Dear Mr. Kessler,
After reading criticism of your article on Palestinian funding of terrorism, I decided it was worth reading to see how bad a job you had done. I was very pleasantly surprised to see an unequivocally intellectually honest attempt to examine the issue. It’s very clear that you do not in any way condone the practice of funding terrorism as such, and that mostly you were examining the issue of the degree of funding.
That said, I think the attempt to distinguish between terrorists and non-terrorists — while in itself perfectly valid — misses Netanyahu’s equally valid point, which is that there is a dedicated part of the Palestinian budget called the Martyrs’ Fund, and I doubt very much that Palestinian society looks at that and then begins to query how many recipients of the fund could be defined as terrorists by Western standards.
In this sense, Netanyahu’s point is spot on: the PA officially endorses, encourages, and sponsors pro-active martyrdom (which by Western standards is not martyrdom at all) to the tune of about $350m/year, and the message sent by having such a fund, and one that large, absolutely encourages acts of unjustified violence.
So you’re probably wondering at this point why I’d still give Bibi two Pinocchios if I think his accusation is fundamentally correct. The answer is one that should have been addressed in your article, which is that even if one can arguably reduce the figure of $350m by half, one then also has to look for other parts of the PA budget that also directly encourage terrorism.
I’m not about to conduct a thorough review of the PA budget (though I encourage you to!), but clearly the amount of the PA education and media budgets that finances pro-terror books, films, commercials, etc., not to mention the training of teachers and lecturers who promote terrorism is at least in the tens if not the hundreds of millions of dollars. Tack on PA funding of celebrations, commemorations, and memorial monuments for terrorists — funding that promotes terrorism no less than the Martyrs Fund — and I think it is safe to say that Netanyahu was being inaccurate in focusing only on the amount of the Martyrs Fund to describe how much the PA pays to promote terrorism.
The true amount is undoubtedly well in excess of the $350m figure.
So yeah, two Pinocchio’s for Bibi.
Be’er Sheva, Israel