The following testimony has been submitted to the House Foreign Affairs Committee by Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
House Foreign Affairs Committee
Hearing: Financially Rewarding Terrorism in the West Bank
Testimony for the Record
Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, and Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, thank you for holding today’s hearing on Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Barriers to Peace. On behalf of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (Orthodox Union)—the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization—I am pleased to submit this statement for the record.
Unfortunately, the timing of this hearing is searing and salient as we mourn the loss last week of 13-year-old Hallel Ariel, an Israeli girl stabbed to death by a teenaged Palestinian terrorist as she slept in her home, and of Rabbi Miki Mark, who on July 1 was shot to death as he drove with his family. Since September of last year, Palestinian terrorists perpetuated nearly 300 other stabbings, shootings, and vehicular assaults against Israelis. It is time for the United States Congress to take concrete action to impose consequences upon a Palestinian leadership that enables the murder of innocent people.
Last week, even before the tragic murder of young Hallel, the Senate Appropriations Committee included in the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act–on a bipartisan vote–a provision to restrict U.S. taxpayer dollars to funds that support payments to Palestinians and their families who commit terrorist attacks. I urge the House of Representatives to join their colleagues in the Senate to ensure that U.S. financial aid does not go toward funding terrorists or their families.
According to a 2015 Congressional Research Service report, the Palestinians are among the largest recipients of international aid, with the U.S. contributing more than $5 billion in security assistance and bilateral economic aid since the mid-1990s. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. supported United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East provide hundreds of millions of indirect economic assistance for humanitarian programs, education, medical care, vocational training, and other initiatives.
A key purpose of this aid, which is traditionally supported by the Government of Israel, is to enable Palestinian Authority (PA) forces to stop Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis. However, since September 2015, over 300 Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis have occurred, resulting in 40 deaths and more than 500 wounded. Given these statistics, it is time to reexamine U.S. financial aid to the PA.
Exacerbating these matters is the evidence that the PA has been using U.S. funds to pay stipends to the families of thousands of Palestinians who are committing the terror attacks. Palestinian terrorist prisoners are regarded by the PA as patriotic “fighters” and as employees of the government of the PA. While in prison, these terrorists and their families are paid premium salaries and given extra benefits as rewards for their service. According to a recent report from the Gatestone Institute, “terrorists in prison receive higher average salary than PA civil servants and military personnel.” And a 2014 study by the Israeli government, based on internal PA documents, showed that these “prisoners” and their families had received more than $75 million in stipends in just one year.
Upon release from custody, the terrorists become civil service employees. Shockingly, monthly salaries for both incarcerated and released prisoners are on a sliding scale, depending on the severity of the crime and length of prison sentence.
The United States Department of State, in its 2015 Terrorism Report, confirmed the payments to terrorists, stating, “As part of a policy codified in 2003, the PA provided significant financial packages to Palestinian security prisoners released from Israeli prisons in 2014 in an effort to reintegrate them into society…” The Terrorism Report further found that PA social media websites have posted pro-terrorism messages, including the posting of political cartoons glorifying stabbing attacks.
When violent attacks occur in Israel, like the one against 13-year-old Hallel, there is no doubt that such violence is the result of the incessant incitement against Israelis that is spread by Palestinian leadership. It is time for U.S. leaders to not only clearly condemn such attacks, as the State Department did last week, but to also assign responsibility properly and take the necessary steps against a Palestinian leadership that supports such atrocities.
I urge members of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the United States Congress as a whole to take immediate action. It is time to end American support—financial or otherwise—of any organization, including the PA, that supports and promotes terrorism.