Congress hears testimony on U.S. tax money paid to Palestinian terrorists

politics | Mar 5, 2014 | By Martin Barillas

Hearings were held on Capitol Hill on March 5 by the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-Proliferation, and Trade of the House Foreign Affairs committee about growing threats to Israel, including the funding of international terrorism by non-profit organizations in the United States and elsewhere. The subcommittee hearing was chaired by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX). Members of Congress were briefed by award-winning investigative journalist Edwin Black, attorney Steven R. Perles, and Dr. David Pollock of the Washington Institute on Near East Policy.
Congressman Poe opened the hearing by noting the long-standing alliance of the United States with Israel, and extolled “common values of liberty and democracy that unite us, among other things.” Referring to the Obama administration, which has had differences with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu, Poe said “This administration sometimes forgets this. Be it the Iranian nuclear program or pressuring Israel over peace talks with the Palestinians, our recent relations have damaged our relationship.” The hearing came just two days after President Barack Obama and Netanyahu met at the White House to discuss the ongoing negotiations for Mideast peace, as well as Iran’s nuclear weaponization program.
Poe denounced the “bad deal” reached by Secretary of State John Kerry with Iran over the program that seeks to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium and thus make the Islamic Republic a nuclear power to be reckoned with. Poe said, “We let Iran walk all over us. At the end of the day, we weakened sanctions in exchange for Iran to continue to produce nuclear weapons. In my opinion, the United States gave away the farm and the mineral rights in this bad deal.”

Poe said that the hearing centered on three issues. The first he identified is growing European boycott of Israeli products, which has included disinvestment by Dutch banks and cancellation of joint German-Israeli research projects. The boycott is bound to help only the Palestinians, said Poe, since the Palestinian Authority has yet to recognize Israel’s right to exist. 
The second issue, according to Poe, is “The Palestinian Authority giving “bags of money to convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons.” Of the 4,500 terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons, many of them are receiving salaries from the Palestinian Authority, said Poe. He noted that terrorists’ salaries range from $500 to $3500 monthly. “The more serious the crimes, the more dead Israelis and Americans, the more money the Palestinians in jail receive,” added Poe. He spoke of the $440 million in U.S. assistance given to the Palestinian Authority during 2013. Since the money is fungible, U.S. funds are thus being used in a “jobs program” for terrorists, said Poe. “U.S. tax money should not be seen paying and rewarding Palestinian terrorists or doing harm and killing Israelis and Americans,” Poe added.  
The third issue raised by Poe was the “lack of justice for American victims of terrorism in Israel.”  He said that 54 American citizens have been killed in terror attacks in Israel since 1993, as well as more than 80 wounded. 
The first witness questioned was author Edwin Black, who published his most recent book ‘Financing the Flames’ in November 2013. ‘Financing the Flames’ provides an account of the support that U.S. taxpayers and donors to charitable organizations provide to terrorists who have killed American and Israeli citizens. When asked about this financing, Black said “It is an inescapable fact that American taxpayers are directly funding individual named terrorists for individual named terrorist acts, just as Chairman Poe said.” 
“This is how it works,” continued Black, “An individual can go from being a nobody to somebody, from rags to riches, just by committing an act of terrorism, perhaps by blowing up a bus, invading a home and slicing the throats of children. At that point, he will go on an immediate Palestinian Authority salary. The more people you kill, the higher is your salary.” Black noted that payments to terrorists can actually be as high as $10,000 per month for a 25-year sentence for terrorism. This is based in Palestinian law, said Black, who referenced a Palestinian document as proof. Imprisoned Palestinian terrorists, Black testified, receive a civil rank in Palestine’s government based on the severity of the crimes committed. He estimated the PA expenditures on terrorists’ salaries to be between $5 million to $7 million monthly.
By using a power of attorney, imprisoned terrorists then transfer money to their families, or beneficiaries such as Al Fatah – the largest faction in the Palestinian Liberation Organization, said Black. 
Dr. David Pollock spoke of the danger posed to the economy of the United States and Israel by the international Boycott, Disvestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to halt the building of Jewish settlements in areas disputed by Israel and the PA by boycotting Israeli goods, services, and exports. The BDS campaign was first organized by a consortium of Palestinian organizations in 2005. It seeks to eliminate investment by the European Union, for example, which is Israel’s largest trading partner. Recently, in response to pressures by BDS, a Dutch bank divested itself of Israeli holdings, while om Germany cooperation in the area of scientific research was curtailed. Pollock spoke of the threat that the BDS movement poses for the U.S. economy since Israel is one of the biggest importers of U.S. high-tech products, as well as one of the biggest investors in the U.S. economy. Tens of thousands of American jobs, said Pollock, are owed to significant Israeli investments in the United States. He did underline that, currently, no European government supports boycotts of Israel.


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.