Blood Money, Not Benevolence: The PLO’s Justification of ‘Pay for Slay’
On Dec. 9, 2018 , Shira Ish-ran was shot in the abdomen by a Palestinian terrorist. She was pregnant, and she required an emergency cesarean section to save her life. Tragically, her baby, delivered prematurely, died.
Palestinian Authority law mandates “salaries” for terrorists such as the one who shot Mrs. Ish-ran if he is caught or killed. Such “pay-for-slay” programs, and the incentives they create to perpetuate terrorism, are described in the Taylor Force Act, a U.S. law enacted in March 2018, as well as in more recently enacted Israeli legislation.
After much obfuscation and obstruction by the Palestinian Authority and the media, the existence of these payment programs has finally been exposed. But officials such as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas typically defend these benefits as a form of welfare.
For the Palestinian Authority, an end to these blood money payments crosses a “red line.” It will not budge, despite worldwide condemnation of its abhorrent practice of incentivizing and rewarding terrorism, and the corresponding international economic punishment imposed on the Palestinian Authority for its refusal to stop paying terrorists.
Palestinian officials, in Arabic, characterize terror trust fund recipients as “soldiers and sons of our nation.” In English, they defend these payments as “social welfare,” used to support “innocent individuals” suffering from the loss of a head of household “breadwinner.” This claim, which attempts to convert blood money into benevolence, is usually phrased like this July 2017 statement by Husam Zomlot, former PLO envoy to the U.S.: “This is a program that is used for the victims of the occupation … It’s a program to give the families a dignified life, they are provided for, so they and their kids can lead a different future.”
Characterizing payments for terror as social welfare is a deception that is frequently accepted at face value by Western governments that fund the Palestinian Authority and its terror payments policy. The problem with this claim, which could be called the “social welfare defense”, is that it is demonstrably false.
Palestinians’ “social welfare defense” collapses upon examination of the Palestinian Authority’s laws and budget, and by comparing and contrasting “pay for slay” terror payments with the authority’s formal welfare system.
Simply put, the Palestinian system governing payments to terrorists is far superior to the regular needs-based welfare system. Perversely, by using its budget to pay terrorists, the Palestinian Authority is depriving those less fortunate members of Palestinian society of their fair share of government aid.
In the Palestinian Athority’s 2018 budget, funding levels for “pay-for-slay” programs and the Palestinian Athority’s social welfare programs are disclosed. Terror payment programs include salaries to prisoners set at nearly $150 million. Allocations to those killed or injured in “wars” with Israel is budgeted at over $180 million, together more than $330 million overall — consuming over 7 percent of the annual Palestinian budget. These payments go to approximately 10,500 imprisoned and released prisoners and some 37,500 families of martyrs and injured. In contrast, the entire 2018 budget for the Palestinian Athority’s social welfare system is about $214 million dollars, and supports 118,000 households: a much larger group subsisting on a much smaller budget.
Enshrined in Palestinian law, imprisoned terrorist payments are almost entirely dependent on length of incarceration, and not on personal financial circumstances. Prisoners receive 1,400-12,000 shekels, paid monthly, regardless of any need-based qualifications. Families of those killed perpetuating terror attacks receive 6,000 shekels immediately, then a minimum of 1,400 shekels monthly, for life.
True social welfare recipients, in contrast, are only eligible based on need, and they do not get automatic payments. Once approved, they receive benefits of only 250-600 shekels per month, paid quarterly. The maximum welfare payment is 57 percent less than the minimum pay-for-slay salary.
As defined by Palestinian law, payments to prisoners are restricted to the “fighting sector” (“alsharicha almunadila” in Arabic) who are involved in “the struggle against the occupation.” Common incarcerated criminals are not eligible even if they are destitute. Payments to prisoners are labelled as “ratib,” or salary in Arabic. Prisoners are eligible for payments even if they are young and unmarried, with no dependents. Furthermore, released prisoners continue to receive salaries, regardless of need.
Terrorists and their families have no need for the Palestinian social welfare system, and they would be foolish to use it. Palestinian terrorists have access to a far superior system that pays better than the miserly public assistance system. And Palestinians, aware of this gap, capitalize on it. If one’s family is in a tough economic situation, terror becomes a solution, with hero status as a bonus. What do the Palestinians see as their government’s priority? Helping the destitute, or promoting terror? Follow the money and it’s clear — terror is more attractive, quantitatively and qualitatively.
So when a Palestinian official conflates payment for terrorism with social welfare, remember that in reality, there are two distinct systems operating here. Do not be deceived by blood money masquerading as legitimate social welfare. By intent and by design, the “pay-for-slay” program is simply money for murder.
Originally appeared in Washington Examiner on January 8, 2019.