US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, gave incorrect testimony to Congress about PA salaries to terrorists, this according to a report compiled by Palestinian Media Watch’s (PMW). In her testimony to Congress on April 29th Assistant Secretary Patterson defended the Palestinian Authority practice of paying salaries to terrorists in prison saying “they have to provide for the families.”
Patterson, through her testimony, disregarded explicit documentation proving that this claim is incorrect. Palestinian Media Watch’s documentation shows repeatedly why this is not correct. According to PA law and in practice the PA does not give stipends to terrorist prisoners’ families but salaries to the terrorist prisoners themselves. This means that the salaries are an incentive for terrorists and not welfare payments. PMW has already reported that the PA Minister of Prisoners vocally rejected the claim that the payments are social welfare aid to the prisoners’ families, stressing instead that the prisoners receive salaries “out of esteem.” This was likewise corroborated by Chairman of the PA-funded Prisoners’ Club Qadura Fares when he announced that the PA had decided on a final version of the law, “which considers payments made to prisoners ‘salaries,’ to which no other term applies.”
In addition, when challenged by Congressman Weber at the hearing on the Administration’s Middle East and North Africa Budget Request for 2015 about possibly cutting off US funding because of the PA salary program to terrorists, Assistant Secretary Patterson twice told the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa that she “knows” that the PA “are going to try to phase that out, and we should give them an opportunity to do so.”
There is nothing in all the activities and statements of the PA to back up that claim. PMW reports that it has not encountered any PA statements regarding a “phasing out” of the salaries to terrorists. To the contrary, in 2013 and 2014, PA officials have regularly been adding additional regulations and benefits for prisoners. In addition, they have reiterated in government meetings and in public statements to Palestinians that the salaries and other benefits to prisoners is a high priority for the Palestinian Authority and will continue. At a government meeting earlier this month, the PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said the PA places “prisoners at the top of its priorities” and that they will continue to implement the “Prisoners’ and Released (Prisoners’) Law” – which specifically refers to salaries and other payments to prisoners.
Patterson’s statement that the PA is “phasing out” these payments to terrorists contradicts the public policy and statements by PA officials.
In 2013, when the British and Norwegian governments told their parliaments that the PA told them the money was for “families,” PMW released a report entitled “Is the PA lying to European governments in order to receive European funding?” After this report’s release, the Norwegian Foreign Minister publicly acknowledged that PMW’s documentation was correct and said he had reported incorrectly to parliament because: “it is unfortunate that the information that was first to Parliament and which was based on information obtained from the PA at the time, in retrospect, is imprecise.”
The PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs has publicly rejected the European demand not to pay salaries to terrorist prisoners saying last November on official PA TV: “The Europeans want their money that comes to us to remain clean – not to go to families of those they claim to be terrorists… These (prisoners) are heroes…” When asked by Congressman Weber if she knows how much the PA pays prisoners a year, Assistant Secretary Patterson only mentioned PA’s payments to families, and the PA’s payments to “people after they’re released,” leaving out the largest payments going to imprisoned terrorists: “No, I don’t have a figure, they pay families whose relatives are imprisoned and then they do pay some of these people after they’re released…”