'Money Laundering' for Terrorists | Opinion

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has been meeting with American, European and Israeli government representatives to end-run both the American Taylor Force Act (anti-"pay for slay") and the Israeli law prohibiting financial transfers to the Palestinians in the amount the PA remunerates terrorist "salaries." Why are Western governments having this discussion? Generally, the Israeli government treats the PA like a slightly leprous cousin—odious, but better than the cousin with guinea worm disease. There is a fear among some Westerners that if the PA loses control of its own people, then Hamas—the "worse" Palestinians, with both links to Iran and serious weapons—will make its move from Gaza to the West Bank.

It is not an unreasonable fear, but it undermines the rules of both money and morality.

Money doesn't care where it's spent—or by whom on what. While we talk about "dirty money" or "laundering money" to make it clean, the morality of money is with the people who spend it. People who spend money doing inoffensive—or even good—things with their money are still behaving immorally if their money helps bad people do bad things with other money.

It's a sort of "money laundering" in reverse. If you can make dirty money clean, you can make clean money dirty. Good money becomes bad by virtue of its impact. And otherwise-good people become tainted by their willingness to help bad people do bad things.

That will be the effect of President Joe Biden's intention to restore American funds to the PA. American money will be used for schools, water projects, "civil society" programming and agriculture. But fungibility means that the PA won't have to spend its money on those things, and will therefore have more money to pay terrorist salaries.

The Taylor Force Act passed by Congress and signed into law in 2018 stipulates that the U.S. must withhold money until the PA ceases paying stipends through the Palestinian Authority Martyr's Fund to individuals who commit acts of terrorism and to the families of so-called "martyrs." Israel has a parallel law.

But never underestimate the creativity of people who want money.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ALAA BADARNEH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The authoritative Palestinian Media Watch has documented the PA adding terrorists released from Israeli prisons to PA work rolls without requiring them to work:

Thousands of released terrorists are currently being paid a monthly "salary," as if they are actually employed. In reality, the terrorists receive the payment merely as a reward for their acts of terror and pursuant to their incarceration. Despite receiving a "salary," they are only actually required to fulfil the duties of their ostensible positions if specifically "requested" to do so.

By creating the new jobs, it appears the PA believes that the new scheme will provide a solution for at least two problems...to both fool and placate the European Union and the U.S. administration...(and) to diminish the impact, at least partially, of the Israeli law that combats the PA payments to the terrorist prisoners and released prisoners.

That might work for the terrorists if the "good" people choose to allow their "good" money to be manipulated by the Palestinian Authority. Al Quds wrote last week: "The released prisoners who were assigned to the [PA] security and military forces as part of arranging their status—7,500 in number—will receive a payment according to their new financial limitations in these institutions."

But what about Palestinian terrorists still in prisons? That is, admittedly, harder for the PA.

The PLO commissioner of prisoners' affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr, told Palestinian outlet Sada that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh are making efforts to find a way to circumvent the Israeli anti-terrorism law. He stressed that the salaries will be paid in some way. Abbas himself told a different Palestinian outlet: "Since the Martyrs are the most sacred among us, since the wounded are the most sacred among us and since the prisoners are the most sacred among us, we cannot abandon them and their families. If we are left with only one penny, we will give it to their families."

Let's talk about who is sacred and why.

Ehud Fogel, Ruth Fogel and three of their six children—Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and infant Hadas – are dead. They were massacred at home on a Friday night after their Sabbath dinner. Palestinian cousins Amjad Mahmad Awad, then 18, and Hakim Mazen Awad, then 17, first denied the charges but then confessed in great detail. There was DNA evidence. According to an Israeli official, the two "described what they did with self-control and did not express regret over their actions at any stage of the investigation." Amjad told court reporters: "I don't regret what I did, and I would do it again. I'm proud of what I did, and I'll accept any punishment I get, even death, because I did it all for Palestine."

Three-month-old Hadas was decapitated.

Having now spent 10 years in an Israeli prison, the Awad cousins are entitled to a 50 percent increase in their PA stipend. According to Palestinian Media Watch, their current monthly "salary" of $1,203 will rise to $1,806. They have received more than $100,000 thus far—and they're only still in their twenties.

Where will that money come from? Possibly, from Western governments providing "clean" money that the PA will convert into "dirty" money—amounting to laundering money for terrorists.

And just how dirty will it be? Very.

Shoshana Bryen is senior director of the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFOCUS Quarterly.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.