On December 5th, at the very same time that our team of senior attorneys led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow was at The Hague defending the interests of our soldiers before the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Prosecutor of the ICC, Ms. Fatou Bensouda, released her annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activities. This past Friday she announced that she was preparing to open an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by Israel.
As we have noted in many of our previous filings with the Office of the Prosecutor, we vehemently disagree with many of her findings, especially since she has no jurisdiction over non-State parties to begin with. But in an interesting turn of events, the annual report and Friday’s announcement also contained a surprise for the Palestinian Authority (PA). As the Prosecutor noted, for the first time she is now also investigating claims that the PA is committing war crimes, specifically that:
(i) Palestinian security and intelligence services in the West Bank have committed the crime against humanity of torture and related acts against civilians held in detention centres under their control; and (ii) the PA have encouraged and provided financial incentives for the commission of violence through their provision of payments to the families of Palestinians who were involved, in particular, in carrying out attacks against Israeli citizens, and under the circumstances, the payment of such stipends may give rise to Rome Statute crimes. These as well as any other alleged crimes that may occur in the future require further assessment.
While these issues are not new, we commend the Prosecutor for finally addressing them, and in particular for calling the PA to task for their “pay to slay” program.
It may be hard to believe, but the PA actually gives convicted murderers and terrorists a monthly salary, for life, and not in spite of their terrorism, but as a reward for it. If a killer died during their terrorist attack, the money goes to their family. The size of the payments correlates to the number of the victims and the severity of the harm inflicted on them; the more you kill the more you make. The government also guarantees the terrorists a salaried position in a state institution upon their release from prison, and there are bonuses available, including if the terrorist was a resident of Jerusalem.
As sickening as this sounds, the PA guarantees these salaries in advance, and they do this publicly and proudly, spending over a billion shekels annually, much of it from international funding.
In 2018 the United States passed the Taylor Force Act, a bipartisan act of Congress designed to stop American economic aid to the Palestinian Authority until the PA ceases paying stipends through the Palestinian Authority Martyr's Fund to terrorists and their families. Taylor Force was a U.S. Military Academy graduate and veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq, who was killed in Tel Aviv in 2016 by a Palestinian in a stabbing spree that also injured 10 other people. The PA paid a bounty to the killer’s family through “pay for slay” as a reward for his disgusting deed.
The PA responded to the Taylor Force Act with defiance. PA President Mahmoud Abbas did not deny that he was in favor of paying terrorist murderers, but rather publicly vowed to continue the payments until the PA was down to its last penny.
Which makes the PA’s response to the latest twist from the ICC all the more interesting. PA Foreign Affairs Minister Riad Malki is now complaining that the Prosecutor’s report, which calls the pay for slay program a potential war crime, “was based on misleading narratives of a political nature . . . rather than an objective and accurate description of the relevant facts."
This is, of course, a bold-faced lie that the PA’s own President does not even bother telling. The Prosecutor did not have to look too hard for the evidence, because all of the relevant documentation can be easily found in a sweeping study that was done by Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center. It is available online here.
We at the ACLJ have been involved on this issue for years, and have worked hard to bring it before the relevant international bodies. In 2017, addressing a special forum at the United Nations organized by the Permanent Mission of Israel, I laid out the facts and the law, but the premise here is fairly simple. Paying terrorists to kill innocent people is abhorrent and a war crime, and any one who cannot agree to that simple statement should not be in any kind of position of power. We applaud the ICC for acknowledging this fact, and pray for the day when the PA leadership understands that incentivizing terror is not part of the recipe for peace. In the meantime, we are preparing our official responses and will keep on fighting for justice on behalf of the Jewish State.
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