You have to give them credit. The Palestinians outdid themselves this week. In the framework of the maelstrom over the presumed financial crisis of the Hamas-led PA, the supposedly "moderate" Fatah organization, led by supposedly "moderate" PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, decided to threaten America and Europe. In a leaflet published by Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Gaza, the group announced, "We won't remain idle in the face of the siege imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel, the US and other countries." They went on to threaten, "We will strike at the economic and civilian interests of these countries, here and abroad."
On Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, the announcement was greeted by many with contempt and anger. This, of course, is a remarkable combination the week before a scheduled vote on legislation that would bar all direct and indirect US assistance to the PA.
Since 1994, the PA has always been supposedly on the brink of a financial and humanitarian catastrophe. But what is interesting about the current financial crisis is Abbas's behavior. In a departure from his normal diffidence, this week Fatah leader Abbas did not try to soften the impression that his underlings sought to make on the West. Rather, he strengthened it.
In a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Abbas warned that if the EU did not renew its underwriting of the PA's budget "there will be an explosion of anger, and this would lead to a chaotic situation of which we cannot foresee the results." Translated into regular English, Abbas told his European audience: "Your money or your life."
Yet even as he was directly blackmailing the Europeans, Abbas didn't forget his manners. In a style that befits Yasser Arafat's deputy of some 40 years, Abbas provided his victims with the opportunity to feel good about giving in to his threats. If you give me your protection money, he said, you will be able to wrap yourselves in the robes of the saviors of the poor, popular Palestinian people by preventing a "humanitarian disaster."
And so, from the editorial board of Ha'aretz to the continental press, all the enlightened humanitarians now express their deep concern for the fate of the PA's 165,000 employees who have not received salaries for nearly two whole months. Human rights organizations from the UN to Amnesty International have expressed their deep-seated fears for the fate of the poor Palestinians who haven't been paid.
The thing of it is that for all of their shrieks and whines, there has never been a group of more self-sufficient people on the verge of a humanitarian disaster than the Palestinians. They're swimming in money. If the PA suffers from a "humanitarian disaster" it will be wholly and completely self-induced. Since its establishment in 1994, the PA has received more aid per capita than any other group of people in the world has ever received - more than the victims of genocide in Sudan or Rwanda, more that the victims of the tsunami in Asia, more than the Iraqis or the Afghans - more than anyone.
As the researcher Arlene Kushner pointed out in an article published this week by Ynet those miserable unpaid PA employees include some 4,000 Palestinian terrorists who Abbas placed on the PA payroll. Terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons get $4 million a month. Several million more go to paying the families of dead terrorists. Kushner quoted former PA and Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan admitting that of the $10 billion in international aid that the Palestinians have received over the past 12 years, some $5b. has gone missing.
Abbas, who politely warns against "explosions," himself controls up to $1b. that he prefers not to use to save his people from that "humanitarian disaster" he's so bent out of shape about. As Kushner reminds us, in 2002, Salam Fayyad, who then served as the PA's finance minister, set up the Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF) in an attempt to prevent Arafat from absconding with all the PA's money. At least $700m. should still be deposited in the PIF which had been valued at $1b. in recent months.
Abbas, who bemoans the poor Palestinian doctors and teachers that have not received their March salaries, decided last summer - against the expressed warnings of the International Monetary Fund - to give significant pay increases to the PA's employees. Civil servants were given raises of some 15-20 percent and militia members were given raises of 30%-40%. Kushner notes that at the time of Arafat's death in November 2004, his grieving widow Suha refused to unplug his respirator until Abbas and then PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei agreed to her demands for a significant cut of her husband's personal wealth which was assessed at some $3.1b. Apparently it hasn't occurred to anyone that Arafat might have liked to use that money to avert a "humanitarian disaster" among his beloved people.
EVEN WITHOUT Kushner's data, the Palestinians themselves demonstrated this week their contempt for the West and its "humanitarians" who concern themselves with the Palestinians' dire financial straits. On Wednesday, the PA deployed its newest 3,000-man militia. The militia, comprised mainly of Hamas terror operatives and operatives from the Popular Resistance Committees made up of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah terrorists, made its first appearance in Gaza. Its troops were all decked out in new uniforms and shiny rifles.
