Aid Donors Turn a Blind Eye to Palestinian Terror
By Rachel Ehrenfeld
Donors convening next week in Rome for an international conference on funding the Palestinian Authority's budget are likely to fork over a further $1 billion, ignoring the PA's ongoing use of aid to pay for terrorism. If testimony given to the European Parliament just last month is any guide, supporters of giving aid are either blind to the PA's corruption or back its drive to end Israel's existence.
Hannes Swoboda, a member of Parliament for the Social Democratic Party of Austria, for example told the Working Group on Direct Financial Aid to the Palestinian Authority that "no wrongdoing or misuse of funds by the Palestinian Authority, no instances of funds being used for terrorist activities instead of infrastructure development, have been proved."
The Israeli government has however sent the European institutions volumes of captured Palestinian documents providing evidence that EU funds granted to the Palestinian Authority continue to be used to pay for the upkeep of terrorists, homicide bombings, weapons, vacations, scholarships and medical treatments for members of the Palestinian leadership and their families, as well as to Yasser Arafat's personal bank accounts.
How is it possible that the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. television network CBS, the BBC, and even the PA itself were all able to document the misuse of the PA's funds by its own leadership, led by Arafat, while European Union's external relations commissioner, Chris Patten, who had the same evidence all along, fails to acknowledge it?
Some of the evidence has been around for some time, but new things turn up all the time. The latest piece of evidence came from the chief of the terrorist group the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank, Zekariya Zubeidi. According to the Saudi newspaper the Arab News, reporting from the West Bank on Dec. 3, Zubeidi stated that, "the Brigades are backed by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah and the faction stipend is a welcome supplement to police wages."
And the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is not the only terror organization backed by Arafat. Oman Mansur al-Hadiri, a Hamas operative who took part in preparations for the Passover homicide bombing at the Park Hotel in Netanya in March 2002, was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) before the bombing took place. Arafat sent a condolence telegram to Mansur's family praising the "martyr," signing it as the "President of the State of Palestine; Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization; Head of the Palestine National Authority." This document was found by the Israeli Defense Force at the al-Ihsan Charitable Society, which fronts for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Many of the MEPs and senior EU officials attending the hearing on the abuse of EU aid by the PA, insist that all these pieces of evidence are just Israeli "forgeries."
But an IMF report titled "Economic Performance and Reforms under Conflict Conditions," released last September in Abu Dhabi and based on the same PA documents provided by the Israeli government to the Commissioner and the Working Group, concludes that at least 8% ($135 million) of the PA's annual budget of $1.08 billion is being spent by Arafat at his sole discretion.
And the report does not even take into account Arafat's control of 60% the security apparatus budget, leaving him with at least $360 million per year to spend as he chooses. The report concludes that in addition, $900 million in PA revenues "disappeared" between 1995-2000, and that the 2003 budget for Arafat's office, which totaled $74 million, had $34 million missing that were transferred by Arafat to pay unidentified "organizations" and "individuals."
Mr. Patten's and many of the MEPs' constant denials that EU funds have been misused results in the EU granting ever more aid to the PA. Much of this--as the IMF report states--continues to be misappropriated even after the appointment of the reform-oriented Finance Minister, Salem Fayyad. Just this month, the World Bank gave an additional $15 million in aid to the PA, and over the weekend the EU rewarded it $40 million more.
During the Strasbourg meeting, the commission's representative, Richard Weber, claimed that it was not the EU but the IMF and the CIA that supervised the PA budget. But the IMF has publicly denied this responsibility many times, and there is no evidence that the CIA has had anything to do with EU funds to the PA. His colleague, Jacques Poos, maintained: "We all know no diversion is possible since everything now goes into one account--everything is totally transparent."
When it was pointed out that reform of the Palestinian Authority also means that its own maps should include the state of Israel, Mr. Swoboda himself seemed to want to deny its existence: "it should be Palestine." He also insisted that "there is no proof that any terrorist acts they committed were ordered by the PA--they may have been acting alone. Only if the DNA of the suicide bombers will match the DNA of those who received euros will we accept it as evidence."
Instead of granting further aid to the PA, other officials in the international donor community must ask themselves what ends they're serving by awarding yet more funds to Arafat and his government. Since it is likely that they will continue to fund terrorism, it might become appropriate to hold donors legally accountable.
Ms. Ehrenfeld, author of "Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed--and How to Stop It" (2003), is director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy.