as car theft and drug dealing, for prisoners to spend in the prison canteen.
Families of individuals killed by Israeli security forces are paid stipends of about $800 to $1,000 per month. The families of convicted Palestinians serving time in Israeli prisons receive $3,000 or higher per month.
Douglas J. Feith calls the stipends "cash incentives" to spur Arabs to undertake car ramming and stabbing as a terrorist tactic.
Salam Fayyad, a former PA Prime Minister and Finance Minister, stated that between January 1995 and June 2002 the fund distributed NIS 16 million to families of prisoners annually, and between June 2002 to June 2004 NIS 88.5 million annually.
In 2017 the National Association of the Martyrs’ Families of Palestine demanded cost of living increases in their stipends, which had been unchanged since 2011.
Private charities including the U.S. based Holyland Foundation have been accused of funding the stipends.
Hamas has operated a separate Martyrs Fund since well before the 2007 insurgent coup d'etat resulting in the Hamas' takeover of Gaza.
In 2001 Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, boasted that Hamas payments to the families of prisoners and of suicide bombers totaled between $2 and $3 million. But according to a 2001 Israeli government report, the families of prisoners received an initial lump sum payment of $500 – $5,000, with monthly stipends of about $100, with higher payments for the families of Hamas members.
The Hamas-controlled Unlimited Friends Association for Social Development (UFA) in Gaza is supported by eight registered U.S. charities. By its own account, UFA distributes cash both to the needy and to "the families of martyrs and prisoners," and "families of martyrs of the Palestinian people".
ATTITUDE OF PALESTINIAN SOCIETY
The "martyr" payments are "exceedingly popular" among Palestinians and have been described as "part of the ethos of Palestinian society." Ziad Asali, founding president of the American Task Force on Palestine, told a reporter that Palestinian politicians and the media have elevated these payments to the point where they are "sacred in Palestinian politics," and no government dares terminate the practice.
Professor Nathan Brown of George Washington University says that the stipends to prisoner's families are "universally supported among Palestinians."
The Palestinian Prisoners' Club defends the stipends; the Club's leader, Qadura Fares, maintains that payments supporting the families of prisoners are just because the families, "are a part of our people" and that "the family did nothing against anyone." According to Fares, the attacks for which the prisoners were convicted are "not terror," but "part of the struggle" against Israel.
In June, 2017, PA President Abbas called efforts to stop the martyr payments an "aggression against the Palestinian people," and defended the salaries paid to imprisoned Palestinians as a "social responsibility."
A public opinion poll commissioned by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy in June, 2017 showed that two-thirds of Palestinians polled disagreed with the PA's policy, saying that Palestinian prisoners and their families do not deserve extra payments on account of their "armed operations", but should instead be given regular social benefits like other Palestinians.
RESPONSE BY GOVERNMENTS
In July 2018, Australia stopped the A$10M (US$7.5M) in funding that had been sent to the PA via the World Bank, and instead is sending it to the UN Humanitarian Fund for the Palestinian Territories. The reason given was that they did not want the PA to use the funds to assist Palestinians convicted of politically motivated violence.
Prime Minister Netanyahu calls the payments "an incentive for murder". The Israeli government, describing the payments as glorifying terrorism, responded to the 2016 killing of Hallel Yaffa Ariel by threatening to deduct the value of "Martyr" payments from the tax revenue it pays to the PA. The United States has threatened to deduct the sums paid out to "martyrs" via the fund from the subsidies it grants to the PA.
Speaking before the United Nations Security Council on 24 June 2017, Israeli ambassador Danny Danon, together with Oran Almog, one of the victims of the Maxim restaurant suicide bombing, demanded that the PA cease incentivizing terrorism by paying stipends to terrorists.
In July 2018, the Knesset passed a law for Israel to deduct the amount of money that the PA gives to terrorists and their families from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects for the PA.
Germany is reviewing the payment of foreign aid to the PA in the light of the use of these funds to incentivize terrorism.
In 2016, Børge Brende, Foreign Minister of Norway, demanded that the PA cease using Norwegian foreign aid for "martyr" stipends. He was satisfied with an assurance that Norwegian funds would not be used for the stipends, although the change was purely "cosmetic" since PA funds are fungible.
On 23 March 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Taylor Force Act into law, which will cut about a third of US foreign aid payments to the PA, until the PA ceases making payment of stipends to terrorists and their surviving families.
AT SAME TIME, UN AND PA APPEAL FOR $355M. HUMANITARIAN AID Think tank: Abbas allocates $330 million to pay terrorists, ‘martyrs,’ inmates JCPA report details 2018 funds set aside in PA budget for recipients including Palestinians who have killed Israelis, and their families Times of Israel Staff, 18 December 2018
The Palestinian Authority has allocated more than NIS 1.24 billion ($330 million) for payments related to security prisoners and so-called “martyrs” in its 2018 budget, according to a new report published by a Jerusalem-based research institute.
The funds include salaries and stipends for convicted terrorists and their families, though the exact figures for the terrorists and their families are not publicly known, with Israeli officials, researchers, and Palestinians split over how many of those eligible for the payments have attacked or killed Israelis.
According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report, which cited the Palestinian Authority’s detailed budget for the year, the PA set aside NIS 550 million ($146 million) for payments for current and past security prisoners and their families.
The amount includes salaries for 5,000 families of prisoners, funds for commissary purchases of 6,000 prisoners, stipends for 5,500 released prisoners, grants for 1,500 prisoners upon their release, and other expenditures, the report said.
The PA set aside NIS 488 million ($129 million) and NIS 552 million ($146 million) for payments regarding security prisoners in its 2016 and 2017 budgets, respectively, according to the research institute.
Many security prisoners are convicted terrorists who killed or participated in the killing of Israelis.
But the total number of security prisoners who are convicted terrorists is disputed by Israelis and Palestinians.
Yossi Kuperwasser, the author of the JCPA report, said in a phone call that “99.9% of [security] prisoners are convicted terrorists.”
However, an Israel Prisons Service pamphlet from 2007 says 70% of Palestinian security prisoners “have blood on their hands,” according to the Washington Post.
Hassan Abed Rabbo, a spokesman for the PA Prisoners Affairs Commission, however, said in a phone call that approximately 500 prisoners are serving life sentences in Israeli prisons, including a few hundred convicted of killing Israelis.
Abed Rabbo said the overwhelming majority of Palestinian prisoners do not have “blood on their hands” and are serving sentences for other offenses such as membership in “what Israel defines” as terrorist organizations.
Ashraf al-Ajrami, a former PA Prisoner Affairs minister, largely echoed Abed Rabbo’s comments.
In a phone call, he estimated under five percent of Palestinian prisoners killed Israelis.
There are a total of 5,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, according to Israel Prisons Services spokesman Assaf Liberati.
A PA law legislated in 2004 says any Palestinian prisoner and his or her family are entitled to a variety of payments. The law defines a prisoner as “anyone who is sitting in the occupation’s prisons for participating in the struggle against the occupation” and calls them “part and parcel of the Palestinian Arab community’s fabric.”
Israel has argued the payments to security prisoners incentivize Palestinians to carry out terror attacks.
“They can make a lot of money being prisoners,” Kuperwasser said. “It’s a good business for them.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials have argued payments to security prisoners seek to mitigate what they call an unfair Israeli military courts system.
The conviction rate in Israel’s military courts stands at almost 100%, B’tselem, an Israeli rights group said in a March 2018 report.
The PA also allocated NIS 691 million ($183 million) for the families of so-called “martyrs” and wounded persons in its 2018 budget, the JCPA report stated.
“Martyrs” include Palestinians killed while carrying out terror attacks against Israelis, but also those killed in clashes with security forces, violent acts undertaken by settlers and other cases.
It is not clear exactly how many “martyrs” were killed while carrying out attacks.
Kuperwasser said “a large number of martyrs” are terrorists, adding he was not aware of the exact number.
Also Tuesday, Palestinian Media Watch, a non-governmental organization that publishes reports on the Palestinian press, slammed a joint appeal by the United Nations and the PA for $355 million (about NIS 1.3 billion) for humanitarian projects in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“Outrageously, the sum that the UN and the PA are asking the international community to donate — $350 million dollars — is equivalent to the $355 million dollars the PA allocated in its 2018 budget to fund its payments rewarding terror. This includes payments to terrorist prisoners, released terrorist prisoners, and to the families of the so-called “Martyrs” – i.e., terrorists killed while carrying out attacks, including suicide bombers,” a Palestinian Media Watch report said.
“Instead of the UN asking donor countries to contribute $350 million to provide for Palestinian humanitarian needs, the UN should be joining the unequivocal call from many governments that the PA immediately stop squandering the $355 million dollars of its own funds on its ‘Pay for Slay’ policy that incentivizes and rewards terrorism, and instead spend that money on needy Palestinians.”
The UN and the PA launched the appeal on Monday. A document outlining the details of the appeal shows they are not seeking funds for any PA institutions.
Both Israel and the US have heavily criticized the Palestinians for its policy of payments related to Palestinian prisoners and “martyrs” and passed legislation to counter it.
In July, the Knesset passed a law to cut funds Israel transfers to the PA by the amount Ramallah pays to convicted terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks.
In March, US President Donald Trump signed into law legislation that requires the American government to cut some aid to the Palestinians until they end payments to terrorists and slain attackers.
Since Trump signed the legislation, his administration has cut hundreds of millions in aid to the Palestinians.
Abbas has said the PA will continue to pay stipends to the families of Palestinian security prisoners and “martyrs” even if it has to spend its last penny to do so.
“We will not accept a cut or cancellation of salaries to the families of martyrs and prisoners, as some are trying to bring about,” he told representatives of a Palestinian prisoners advocacy group in July.
“Even if we have only a penny left, we will give it to the martyrs, the prisoners and their families.”
PA OFFICIAL TO I24NEWS: WE WILL CONTINUE TO PAY PALESTINIAN PRISONERS IN JAIL, 'FAMILIES OF MARTYRS'
Ii24NEWS' Senior Middle East correspondent, Mohammad Al-Kassim, contributed to this report. february 27, 2019, 9:43 PM
The Palestinian Authority (PA) will continue to pay prisoners in Israeli jails, a senior Palestinian official told i24NEWS on Wednesday.
“I have a message for (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu: The PA will continue paying the prisoners and the families of the martyrs, and Israel has no right to demand a halt to this,” the senior PA official said.
Last week, Israel's security council approved a million dollar freeze on funds transferred to the PA in a bid to offset terrorist's salaries, after months of bureaucratic wrangling culminated in the government's sizable to slash the West Bank-based body.
The tax revenue cut amounts to approximately $138 million, which is over NIS 500 million and according to media reports will likely be deducted incrementally over a 12-month period.
The deduction is deemed to be relative to the said amount that the PA allocates for stipends given to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody as well as the families of the convicted terrorists.
Netanyahu who is also acting defense minister, instructed the defense establishment "to examine further payments that the PA pays in connection with terrorism."
“The PA will go through tough times and a difficult financial crisis, this money makes up the bulk of our budget, I expect demonstrations and I'm worried about our economic situation. We will not be able to pay salaries to our security members beginning of next month,” the PA official continued.
“Netanyahu is responsible for this crisis. He's using it for his own political gain. He wants to win at the expense of Palestinians” the official concluded.
Netanyahu has come under increasing pressure, especially from those on the right of the political spectrum, to penalize the PA in the wake of the brutal murder of 19 year-old Ori Ansbacher on February 7. The Palestinian suspect Arafat Irfayia reportedly admitted that the killing was “nationalistically-motivated.”
"By the end of the week, the staff-work necessary for implementing the law on deducting terrorists' salaries will be completed," Netanyahu -- who is seeking re-election in the country's upcoming April 9 general election -- told journalists last week referring to today's deadline.
On Thursday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ deputy called on Palestinians to take action “to confront the Israeli decision to freeze funds on the ground” including to prevent the entry of Israeli goods into the West Bank and to “reexamine continued economic and security cooperation.”
At the same time, the Palestinian finance minister announced Thursday salary cuts for civil servants.
The PA, which is already running a deficit, will "pay the salaries of civil servants in time, but they will be reduced", said PA finance minister Shukri Bishara after a meeting with EU representatives in Ramallah.
The cuts will not apply to salaries "paid to pensioners and families of martyrs, wounded or prisoners", he added, adding that wages below 2,000 shekels ($550) would also not be affected.
ISRAEL PENALIZES PALESTINIANS FOR PAYMENTS TO PRISONERS AND ‘MARTYRS’ New York Times, Isabel Kershner, July 3, 2018
JERUSALEM — Israel will begin withholding funds from the Palestinian Authority to penalize it for paying stipends to Palestinian prisoners in Israel, their families and the families of Palestinians killed or wounded in confrontations with Israelis.
In an emotionally charged vote that crossed party lines, the Israeli Knesset, or Parliament, approved legislation on Monday night requiring the Israeli authorities to withhold a portion of the monthly transfers of tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, under previous interim peace accords.
The Palestinian leadership describes the payments as necessary social welfare, and many Palestinians revere the prisoners and so-called “martyrs” for the Palestinian cause as heroes. Many Israelis say the stipends encourage violence and reward terrorism.
The amount to be withheld each month will equal one-twelfth of the total amount of stipends paid by the Palestinian Authority the year before. According to the law, the Israeli cabinet can decide if, or when, to release the frozen funds — but only after the defense ministry determines that the Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, has stopped paying the stipends.
The law passed by a vote of 87 to 15 in the 120-seat parliament. The remainder were absent.
The Authority’s insistence on providing the stipends has long roiled Israel. Dubbed by critics as a “pay to slay” policy, the payments benefit tens of thousands of families — including those of suicide bombers — and are estimated to have amounted to more than $300 million, and take up roughly 7 percent of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget.
“We promised to halt the salary-for-terrorists fest, and we have fulfilled our promise,” Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, wrote on Twitter. Referring to Mr. Abbas by his popular name, he added, “Now it’s final. Every shekel that Abu Mazen pays to terrorists and murderers will be automatically deducted from the Palestinian Authority’s budget. An effective war against terror also hits the pocket, of the terrorists, of their families and of Abu Mazen.”
Palestinian officials say that many of the prisoners or the dead were not involved in attacking Israelis, and that stopping the payments would anger many Palestinians. Mr. Abbas says that violence does not serve the Palestinian cause and that he supports only nonviolent resistance, and yet all Palestinians who are killed in the conflict are honored in Palestinian society as “martyrs” and all those in jail in Israel are considered political prisoners.
The Palestinian Cabinet denounced the Israeli law to deduct the equivalent of the stipends from their tax revenue as “financial piracy.” In a statement on Tuesday, it called the legislation “another clear Israeli violation of signed agreements.”
Israel collects the taxes on behalf of the Authority from the earnings of Palestinian day laborers, merchants who live in Palestinian territory but do business in Israel, and from customs on Palestinian imports through Israeli ports.
Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian Authority’s commissioner of prisoner affairs, told the official Voice of Palestine Radio on Tuesday, “The goal of this law is not only theft, but to delegitimize the Palestinian struggle, which is represented by our martyrs and prisoners, by branding them as criminals and terrorists.”
“What they don’t know is that no Palestinian is willing to abandon our martyrs and prisoners — people who have sacrificed for our national struggle,” he said. “This is our national duty and we will not abandon it. So the government will continue to pay these stipends to the families, even if we are in financial crisis.”
In March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel praised the United States government for passing a law that suspended some financial aid to the Palestinians over the stipends paid to families of Palestinians killed or jailed in fighting with Israel. That law was named the Taylor Force Act, after an American killed in Israel by a Palestinian in 2016. Mr. Force’s father, Stuart Force, attended the debate and the vote in the Knesset.
Israel collects more than $100 million a month in customs and other taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which makes up a significant portion of the Palestinian budget. Israel has impounded the money for periods in the past, as a punitive measure or to pressure the Palestinian leadership.
In 2015, Israel suspended the tax transfers for several months in response to a Palestinian move to join the International Criminal Court. The accrued funds were eventually released, partly in response to a recommendation from Israel’s security establishment, which feared that depriving the Palestinian Authority of resources undermined stability in its territory, working against Israel’s interests.
Australia said on Monday that it was ending direct aid to the Palestinian Authority for fear that some of it would end up funding “activities that Australia would never support,” and that its annual $10 million in direct funding would be redirected to meet Palestinian needs through a United Nations humanitarian fund.
Julie Bishop, the Australian foreign minister, said in a statement, “Any assistance provided by the Palestine Liberation Organization to those convicted of politically motivated violence is an affront to Australian values, and undermines the prospect of meaningful peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
ARE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PAYMENTS TO PRISONERS REASONABLE? I24 NEWS 2019 (2.02) Israeli newspaper Yisrael Hayom claims that the Palestinian Authority spent over $135 million in payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in 2018. Israeli research institute Palestinian Media Watch says nearly $50 million of it were paid in salaries to released prisoners and Israelis say the money helps fuel more attacks against them. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is under tremendous US and European pressure to stop the payments. Last year Israel passed a law dubbed ‘Pay for Slay’, which allows it to withhold tax funds to the Palestinian Authority, as long as the Palestinians continue to pay prisoners and their families. But Palestinian officials have repeatedly said the issue of payments is a ‘red line’ and it would be political suicide to stop them. ‘We will pay salaries to the families of the martyrs, the families of the wounded and the families of the prisoners,’ PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat says. ‘This is our duty and we will do it.’ The issue is a sensitive one for Palestinians, who see the prisoners as resistance and freedom fighters. Palestinian civilians in the West Bank share the same sentiments about the payments. ‘Our prisoners are living, at the moment, inside the Israeli jails in a very awkward situation and are subjected to a lot of frustrations and tensions because of what the Israelis are doing right now,’ a Palestinian Ramallah resident says. Despite Israeli and international pressure, Palestinians vow to continue the payments as the prisoners is one of the few issues unifying them.
PAYMENTS TO JAILED PALESTINIANS AND ‘MARTYRS’ BY THE PALESTINE AUTHORITY