For over two decades a growing portion of foreign aid provided to Palestinians has gone to pay jailed terrorists and the families of terrorists killed while attacking Israelis (and any foreign bystanders). Currently over $350 million a year is devoted to this, which is nearly four percent of the Palestinian GDP. About twenty percent of that GDP comes from foreign aid with the United States being largest single source (about twenty percent of the foreign aid). That’s more than all Moslem nations combined. European countries account for over a quarter of the aid. Western nations have been contributing most (over 70 percent) of this aid directly or indirectly and continue to do so. Much of this aid is stolen by corrupt Palestinian officials and that is something most Palestinians and donors agree is a major problem. But the nearly $400 million a year paid to terrorists is popular with most Palestinians and for years was successfully kept out of the Western media and was not an issue with donor nations. Most of the money diverted to pay terrorists comes from aid controlled by the Palestinian government (controlled by Fatah) in the West Bank, which lost control of Gaza (were about 40 percent of Palestinians lived) in 2005.
Now the U.S. Congress is about to pass a law that would cut U.S. aid to Palestinians in an amount equal to what Palestinians spend to pay terrorists or their families. Israel is also cutting money it collects for the Palestinian Authority (customs and the like) to account for how much of its Palestinian government pays Palestinians to kill or injure Israelis. As a Practical matter the Palestinian governments, particularly Fatah (the West Bank party that controls the Palestinian Authority) would claim that the cuts are hurting Palestinians in general, especially children and are unfair. But the reality is that making the cuts and continually publicizing the reasons puts pressure on the Palestinians to stop supporting terrorism and their well (and often) publicized goal of destroying Israel and not agreeing to any peace deal that does not include the elimination of Israel and expulsion of all Jews from the area. That is another subject that the Palestinians want keep out of the Western media, even though it has been a staple of the Palestinian media since the late 1990s.
One thing most Westerners can agree on is pressuring the Palestinian government to stop paying imprisoned terrorists salaries. These Palestinians were convicted of killing people (usually Israeli civilians) but are considered heroes by the Palestinian government and most Palestinians. These payments have been made with increasing frequency and in growing quantity for over a decade. The Palestinians deliberately sought to keep it out of their English language media, so that the Western donors would not get upset and reduce their contributions. These payments were not a secret but the Palestinians understood that Westerners would not appreciate it becoming widely known in the West that much of the aid money was going to jailed terrorists. So the Palestinians made a real effort to keep this news from the Western media, which tended to be happy with Palestinian press releases and rarely bothered to translate Palestinian Arab language media and government documents.
Palestinians who are jailed, injured or killed (martyred) while trying to hurt Israelis receive large payments from Fatah. For example families of dead terrorists get an immediate payment of $1,700 from Fatah plus monthly payments for the life of immediate family. These monthly payments ($400 to over $1,000 depending on the number of wives and children) can make a family relatively affluent and open new opportunities, like enough cash to afford a people smuggler who can get one or more family members to the West.
There is also a bonus ($86 a month) if you are a legal resident of Israel and a similar monthly bonus if you were a resident of Jerusalem. Fatah is currently paying about $200 million a year to the families of over 26,000 martyrs as well as smaller payments to 6,000 badly injured while trying to kill Israelis. Monthly payments to jailed Palestinians vary according to how long they have been in jail, how many dependents they have and if they are from Israel or Jerusalem. There are also bonuses for how many Israelis the prisoner killed or injured. Some of these convicts get over $50,000 a year. Fatah currently spends about $160 million a year to reward over 6,000 jailed terrorists. Fatah considers this payment program a success even though dozens of Palestinians die in the Fatah-promoted violence each year. These attacks have left far fewer Israelis dead and for Fatah that is political gold as far as Arab language media is concerned.
With this approach Fatah and Hamas together currently spend over $400 million a year to make murder economically attractive to many young Palestinians. Most of it comes from Fatah although Hamas is trying to make more payments to Palestinians in the West Bank who support Hamas and attack Israelis in the name of Hamas. The Arab language media throughout the Middle East takes for granted that these payments are just and necessary for the war against Israel. Until recently Western donors generally refused to believe (officially) that much of their money went to reward terrorism. That is changing as a growing number of Western foreign aid donors are trying to prevent their aid from being diverted to this terrorism financial incentive program because the details of the Palestinian “cash for killers” program became more widely known in the West.
These economic and media attention incentives have always encouraged many Palestinian men (and some women) to join the violence. These financial incentives have become common since the 1990s and some countries used to openly boast of making them (as Saddam Hussein did up until 2003). That sort of support is more covert these days because local media is more often monitored and reported on by foreign media, often via individuals finding choice items and spreading that news via the Internet.
Over the last few years these payments became more widely known in the West and Fatah was forced to deal with this issue. At first the Fatah complained to the UN about Western, especially Israeli, media describing the millions of dollars a month Fatah paid to the families of terrorists as support of terrorism. This raised some serious legal issues for many Western aid organizations because for them it is illegal to contribute to the Palestinians if any of that money would be used to support terrorism. That sort of thing is frowned on in the West and is often illegal as well.
Fatah considers Palestinians jailed (usually in Israel) for terrorism to be freedom fighters, even if their victims were Israeli women and children (as well as some foreigners, including Moslems). The PA feels an obligation to make welfare payments to the families of imprisoned terrorists, but only because Fatah has been glorifying terrorism for decades. Some Moslem countries willingly contribute to this effort. For example, up until 2003, Iraq paid $30,000 to the family of each dead Palestinian terrorist. The PA wants the UN to get the Western and Israeli media to stop defaming Palestinian freedom fighters like this.
Publicizing this practice has forced the Fatah and their Western donors to adjust. The most frequent solution is to insist that none of the Western aid money goes to terrorist payments because that money comes from Moslem sources. This is just an accounting trick but is often sufficient for many Western donors. Moslem nations have no problem with their aid money going to imprisoned terrorists, which will be the next embarrassing item to be raised. But for now it’s all about recasting the books to make these payments legal for donors from countries with laws hostile to Islamic terrorists.
The Palestinians are also criticized by Western donor nations for asking for more aid to pay civil servants while refusing to cut payments to imprisoned terrorists. What the Palestinians do not want to discuss is the fact that these payments make terrorist deaths more palatable to the survivors and assist in recruiting. Knowing that you will still have an income even if sent to prison for your terrorist attacks, and that your family will receive a large payment if you are killed, is a big inducement for unemployed young Palestinians to join terrorist organizations. Yet the more of these murder attempts there are the more the Palestinian territories are isolated and travel and commerce blocked. That increases unemployment and makes being a terrorist a more attractive career choice.
Western donors have more serious problems with corruption among Palestinian government officials. This is far more expensive than the payments to imprisoned terrorists but the Palestinians are even more reluctant to discuss it. Yet the victims of the terror attacks, especially the foreign ones, do see this Palestinian scam are illegal and quite literally support for terrorism. That is illegal in most donor countries but only in the United States have the courts shown any interest in allowing lawsuits against Fatah and other Moslem nations that openly support Islamic terrorist violence against Westerners while also doing business with the West.