CATF Reports Jul. 6, 2016, 3:23pm

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has left few doubts about his support for Palestinian prisoners. According to three laws passed in 2004 and 2013, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is required to provide Palestinian prisoners, many of which have been convicted of acts of terrorism, with a monthly allowance (ranging from $364 to $3,120) and salaries or jobs upon their release. Prisoners, including members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations, are entitled to a job in a PA institution (if they served more than 5 years in prison) and exemptions in payments for education, health care, and professional training. The PA also allocated $173 million in the 2016 budget toward “ensuring a dignified life to the families of all those martyred and wounded as a result of being participants or bystanders in the revolution.”

In recent years the PA’s international donors have become increasingly wary that their money is being used to support terrorism. In order to compel the PA to resolve this concern, donors “established dozens of investigative committees focusing on the issue of funds that are transferred from the PA to the prisoners.” In May 2014, President Abbas responded to international pressures by transferring the responsibility of prisoners’ payments from the PA’s Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs to a PLO Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs. However, Yigal Carmon, president and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute, claims that “PA officials have admitted that the PA remains the financer and the decision-maker in all things pertaining to support for the prisoners and the martyrs’ families” with funds from donor countries.

While the PA has been known to support Palestinian prisoners and their families for quite some time, growing suspicions that donor funds continue to be used for prisoners’ payments introduce a moral dilemma for the PA’s foreign patrons. Directing foreign aid to prisoners, especially those tied to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, may cause donors to reconsider their assistance, a dangerous idea for an organization already facing financial troubles.

From Yigal Carmon’s Testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs:

“Let me stress again that as in the case of the support for prisoners, support for the families of martyrs who committed their acts prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords and the PLO commitment to end all forms of terrorism could perhaps be understandable in the context of an overall reconciliation process.

However, the fact that such payments are also given to families of people from various organizations who continue to commit acts of terrorism in violation of the peace accord constitutes deliberate encouragement of terrorism. Consequently, money that originates from donor countries and is used for this purpose makes these countries complicit in the encouragement of terrorism.”

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