Photo by Eitan Elhadez/TPS on 8 March, 2016

US Government Closes Its Eyes to Palestinian Pay-For-Slay

Public By Sveta Listratov • 1 October, 2023

Jerusalem, 1 October, 2023 (TPS) -- American victims of Palestinian terror expressed their frustration with continued American aid to the Palestinian Authority over Ramallah’s terror stipends — in violation of US laws — in reaction to recent Congressional hearings.

Responding to a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia on Sept. 27, Taylor Force’s father, Stuart told the Tazpit Press Service, “What was going on at the hearing just reinforces the belief they don’t know where the money goes exactly.”

Ramallah has been paying out the “pay for slay” stipends to imprisoned terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out terror attacks for years. But the issue came under scrutiny following the murder of Taylor Force, who was killed by Bashar Massalha, who went on a stabbing rampage in Jaffa in 2016. The attack took place near the Peres Center for Peace where then-Vice President Joe Biden was meeting with former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Force, a 28-year-old US Army veteran and native of Lubbock, Texas, was in Israel for a graduate-school trip. Shortly after the attack, it was discovered that Massalha’s family was receiving a monthly pension from the Palestinian Authority Martyr’s Fund equal to several times the average monthly wage in the Palestinian Authority.

Congress responded by passing the Taylor Force Act, which halted U.S. aid to the Palestinians as long as terror stipends are being paid out.

However, U.S. assistance to the PA resumed under the administration of President Joe Biden. In December 2022, American victims of Palestinian terror filed a lawsuit against the President and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, arguing that the payments violate the Taylor Force Act.

“His death was a deranged and inhumane action,” said Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who chaired the hearing, which featured expert testimonies, and House representatives expressing concerns over PA corruption and the glorification of terrorism.

During the hearing, Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) raised a red flag, citing a report revealing that the State Department had granted $90,000 to the Phoenix Center for Research and Field Studies.

The report, published by NGO-Monitor, a Jerusalem-based organization that monitors the activities of non-governmental organizations, found that the Phoenix Center has openly expressed support for Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which are on the U.S. State Department’s list of designated foreign terror organizations.

The revelation triggered calls for the State Department to more thoroughly vet grant recipients.

Sarri Singer, founder, and director of Strength to Strength, a New York-based organization that supports global terror victims, and a key figure in a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the resumption of aid, told TPS, “I’m horrified that this administration doesn’t realize that its actions are perpetuating more terror and unrest in the region.”

She added, “The administration knows what it’s doing, but doesn’t care about the repercussions. If they cared, they’d stop it.”

Stuart Force, who is a party to the lawsuit, emphasized that the terror stipends must be abolished if the PA wants to be considered seriously in ongoing normalization talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“Taylor would feel the same way we do about this grotesque situation. We see it as our mission to make the funding of ‘pay for slay’ program end,” said Force, describing the payments as “a disturbing bounty system.”

Explaining his participation in the lawsuit against the Biden administration, Force told TPS, “The hope is that the court says to the administration that it can’t keep sending unaccounted-for money that eventually ends up in PA.”

Maurice Hirsch, Director of Legal Strategies for the Israel-based Palestinian Media Watch, told TPS in September that estimates vary on how much the PA’s Martyr’s Fund spends.

He said that in 2022, the Israeli government estimated that the PA spent 620 million shekels ($162 million) in salaries, while PMW’s own estimates are 850 million shekels ($222 million), based on figures and statements from both the Palestinian Authority and its Ministry of Prisoner Affairs.

With that money, “The Palestinians could build hospitals, pay teachers, they could increase welfare payments to needy Palestinians, they could build schools, they could do everything that in the meantime the international community is sharing that burden,” Hirsch told TPS.

The size of the monthly payouts depends on various factors such as how many Israelis were killed, how long the terrorist has been incarcerated and family size.

Jerusalem regularly offsets an equivalent amount from taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.