Perhaps all 3,000 are volunteers. Perhaps the men paid for their own uniforms and weapons. If there are Palestinian patients dying because their hospitals can't afford to maintain dialysis equipment, maybe the PA should be asking the new Hamas militia for a loan or a contribution.
If the deployment of its newest army weren't enough to send a clear signal of its sentiments to its deeply concerned donors, the Hamas-led PA appointed Popular Resistance Committees commander Jamal Abu Samadana to command the new force. Samadana also commanded the terror attack against US Embassy personnel in Gaza in October 2003.
While the Palestinians' supporters in Europe and Israel still refuse to acknowledge what the Palestinians are clearly signaling with their newest armed force, Arafat's former paymaster Fuad Shubaki, now in Israeli custody, openly admits that under Arafat the PA siphoned off millions of dollars from the tax revenues that Israel transferred to it and millions more in international assistance to fund terrorist cells and operations.
These Israeli leftists and Europeans unabashedly describe themselves as humanitarians and urge the payment of salaries of people whose job it is to kill them. For their part, the Palestinians couldn't be any clearer. As a spokesman for Fatah's Abu Rish brigades (also commanded by Abu Samadana) put it this week, if the money doesn't start flowing again, the Palestinians will open a "new intifada," which will be a "merciless intifada that will destroy everything."
PERHAPS THE most distinguishing group characteristic of the Palestinians is the fact that no matter what they do or say, they never have to pay a price for the choices they make. In spite of their blackmail, threats and corruption, their war for the annihilation of Israel, and perhaps above all, their mocking contempt for the collective honor of Israel and the West, the Palestinians' victims line up to support them in their "just struggle against the illegal Zionist occupation."
This fact was made breathtakingly clear at the end of April when, in a move that can be likened to a metaphorical rape of the concept of "international law," Amnesty International published a statement defining as a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention the US, Israeli and EU decision to abide by their laws (and international law forbidding aid to terror organizations) and end assistance to the Hamas-led PA. Not surprisingly, Amnesty cited no clause in the Convention that supports the preposterous claim that the contracting parties to the convention are obligated - or even permitted - to fund terrorist organizations. What is notable here is that Amnesty has determined a new standard that claims that taking steps to force the PA to be responsible for its actions is an offense against the law of nations.
Not to be outdone by Amnesty, the EU is fervently brainstorming to find a way to finance the Hamas-led PA's budget in spite of the fact that its own laws prohibit financing Hamas. In the wake of Abbas's "explosion" speech, the EU's External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said, "We are well aware of the urgency of the situation in the Palestinian territories. We have to get the parameters right and then we have to get the donors and the partners to accept what we will set up."
For its part, what most concerns the World Bank these days is that the US and Israel might place sanctions on companies or agencies that continue to do business with the PA. Because of this, the bank is demanding that Israel and the US provide "explicit assurances" that they will not impose sanctions on such companies or agencies.
In truth, as far as Israel is concerned the World Bank and the EU have little to worry about. In the aftermath of last week's meeting of the so-called Quartet, where it was agreed that the EU would formulate a way to bypass European and US laws prohibiting the transfer of monies to Hamas, both Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz announced varying degrees of willingness to resume tax revenue transfers to the PA in some form of "humanitarian assistance," to the PA.
Although on Sunday the government did not vote to resume such financial transfers that amount to some $50m. per month, members of Congress have reported that Israeli officials were encouraging them to water down their draft legislation that will place a total ban on direct and indirect assistance to the PA. These Israeli government officials maintain that Israel is interested in the transfer of "humanitarian aid," in the hopes of averting that much feared "humanitarian disaster." Many members of Congress and senators who have received such entreaties from Israeli officials and been urged to support Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to withdraw from Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem are puzzled by what they view as an Israeli attempt to finance and surrender to Hamas.
In a lecture last week in New York sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America, former IDF chief of general staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya'alon explained that Israel suffers from a weak national leadership. In his words, "We don't need Chamberlains, we need Churchills." Ya'alon further explained that Israelis had been manipulated by Palestinian lies that have caused us "to ignore reality."
As the members of Congress listen to Olmert address them next Wednesday; and as they vote on the proposed ban on aid to the Hamas-led PA, they would do well to keep Ya'alon's message in mind and not fall into the same trap.