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July 15, 2021 11:31 am
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Media Outlets Omit Critical Context About PA’s Pay-for-Slay, Turn Facts About Policy Into Israeli ‘Claims’

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

Opinion

The article dilutes the severity of the “Pay-for-Slay” policy by assigning equal weight to documented facts about the program and the Palestinian Authority’s defense of it:

Israel has long objected to the Palestinian “martyrs fund,” which provides stipends to thousands of families that have had relatives killed, wounded or imprisoned in the conflict with Israel.

The Palestinians say the payments are a type of welfare system meant to assist families affected by the conflict. But Israel says such payments serve as rewards and incentives for violence.”

The above paragraphs appear one after the other, suggesting that each claim is equally valid.

Reuters, read and seen by more than 1 billion people worldwide, echoes this false equivalence in its coverage of the story:

Israel calls stipends for militants and their families a “pay for slay” policy that encourages violence. Palestinians hail their jailed brethren as heroes in a struggle for an independent state and their families as deserving of support.”

But beyond the dueling narratives, there are the undisputed facts.

The Palestinian Budget Book states that payments must be made to killed or imprisoned Palestinian terrorists and their families from the Martyrs Fund, because the recipients constitute a “fighting sector.” Notably, the amount paid out increases in proportion to the severity of the crime. And while every public record of the law was removed in 2018, former Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter, who is fluent in Arabic, has confirmed the existence of a Martyrs Fund.

Yet, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, and Reuters have effectively whitewashed the PA’s unseemly program by failing to include the most important contextual information.

Indeed, the only time terrorism is mentioned in the Reuters article is, unbelievably, when Qadri Abu Baker, head of prisoners affairs in the Palestine Liberation Organization, is quoted as saying that Israel’s withholding of funds from the PA amounts to “terror and piracy.”

Glaring Omission: 2018 Taylor Force Act

The Washington Post, The Associated Press, and Reuters are also seemingly oblivious to the fact that Israel’s decision to freeze part of the tax transfers aligns with United States’ policy to prevent taxpayer money from going to the PA so long as it continues its Pay-for-Slay program.

Named for an American civilian murdered in a 2016 Palestinian terror attack in Tel Aviv, the Taylor Force Act was passed in 2018 with strong bipartisan support. Its purpose is to stop US funding to the Palestinian Authority due to the stipends paid to terrorists and their families.

In fact, it would seem that an article ostensibly castigating Jerusalem for taking steps to deter terrorism would include related information about how Washington has done the same thing. Albeit, the Biden administration has seemingly found a loophole and intends to provide groups supporting Palestinians with hundreds of millions of dollars.

By failing to note the Taylor Force Act, WaPo and The Associated Press can proceed to blithely spread the following:

For the Palestinians, the families of attackers are widely seen as victims of a half century of Israeli occupation. The Palestinians say that many Palestinians are unfairly held by Israel and that the number of prisoners involved in deadly attacks is a small percentage of those aided by the fund.

It is difficult to fathom how any news article could include an apparent justification for terrorism.

Moreover, the problem is widespread. Research conducted by HonestReporting shows that between July 6 and July 12, the term “Taylor Force Act” was included a total of 52 times in news items and television segments. Over the same period, “Taylor Force Act” and “Israel” were mentioned in the same article or segment a mere 15 times. When you add “terror” to the mix, there were only five results.

By uncritically relaying the PA’s stance on Pay-for-Slay, news organizations are proving to be obstacles to the kind of transparency needed to facilitate a robust public debate on the issue of aid to the Palestinian people — especially regarding where it winds up.

Gidon Ben-zvi is a contributor to HonestReporting — a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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