Uncovering the ‘Martyr’ Payments to Palestinian Terrorists


The P.A.'s budget, dependent on foreign donor countries, including the U.S., is being used to finance terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons.

Congressional legislators were astonished last year to learn that the Palestinian Authority was issuing monthly payouts totaling $3 million to $7 million as salaries and other financial rewards to terrorists and their families. The money was channeled, in part, through the Ministry of Prisoners pursuant to the so-called Law of the Prisoner. The law set forth a graduated scale, pegging monthly salaries to the length of Israeli jail sentences, which generally reflect the severity of the crime and the number of people killed and/or injured.
Thousands of documents, newly obtained through a reporter’s outside lawsuit to unseal court-protected files, demonstrate that these payouts are not blind automated payments. Rather, senior Palestinian Authority officials as high as President Mahmoud Abbas scrutinize the details of each case, the specific carnage caused, and the personal details of each terrorist act before approving salaries and awarding honorary ranks in either the P.A. government or the military.
The P.A.’s Ministry of Prisoners spokesman, Amr Nasser, has said, “We are very proud of this program and we have nothing to hide.” Nonetheless, in response to the international furor, the Palestinian Authority announced it would replace the Ministry of Prisoners with an outside PLO commission known as the Higher National Commission for Prisoners and Detainees Affairs.
The P.A. is dependent upon foreign donor countries to supply much of its budget, which now exceeds $4.2 billion annually. About 10 percent of the P.A. budget, more than $400 million, is contributed annually by United States foreign aid. The United States and many other countries have enacted laws forbidding any payments when the monies directly or indirectly support or encourage terrorism.
The interdepartmental bureaucratic notations the Palestinian Authority has recorded on each terrorist before approving the level of salaried compensation is extensive. One prominent case, for example, involved Ahmad Talab Mustafa Barghouti, who personally coordinated numerous terrorist acts.
These included a January 2002 shooting spree on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, killing two and wounding 37; a March 2002 shooting spree at a Tel Aviv restaurant, killing three and wounding 31; and another attempt in March 2002 to smuggle an explosive suicide belt in an ambulance. The Israel Defense Forces arrested Barghouti, who was at the time a sergeant in the Palestinian police force. On July 30, 2002, a military court concluded that he was responsible for murdering 12 Israelis, and Bar­ghouti was sentenced to 13 life sentences.
According to ongoing internal Palestinian Authority security reviews, Barghouti’s special compensation began retroactively to July 1, 2002, the first of the month that the 13 life sentences were imposed.
As a reward, while in an Israeli prison, Barghouti’s annual salary of 12,953 shekels (equivalent today to about $3,200) was continued and then gradually increased as he was promoted to first sergeant.
Still in prison, Barghouti was promoted again, this time to warrant officer, pursuant to a Nov. 13, 2008, presidential order, according to Palestinian internal security records.
In another case, terrorist Sa’id Ibrahim Sa’id Ramadan went to a busy Jerusalem street around 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 22, 2002, and began randomly shooting passers-by. Two people were murdered: Sarah Hamburger, 79, and Orna Sandler, 56. Dozens of others were injured. Police shot and killed Ramadan at the scene.
Five days later, on Jan. 27, 2002, Ramadan’s case was reviewed by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Social Affairs for martyrdom status and to determine the financial benefits that would accrue to his family.
“Martyrdom” compensation is dispensed worldwide, wherever the terrorist act takes place, according to a 2010 Palestinian Authority Social Ministry report. The report states that by 2009, nearly $72 million was paid out from the program, including more than $24 million that went outside Israel and the Palestinian region to reward international terrorism.
Ramadan’s martyrdom status was quickly approved and copies of the approval were sent to several top administrative offices of the P.A., including its Financial Administration.
How much would he get? A married martyr would have a family payout equivalent to more than $320 monthly. But the family of an unmarried martyr would only be entitled to about $99. After his father died, the regular payments were transferred to his mother.
The Barghouti and Ramadan cases are just two of hundreds of terrorists who are rewarded for their actions — not in a blind, faceless program, but in a meticulous, exacting official process that can remain in place for years. The money is represented to donor countries as “government salaries.” Most taxpayers in donor countries have no idea that their well-intended money is actually financing the flames of terrorism.
Edwin Black is an award-winning author whose most recent book is Financing the Flames. He will be speaking at a free, public event at Congregation Adath Jeshurun on March 16, at 7:30 p.m., and at Temple University on March 17, at 7 p.m.


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