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 specific terrorists and their families.
The money was channeled, in part, through the Ministry of Prisoners pursuant to the Law of the Prisoner. The law set forth a graduated scale, pegging monthly salaries to the length of Israeli jail sentences, which generally reflects the severity of the crime and the number of people killed and/or injured.
Thousands of court documents from the trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan of Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization et al, obtained by this reporter through a lawsuit to unseal court-protected files, demonstrate that these payouts are not blind, automated payments. The trial ended in late February with a $218.5 million judgment against the defendants, which is to be tripled under a federal anti-terrorism provision.
The court documents indicate that 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 the P.A. government or the military. Ministry of Prisoners spokesman Amr Nasser has said, “We are very proud of this program and we have nothing to hide.”
The interdepartmental bureaucratic notations the P.A. has recorded on each terrorist before approving the level of salaried compensation is extensive. For example, one prominent case 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 finally a March 27, 2002 attempt to smuggle an explosive suicide belt in an ambulance. The Israel Defense Forces arrested Ahmad. 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 P.A. security reviews dated Feb. 3, 2009 and July 6, 2009, Barghouti’s special compensation began retroactively to July 1, 2002, the first of the month that the 13 life sentences were imposed. At the time of his arrest, Barghouti was a sergeant in the Palestinian police. As a reward, while in an Israeli prison, Barghouti’s annual salary of 12,953 Israeli shekels was continued and gradually escalated when 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 15999/3, according to Palestinian internal security records. One document lists Barghouti’s bank account as account 36079 at the Housing Bank for Trade and Finance in Ramallah. A related document tabulates additional monthly allocations for Barghouti’s two named beneficiaries, showing they jointly received 900 shekels in 2002, beginning the month he was sentenced. That monthly allocation rose to 1,000 shekels in January 2004. The beneficiary payments were deposited into account 628134 at the Arab Bank’s al Bireh Branch 9030, the documents show.
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. Just five days later, on Jan. 27, 2002, Ramadan’s case was reviewed by the P.A.’s Ministry of Social Affairs for martyrdom status and to determine the financial benefits that would accrue to the family. That review was conducted by the Martyr’s Families and Injured Care Establishment, a little-known organization originally created in 1969 by the Palestine Liberation Organization to systematize financial benefits to those wounded or killed in terrorist attacks deemed acts of “martyrdom.” Martyrdom Establishment compensation is dispensed worldwide, wherever the terrorist act takes place, according to a 2010 P.A. Social Ministry report. The report states that by 2009, more than 288 million shekels were paid in the program, of which more than 97 million went outside Israel and the Palestinian region to reward international terrorism.
In Ramadan’s case, the opening file noted that his body was still in Israeli custody. Kuwait-born Ramadan’s employment was listed as a sergeant in the Palestinian Maritime Police. The qualifying martyrdom incident is routinely described in a section headlined “Date and Place of Event,” which simply records “Jan. 22, 2002, West Jerusalem.” In the next section, “Description of Event,” the form states: “He was martyred while executing a martyrdom operation in West Jerusalem. The operation led to the death and injury of a number of Israelis.” In a short biographical sketch,
Ramadan is described in these words: “He was known to be a calm person and faithful to his country. Among his expressions was ‘O Martyr! You have tested my soul.’ He was martyred while performing his nation duty.” The Establishment director ruled: “We recommend that he is considered as one of the al-Aqsa Martyrs.”
Some weeks later, a P.A. internal security document shows approval of the recommendation, concluding “Sergeant Sa’id Ibrahim Sa’id Ramadan, from the Maritime Police/ Northern Governates, is hereby approved as a martyr by the Palestinian Authority as of Jan. 23, 2002, by rank and salary, as he was martyred while performing his national duty.”
The money was “to be disbursed by General Headquarters / Northern Governates / Martyr’s Roster.” Copies of the payment order were routed to the PA’s Financial Administration, the Maritime Police, Social Affairs, Medical Services, Supply and Equipment, and Computer departments, among others.
How much would he get? A married martyr would have a family payout of about 1,300 shekels monthly. But the family of an unmarried martyr would only be entitled to 400 shekels. The money would go to the father, but when the elder Ramadan passed away, his allocation was transferred to Ramadan’s mother, the documents record.
Edwin Black is the author of the award-winning IBM and the Holocaust. His most recent book is Financing the Flames.