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March 20, 2018 12:28 pm

Why Is ‘Washington Post’ Author Defending Palestinian Terror Payments?

avatar by Daniel Pomerantz

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The former Washington Post building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

What is the Palestinian Martyrs Fund? Is it a reward for terrorists — or a system of social welfare for those in genuine need?

Washington Post fact-checking analysis attempts to make the case that the fund is not primarily a reward for terrorism — but a misunderstood social welfare program, unfairly maligned by Israeli and American researchers:

A big problem is definitional. Netanyahu refers to “terrorists and their families.” In the Palestinian Authority’s budget, one can find $350* million in annual payments to Palestinian prisoners, “martyrs” and injured, but can one with certainty say they are all terrorists?

(*The Martyrs Fund has recently been increased to $403 million.)

To this end, journalist Glenn Kessler repeats Palestinian arguments that the fund is a kind of social welfare program, cherry picking examples that would appear to support this claim. He also criticizes rigorous Israeli and US research.

Finally, Kessler completely avoids examination of the one thing that would utterly topple his dubious case: Palestinian law itself.

Palestinian Law

  • Palestinian law requires seven percent of the PA’s annual budget be paid to the so called, “Martyrs Fund.” About this fact, there is no debate: it is the plain language of the existing law.
  • The Palestinian Budget Book (2017) specifically states that payments to killed or imprisoned Palestinians and their families from the Martyrs Fund are not social welfare but a salary — paid because the recipients constitute a “fighting sector.”
  • The salaries referenced above increase directly in proportion to the severity of the crime involved. For example, murder earns the perpetrator a higher salary than committing bodily injury, which earns a higher salary than possessing a weapon. Again, this not mere opinion or conjecture, this is the Palestinian law.

With no attempt to verify, Kessler repeats the following Palestinian claim:

…the PLO says martyr payments go not only to people who were killed or injured by Israeli forces but also to victims of other events, such as a fiery 2012 bus accident that killed seven children and a teacher.

This, and other similar devices, are the fragile scaffolding upon which Kessler attempts to build his case that the Martyrs Fund is not actually designed around terror — all while ignoring what the law itself actually says, and how it actually works.

“One Man’s Terrorist…”

His article in the Post goes on to draw a disingenuous moral equivalence between modern Palestinian terrorism and the Irgun’s bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946, using the tired and long discredited refrain:

As the cliche goes, one man’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.

This phrase originated in the aftermath of 9/11, when Stephen Jukes, then Reuters’ head of global news, implemented an official  policy of not using the word “terrorism,” saying in a leaked memo: “We’re trying to treat everyone on a level playing field.” Jukes caught a lot of flak for the news service’s terror-free policy.

Jukes later admitted that he had another, more cynical motivation for the memo:

…we don’t want to jeopardize the safety of our staff. Our people are on the front lines, in Gaza, the West Bank and Afghanistan.

It seems that Jukes decided to forbid using the word terrorism because of his fear that he might offend terrorists. (Terrorists who might then target his staff with…you guessed it: acts of terror.)

This is not a matter of mere semantics: combating terrorism begins with defining it. Numerous scholars and media personalities criticized Jukes’ turn of phrase, explaining that its long-term impact makes it increasingly difficult to face, much less to combat, global terror.

In 2004, Reuters and Canada’s Canwest media chain even had a standoff over terror when editors unilaterally added the t-word to Reuters content.

King David Hotel Bombing

Kessler’s description of the bombing at the King David Hotel is highly misleading. The Jerusalem hotel was a headquarters of the British military command and the British Criminal Investigation Division (CID), making it a military target. Before targeting this military headquarters, the Irgun called ahead to warn of their plan, urging the hotel’s evacuation. I’m not aware of any Palestinian terrorist ever making such a warning.

Both in 1946 and still today, many Israelis have mixed feelings about whether the Irgun was right to act as it did. Yet right or wrong, there was a clear reason: the British military was arresting and preparing to deport Jewish refugees who had fled from Europe during and after the Holocaust. The world’s horror over precisely these type of deportations led to formation of the modern international law on refugees.

By contrast, the Martyrs Fund pays people who kill civilians in pizza parlors and coffee shops, and butcher entire families to death in their homes. Whether you call that “terror” or “freedom fighting,” it bears absolutely no comparison to the Irgun’s attack.

Very fuzzy

Kessler concludes that it is “very fuzzy” whether the Palestinian government truly paid the exact figure of $350 million to terrorists and their families. Yet most of the word count is dedicated to the article’s real point: that Israeli and American studies on the topic are a essentially an attempt to malign the misunderstood Palestinian government.

The Martyrs Fund is, by the very Palestinian law that established it, designed around terror. The only thing that’s fuzzy is why this incontrovertible fact is so conspicuously absent from The Washington Post’s fact-checking.

This article was originally published by HonestReporting. The author can be contacted on Twitter at: @DanielSpeaksUp.

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  • Peter

    And he has still a Job? And how can the owners and publisher even allow to defend this fund. How much are the killers and all the other prisoners in the US prisons and their families getting paid every month for their crimes???? Well Washington Post fact-checking analyst what do you say to that, is this another of your famous FAKE NEWS article????

  • Paul

    For the Moslems, the brutal taking of lives is part of their religion and culture. A father will slit the throat of his young daughter if she has been raped, because they cherish pride, not justice, as per western culture. So for them, anyone who has given them pride is a hero, even if he did so by murdering innocent civilian bystanders.
    For Western cultured people, terror is simple to identify: it is when one kills innocent non-combatants to instill terror, to achieve a political goal.
    If this journalist is incapable of recognizing what terror is, he is either incompetent or deceitful. The NYT gives the impression they do not want to be objective reporters of the truth – they have a prejudiced agenda, and will distort the truth however they can to support that agenda.
    They turn journalism into gossip and sensationalism. What a shame. they deprive it of dignity or justification – they are not the bearers of the truth, they are just selling their rag.

  • Joseph Feld

    Should media be neutral and given equal time? During the first Gulf War the BBC gave Saddam Hussein equal time to reply to UK statements. The Nazis claimed to be protecting Christian European civilisation from Jews and Soviets. Should the media have given Hitler equal time and equal treatment ? During the troubles in Ireland the IRA usually gave advance warning of major bombings to allow civilians to leave the area. The Irgun claims to have similarly given a warning regarding the King David Hotel. The IDF gave civilians time to leave Jenin before entering the town.. . . . .

    • Hamanhanger

      “The Irgun claims” — showing YOUR bias. The IRA, an antisemitic body, is more terustworthy to you than Menahem Begin, who was by far the most truthful politician Israel has known to date? Do you NOT believe that Colonel Shaw, in command of the British HQ in the King David Hotel, ordered people NOT to evacuate, saying “we give the orders here, not the Jews?” Shame on you!

  • LtcHoward

    Key point: “The Martyrs Fund is, by the very Palestinian law that established it, designed around terror. The only thing that’s fuzzy is why this incontrovertible fact is so conspicuously absent from The Washington Post’s fact-checking.” unfortunately Kessler and most of the other fact checkers are left-wing. If a statement they like is 10% true they state that it is” partially true”. If a statement they don’t like is 99% true they say “partially false”

  • graylens

    Follow the money and the pre existing political bias

  • Jack_nSlvrSprng

    Bezos’ Compost: Where the truth goes to die.