Banks operating in the Palestinian Authority (PA) have closed 35,000 bank accounts of imprisoned terrorists, released terrorists, and families of dead terrorists, a result of action taken by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).
PMW had notified the banks that if they continued to operate these accounts and process payments from the PA to terrorists, it would be a violation of Israeli law, exposing them to civil and criminal liability.
In response to PMW’s warning, the banks closed the accounts of the terrorists.
However, the PA did not heed PMW’s warning, and in April, for the first time since the Israeli law came into effect, the PA paid the illegal salaries to imprisoned and released terrorists, and allowances of the families of the dead terrorists through the PA’s postal service.
Referencing the warning letter the banks were sent by PMW, the PA’s Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs stated that the decision of the banks to close the accounts of the terrorists was “due to the Israeli threats to harm and sue them.”
Considered a national value, the PA has been exploring various ways to circumvent the Israeli anti-terror legislation and continue paying the terror stipends without the assistance of the commercial banks. The PA initially decided to create a new designated bank and even announced the name of the CEO-elect, but that option was abandoned.
With no banks willing to provide services to the terrorists, the PA is making direct payments at PA post offices.
The terrorists and their families, who have the status of heroes in the PA, said they felt “humiliation and degradation” because they had to stand “like beggars to receive these salaries.”
Released prisoner Arafat Barghouti told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that “the prisoners, their relatives, and the released prisoners received the message that they are going to make them social cases, and this is as a result of the wait at the gates of the post office and the feeling of humiliation and degradation after years of struggling against and defying the occupation.”
Barghouti demanded to pressure the banks or find appropriate paths for the prisoners, instead of transferring the salaries to the post office.
The Israeli Anti-Terror legislation states that a person who carries out any “transaction with property,” including cash payments given as a reward for carrying out a terror crime, is committing an offense.
The term “transaction with property,” is defined in the legislation as including any banking transaction.
Accordingly, all the PA officials who were involved in the decision to pay the terror salaries and the staff of the PA postal service who facilitated the payment of the salaries all committed serious offenses punishable with up to 10 years in prison. The monies paid to the terrorists are also subject to seizure.
PMW has notified Defense Minister Benny Gantz of the PA violations, stressing the importance of bringing the perpetrators to justice and seizing all the funds paid as rewards for terror.
In 2020, the PA spent NIS 512 million ($159 million) on stipends for terrorists imprisoned in Israel and those who have been released.
In addition, the PA also paid hundreds of millions of shekels in rewards to wounded terrorists and the families of terrorists killed during attacks and in clashes with Israeli forces.
The PA’s policy has been widely condemned, with Canada, the US, Australia, and Holland halting direct aid to the PA until the policy is abolished, but the PA has vowed to proceed with the policy it claims is a form of welfare.