European-Funded Palestinian NGOs Launch Fierce Defense of PA’s Terror Payments Policy
Leading Palestinian NGOs — many of them backed with generous funding from European governments and agencies — have launched a new campaign in defense of the Palestinian Authority’s widely condemned policy of paying monthly salaries and other benefits to terrorists and their families.
A new report published on Wednesday by the Israeli research institute NGO Monitor observed that the campaign adopts the language of human rights and international law in making its case — a tactic similarly used by Palestinian NGOs in other areas, such as the promotion of the discriminatory BDS campaign against Israel and inciting violent protests against Israeli control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Among the NGOs speaking out is Al Haq, a legal institute that received more than $1 million in donations from government-funded agencies in Norway, Denmark and Ireland between 2014-16. Al Haq’s director, Shawan Jabarin, declared that if the “rights” of the terrorist prisoners “are eroded we are heading for a real crisis in Palestinian society and in due course toward an explosion.”
Raji Sourani, the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) — which has also received over $1 million in foreign aid, including from agencies in Spain and Finland — was similarly vocal. Criticizing a PA decision to stop the monthly payments to prisoners released from custody, Sourani — who was himself convicted in the 1980s for membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — asserted that “the decision of suspending former prisoners’ salaries was shocking to the prisoners, their families and all Palestinians as it is illegal, immoral, and violates the Basic Law and the international human rights law.”
Other NGOs warned the PA itself that the terror payments issue — which has emerged as the main bone of contention between the Trump administration and Palestinian leaders — was non-negotiable.
“To lay a finger on the prisoners’ rights is to attack the Palestinian struggle,” declared Helmi al-Aaraj of the Hurriyat NGO.
The NGO report noted that several European governments — including those of the UK, Germany and Norway — have echoed US concerns about taxpayer-funded aid being used by the PA to make the terror payments — dubbed by critics as “pay-to-slay” — which total more than $300 million annually.
But these concerns were entirely inconsistent with Palestinian NGOs “receiving European government funding under the banner of human rights” asserting “that terrorists have a ‘right’ to receive salaries and that suspending these payments is a violation of international law,” the report argued.
In an interview on Tuesday with Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake, the PLO’s representative in Washington, DC, Husam Zomlot, depicted the terror payments policy as a humanitarian gesture. “This is a program that is used for the victims of the occupation,” Zomlot told Lake. “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.”
Zomlot then accused the US of not appreciating the PA’s predicament. “Many of the US officials and lawmakers judge us as if we are in a post-conflict scenario, as we have to behave like a social welfare state, we are not,” he said. “This is a conflict situation.”