Foreign Policy Magazine Whitewashes ‘Pay to Slay’

The Palestinian Authority, the entity that rules the West Bank, offers salaries to those who murder and maim Jews. And, regrettably, some in the media do their best to hide this inconvenient fact. Take, for example, a Jan. 25, 2021 Foreign Policy article by reporter Joshua Mitnick (“Among the Unanticipated Outcomes of the U.S. Election: A Palestinian One”).

Mitnick claims “since Joe Biden’s election victory in November,” PA President Mahmoud Abbas “has signaled a desire to mend fences with Washington.” Accordingly, Abbas has “resumed coordination with the Israeli army, and one of his deputies pledged to overhaul a controversial welfare policy for militants convicted of violence against Israelis.”

The latter is an odd—and purposefully obtuse—way of describing paying terrorists to murder Jews. Presumably, Mitnick means to say “financial incentives for murdering Jews”—blood money—but, for some reason, can’t bring himself to do so. Yet, there is nothing ambiguous about the PA’s “pay to slay” policy.

As CAMERA noted in a Jan. 21, 2021 Newsweek op-ed, in 2004 the PA passed laws guaranteeing salaries for convicted terrorists and their families. In 2010, the PA passed a series of resolutions stipulating that every Palestinian inmate in an Israeli prison who is convicted of a “terrorism-related offense” is to receive a monthly payment. In 2013, the PA’s prime minister at the time, Rami Hamdallah, amended the law, offering additional benefits to prisoners upon their release. Among those benefits: many of those convicted of terrorism related offenses are guaranteed jobs with the Authority.

Indeed, as Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) documented in a report that was publicly available more than a month before Mitnick’s article, PA officials are proud of their track record of hiring convicted terrorists. Qadri Abu Bakr, the director of the PA-funded Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, “stated that the original decision that the PA would recruit and employ every released prisoner was made by Yasser Arafat in 1994.” While the policy was briefly suspended under former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, “the number of released terrorists who spent over 10 years in prison and are receiving ‘Employment with a salary’ has risen to over 7,000 terrorists.”

Nor is it “welfare.”

The 2004 law specifies that the money be for the “fighting sector,” which it referred to as an “integral part of the fabric of Palestinian society.” PMW has documented, “Palestinian law explicitly refers to the payments as salaries”—not as “welfare.” Further, the PA even treats the payments as salaries by withholding income tax on them.

PA officials have been equally clear about the payments—and equally steadfast in their refusals to end the appalling practice. In July 2018, among other instances, PA head Mahmoud Abbas declared: “Even if we have only a penny left, we will give it to the martyrs, the prisoners and their families.” Abbas added: “We view the prisoners and the martyrs as planets and stars in the skies of the Palestinian struggle, and they have priority in everything.” True to his word, in the first five months of 2019 alone, the PA paid terrorists and their families $66 million—an 11.8 percent increase from the previous year.

All of this is readily documented. Indeed, in just the last three years, CAMERA alone has published articles highlighting the truth about the PA’s “pay to slay” policy in The Washington Post, The Hill, The Washington Examiner, and Newsweek, among elsewhere. But Mitnick can’t be troubled to do basic journalistic due diligence. Instead, he allows himself to be duped, uncritically claiming that one of Abbas’s deputies has “pledged to overhaul” the payments. In fact, as the PA itself has made clear, nothing of the sort has happened.

In December 2020, Bakr was asked about a New York Times article that similarly suggested that payments would be ended or curtailed. He adamantly replied that such suggestions were “inaccurate and incorrect.” On Nov. 27, 2020, the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs declared that “the prisoners are a sacred issue that can’t be touched.” He further noted, “we have begun to absorb the released prisoners into the [PA’s] Security Forces and the PA’s institutions.”

As PMW’s Maurice Hirsh noted: “In other words, the only change the PA is considering is to actually invent thousands of ostensibly legitimate PA jobs – or maybe even worse: sack a similar number of law-abiding public employees – in order to make the best use of the released terrorists. No longer will the terrorists be able to sit at home doing nothing and receive a fat salary. Rather, they will be official PA employees, with potentially real jobs.”

The “pledged overhaul,” then, isn’t to end the payments. Rather it is to make convicted terrorists into paid employees—including those tasked with security cooperation with Israel. It must be noted that the truth behind these “changes” was, like the truth about the “pay to slay,” readily available prior to the January 25th publication of the Foreign Policy report.

Mark Twain purportedly said: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.” That adage, whether uttered by Twain or someone else, seems to be increasingly en vogue.