That classic interview favourite: ‘what three famous people, dead or alive, would you invite to dinner’ can provide valuable insight into someone’s character. From Mandela to Brando, Gandhi to Dylan, worthy to eccentric, a people’s choice of hero tells you a lot about themselves – and how they wished to be viewed.
What to make, then, of someone who would choose the architect of a suicide bomb attack on a restaurant? Or someone who would share their hypothetical meal with a man who tied up hitchhikers and shot them at point blank range? How about someone who would break bread with the murderer of a Holocaust survivor?
I raise these specific examples because they are just a few of the many beneficiaries of the Palestinian Authority’s grotesque policy of openly and shamelessly rewarding terrorism. Were any one individual to publicly describe these monsters as heroes, they would be viewed as disturbed – and the same standard must surely be applied to governments as well.
But this commitment to killing goes well beyond mere glorification. It also includes a veritable career path, since, under the PA’s Law of the Prisoner, any Palestinian convicted of terrorism charges is automatically put on the payroll. Rather than have a Ramallah mandarin work out how much his newly appointed colleague should be earning, these salaries are pegged to the length of the sentence, so the worse the crime, the greater the reward. Those serving the longest sentences “earn” – in the loosest, sickest sense of the word – a staggering 12,000 shekels (£2000) a month.
In the 1970s the American economist William A. Niskanen presented his theory of budget-maximisation, the public sector equivalent of capitalism’s more familiar profit-maximisation model. While workers in a company are driven by the desire to increase profit, Niskansen argued that employees in a government department are driven simply by a desire to gain bigger budgets, with the accompanying higher salaries and prestige. But the Law of the Prisoner is a new model altogether; satisfying the demand for neither goods nor services, this unique ‘murder maximisation’ can only be understood in the context of the PA’s commitment to promoting violence.
This commitment, which sees the Mahmoud Abbas’ administration spend around five percent of its monthly budget (millions of dollars) on direct payments to these criminals, perfectly exemplifies not only Hannah Arendt’s famous line about the ‘banality of evil,’ but also why peace – true peace – is still so far away. This industry is the proof that the Palestinian leadership prioritises harming her neighbours over helping her citizens.
We have organisations like Palestine Media Watch and individuals like investigative journalist Edwin Black to thank for exposing this issue. But paying people to murder is too scandalous an issue, too great an injustice, to be allowed to continue. To be blunt, we can’t expect Abbas to do the right thing, unless he’s forced to – unless there’s a credible threat that some of the international funding that makes up nearly half of his budget will be cut off. This is why the ZF, as the leading grassroots Israel advocacy group in the UK, is campaigning to have the British government re-assess its direct funding to the PA – and we need your help to do it.
Alongside the many letters our members have been writing to their elected representatives the ZF has started an official petition on the subject, which you can read at this link. If we can get 10,000 signatures, then the government will provide a statement on the subject. But if we can get 100,000 signatures, then we’ll have the opportunity to have the matter addressed in the British Parliament itself. It won’t be easy. Since these petitions were introduced, only a handful have generated the required numbers. If we’re successful, however, the impact will be huge.
Not only will we have the chance to start weaning the PA off the seemingly limitless funds that enable it to maintain this immoral, wasteful and harmful policy, but we’ll also have exposed the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the general public. Instead of Israel advocates having to defend the constant baseless accusations about apartheid, and settlements, and occupation, let’s put our enemies in the hot seat for once. Let’s start shifting the narrative from Israel’s perceived faults, to that of the Palestinians.
But like I said, we need your help. We know that the Times of Israel has a global readership, including many in Britain. If you’re a UK citizen, it goes without saying that we need you to sign the petition – but we need you to share it as well. Facebook it. Tweet it. Email it. Let’s do our part to make sure that the prisoners at the heart of the current talks are treated as criminals, not celebrities. Because salaries for terrorists can’t just be about accounting. It has to be about holding people to account, too.