Palestinian teachers striking for better conditions are, in fact, showing how corrupt the Palestinian Authority (PA) is, writes Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh (“Palestinians: Have The Donors Finally Woken Up,” Gatestone Institute, March 8, 2016).
The teachers have accused the PA Ministry of Education of misusing international donors’ funds and inflating the number of teachers. The teachers have alleged that a list of ministry of education employees, including teachers and administrative workers, includes fictitious names. If true, this could permit PA officials to seek larger grants than justified and divert the excess funds.
Toameh said that the striking workers are pointing to the PA Ministry of Finance’s failure to release a general budget for the years 2015 and 2016 as a lack of transparency and sign of possible corruption.
That lack of openness—and the PA’s method of governing by buying support—has led to questions regarding the authority’s personnel figures. “No one, in fact, knows how many Palestinians are on the PA payroll,” Toameh noted. “Some figures estimate the number of employees at over 160,000, while others have put the figure at 250,000.” He writes:
“Some Palestinians have charged that these numbers have been vastly inflated by using names of the deceased, those who live abroad and some who do not even exist. In the main these salaries are covered by donor governments such as the US and EU, who for years have failed to check the lists of the public employees or verify the sums.”
“Moreover, donors might not be aware that they are paying over 50,000 employees from the Gaza Strip to not work. This has been the case since 2007, when Hamas seized control over the Gaza Strip. In response, the Palestinian Authority ordered all its employees to boycott Hamas and promised to pay them full salaries for sitting at home.”
The PA has ten different security services alone, employing more than 70,000 people. According to Toameh, the PA employs one policeman for every 52 people, compared to one teacher for every 72 Palestinians living under authority rule. By contrast, Los Angeles has less than 10,000 police officers for a population of 4 million, for a ratio of 1 to 400.
In what may be a sign of how seriously it’s taking the strikes, the PA has ordered a security crackdown against the teachers. Teachers have been detained and the authority has sought to hinder or prevent protest rallies, such as one planned in Ramallah, by setting up checkpoints in parts of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Toameh reports that PA officials also have claimed that “the strike was organized by Hamas a part of a conspiracy to embarrass and undermine” the Abbas regime.
The PA reportedly has formed a secret legal committee that is tasked with preparing a reply and explaining away discrepancies to donors.
There is good reason for questions regarding the PA’s finances.
As CAMERA has noted, documents obtained by Israel Radio on Oct. 6, 2015 showed that the PA has been paying imprisoned terrorists—including those belonging to rival Hamas, the U.S.-listed terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip (“ ‘Moderate’ Palestinian Authority Pays Convicted and Imprisoned Hamas Terrorists,” Oct. 8, 2015). The documents showed that terrorists like jailed Hamas bomb maker Abudallah Barghouti and Hamas official Ibrahim Hamad are being paid $66,000 and $53,000, respectively in U.S. dollars. By contrast, World Bank figures show that the gross national income per capita of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians is $3,060.
According to June 2014 figures from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the PA’s annual budget for supporting Palestinian terrorists was approximately $75 million. This is an estimated 16 percent of the foreign donations that the PA receives annually. In 2012, foreign aid made up a quarter of the PA’s $3.1 billion budget.
Whether international donors will show the forcefulness of striking Palestinian teachers when facing questions about PA corruption and misuse of funds remains to be seen.