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Financing Mideast Flames on a Burned-Out Budget

Under a sliding scale, carefully articulated in the Law of the Prisoner, the more heinous the act of terrorism, the longer the prison sentence, the higher the salary.
Prisoners in Carmel prison, Northern Israel.

Prisoners in Carmel prison, Northern Israel.
Photo Credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90

At a time of ceaseless budget crises, it may astound many that American taxpayers are deploying precious dollars not to pay for peace between Israel and the Palestinians but to achieve the exact opposite: confrontation and even terrorism.

Americans are fungibly funding terrorist salaries in Israel. These transactions frontally violate American laws that prohibit any funding from benefiting terrorists. Here’s how the system works.

When a Palestinian is convicted of an act of terrorism, that convicted terrorist automatically receives a generous salary from the Palestinian Authority. The salary is specified by the Palestinian Law of the Prisoner and facilitated by the PA’s Ministry of Prisoner Affairs.

The Law of the Prisoner narrows the definition of a salaried prisoner. In a recent interview, Ministry of Prisoners spokesman Amr Nasser read aloud the definition: “A detainee is each and every person who is in an occupation prison based on his or her participation in the resistance to occupation.” This means crimes against Israel or Israelis. Nasser added, “It does not include common-law thieves and burglars. They are not included and are not part of the mandate of the Ministry.”

Under a sliding scale, carefully articulated in the Law of the Prisoner, the more heinous the act of terrorism, the longer the prison sentence, the higher the salary. Detention for up to three years fetches a salary of almost $400 per month. Even greater acts of terrorism, with sentences up to twenty years, earn almost $2,000 per month. These are the best salaries in the Palestinian territories. The Arabic word ratib, meaning “salary,” is the official term for this compensation.

About six percent of the Palestinian budget is diverted to terrorist salaries. All this money comes from the United States and other donor countries.

In addition, American aid, taxpayer subsidies of 501(c)(3) organizations, and other financial programs richly support political confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis. Tax experts estimate that for every one million dollars in donations received by a 501(c)(3), US taxpayers must subsidize approximately $440,000.

Tax-exempt charitable organizations are supposed to be just that: charitable. But some prominent Israeli critics claim that highly politicized American charitable organizations, including several operated by some of America’s most prominent Jewish personalities, are actually working hard to destabilize the Israel Defense Forces and erase Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.

Rather than engaging in charitable programs, these critics say, these charitable groups are focused on massive political lobbying and fomenting internal political upheaval that roil peace between Arab and Jew.

Not a few of these critics point to the prestigious New Israel Fund (NIF) as the chief culprit.

NIF grants steer millions of US dollars to scores of controversial Israeli NGOs. One is B’Tselem, which circulates video cameras to Arab villages that are hotbeds for confrontation. Israeli military officials have said they rely on B’Tselem’s help to document IDF infractions. But many critics in the ranks charge the cameras are calculated to capture the scene after soldiers are taunted into reacting. One such critic is Col. Benny Yanay, who represents Consensus, an organization of several hundred IDF officers.

“The New Israel Fund,” insists Yanay, “acts against Israel – against the soldiers of our country. It is important to me that people recognize the New Israel Fund for what it is. It is supported…so that Israeli soldiers will be weakened.”

Yanay adds: “Their budget is more than anything we have, so it is not a fair fight. We are not a political organization. They are political.”

Are the allegations true? Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Yoni Chetboun says “yes” and flatly asserts, “The main goal of the NIF is to undermine the Israeli army, by knowingly financing left-wing Israeli groups that try to get young Israeli soldiers prosecuted for war crimes.

Knesset member Yariv Levin agrees. “The NIF’s lobbying and its funding activities are all part of a campaign to destabilize the IDF. They want to ruin the good name of the IDF, making it more possible to take soldiers to international courts.”

MK Faina Kershenbaum also agreed, stating, “Yes, the NIF is trying to destabilize and delegitimize the army.”

The New Israel Fund has heard these allegations many times before and forcefully rejects them. NIF vice president Naomi Paiss concedes, “We are not about soup kitchens. We are about social change.” But Paiss claims the critics are just right-wing political opponents. Chetboun, Levin, and Kershenbaum are indeed considered to be on the political right. But they and others say this rebuttal only proves their point – the NIF is not a charitable entity but actually a wealthy political organization, empowered by huge American tax subsidies bestowed on its American donors, many of whom may not understand the true impact of their contributions.

Chetboun and others are quick to credit the NIF for its many helpful activities, such as those that uplift battered women and the disadvantaged. But they also complain that the NIF constitutes the biggest and most powerful political lobbyist in the Knesset.

Adalah, another Israeli NGO, brags that it has devoted itself to getting Israelis prosecuted for war crimes. Among its efforts was the now-recanted Goldstone Report. On its website, Adalah confirms: “The Goldstone Mission report is a watershed…[it] contains thirty-five direct references to Adalah on ten separate legal cases and mentions many other Gaza cases handled by Adalah without specifically citing the organization. The Goldstone Mission dedicated an entire chapter…relying extensively on Adalah’s report.”

According to NIF officials, in 2011 Adalah received $84,000 in core grants – NIF’s own grant money – plus $321,275 in donor-advised (DA) grants, that is, those grants wherein third parties channeled tax-deductible money through NIF for directed purposes. This money is subsidized by American taxpayers.

In the Arab town of Nabi Saleh, a rambunctious protest is scheduled like clockwork every Friday after prayers. Often, the crowd action becomes a violent riot that must be contained by the IDF to keep the road open. Critics charge that during the riots, children are regularly used as front line human shields and endangered by their parents for political purposes – this to play for the always rolling B’Tselem cameras. Indeed, in Nabi Saleh this reporter observed children frequently pushed by their parents to harass an Israeli soldier, sometimes inches from the soldier’s face, to create an embarrassing video moment when the soldier finally reacts.

The village’s chief chronicler of the violence, and a key protest leader, is Manal Tamini. Manal said she is paid to record the “testimonies” of those in Nabi Saleh who are injured or otherwise suffer from the weekly clashes. She is not paid every month, just when circumstances of the Israeli action warrant it – that is, when the incident creates victims. That isn’t every Friday, because sometimes the demonstrations don’t yield injuries. No injuries, no payment. “Sometimes it is $1,000 in a month,” Manal said. Over a typical year, those sums amount to two to four times the average annual West Bank salary.

Manal explains that her work is done under an annual contract with the tax-exempt Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling. The WCLAC is a Palestinian NGO devoted to women’s rights, working to ensure that Palestinian women are “living in a just and equal Palestinian society where they enjoy all of their human rights.” Salwa Duaibis, WCLAC’s coordinator for international advocacy, confirms the compensation, “Yes, it is $85 per incident, and added to this is any additional cost, such as transportation and telephone. Manal only reports on incidents.”

In 2012, $85 was triple or quadruple the average Palestinian daily wage. The WCLAC lists numerous international donors. Among them are the tax-exempt Open Society Foundations of American billionaire George Soros, which finances WCLAC through grant number #20034661.

American policy is to support peace and reconciliation through millions of annual taxpayer dollars. But many in Israel believe the opposite is occurring. Instead, American money is too often being misused by scores of NGOs to finance the flames.

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One Response to “Financing Mideast Flames on a Burned-Out Budget”

  1. NIF funds are fraudalents.

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