Why Does The Commission Fear A Pa Probe?
By The Wall Street Journal Europe | by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, ACD Director, and Sarah Zebaida
Tuesday, January 28th, 2003 @ 5:16AM
Don’t Europeans have a right to know how a terrorist spends their money?
The European Union has given Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority 540 Million euros since 2000, and the PA has yet to produce a comprehensive account of what it’s done with the funds. And yet the European Parliament has still not gathered the signatures needed for a probe into the longstanding claim that the PA has misused taxpayers’ money to finance terrorist attacks. Only 147 MEPs have signed a petition calling for an investigation, 10 names shy of the number required to hold a debate. If the remaining MEPs do not sign on by this Friday the investigation will be abandoned.
Why are so many so reluctant to ask for a mere investigation? Partly because EU Commissioner for External Affairs, Chris Patten, has successfully persuaded MEPs that initially were to sign that he has seen no evidence of misuse of EU money. He’s also accused the MEPs supporting the investigation of “flogging a dead horse.”
The momentum behind investigating how the money is being used is not meant to starve the Palestinian economy of funds. Solving the issue of misused humanitarian aid would help establish a stable Palestinian economy, which in turn would help further a lasting solution to the Middle East conflict. Mr. Patten need only listen to the new PA finance minister, Salam Fayad, who appears to concur with allegations of misappropriation and describes PA’s finances as “neither transparent nor accountable.” Mr. Fayad adds that “the [PA] Ministry of Finance was not in control of the revenues, and if you are not in control of the revenues, you are not in control of anything, so of course there was corruption.”
Mr. Patten’s unwillingness to investigate how the PA used the money it was given by the EU seems remarkably peculiar considering that the EU Court of Auditors declined last November to approve the EU budget for the eighth year running, charging that it could only guarantee that 5% of the $96 billion EU budget is “being spent properly.”
Israel has presented Chris Patten with volumes of the PA’s own documents That were captured by the Israeli Defense Forces over the last year, which contain evidence that the PA initiated and paid for terror attacks against Israel, and funded such terrorist groups as the Tanzim, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and even Hamas operatives.
The documents contain new information that Arafat and the PA leadership have initiated and paid for terror attacks against Israelis, but that they also siphoned off millions of dollars to private bank accounts in Switzerland and Jordan. Documents that were discovered by the IDF in 2002 and have been authenticated by the U.S. and German authorities prove that terrorists that carried out attacks on Israeli civilians have been on the Palestinian authority’s payroll, and were paid with checks ordered by Arafat and issued by the PA’s Ministry of Finance. The EU monthly budgetary assistance of 10 million euros is given to this finance ministry. It is specifically designated to cover the salaries of PA civil servants, but money is fungible.
Additional PA documents with receipts, photocopies of checks and documents related to the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the PA budget to the families of al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and even to relatives of Hamas terrorists — despite Arafat’s continuing denials of cooperation with Hamas — are among the PA documents that are about to be released by the IDF.
At times, payments were also made by the PA Treasury or by Arafat’s own office. At other times they were made from the Preventive Security Force’s own budget. The ostensible purpose of the Preventive Security is to prevent terror.
The documents show, for example, that Arafat last July ordered the ministry of finance to pay the mortgages for the families of two terrorists, Jahad Alamarin and Awal Alnamera, who had been employed by the PA’s Preventive Security Force in Gaza, and who had been killed in terror attacks against Israel. Arafat also ordered the ministry of finance to pay $2000 to each of the families of the “martyrs.”
Israel itself continues to provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians and does not advocate cutting of EU aid. But it does see a clear link Between unmonitored EU aid to the corrupt PA and its own security.
Why do we feel safe in calling the PA “corrupt?” because the Palestinians themselves do: A survey taken last year in the West Bank and Gaza found that 70% of Palestinians believed there was widespread corruption within the PA. There’s also no question that the groups in question are terrorist. This month alone the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for the deadly double suicide attack in Tel Aviv that killed 23 Israelis and foreign workers. Al Fatah’s Arabic website — which is funded by the PA — carried an al Aqsa message praising the attack saying “our heroic martyrs broke through military blockades to penetrate into the heart of Tel Aviv . . . . killing many of the Zionist oppressors. We salute all martyr operations against our enemies.”
A recent report published by Human Rights Watch concluded that: “The al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades appear to have benefited from the routine misuse of PA funds. Arafat and other senior PA officials, as well as many rank-and-file Fatah members, have overlapping identities as employees or officials of the PA, on The one hand, and as members of Fatah on the other. This dual identity appears to have facilitated the use of PA resources to fund Fatah activities directly And indirectly, including payments to individual al-Aqsa Brigades activists.”
Commissioner Patten has consistently maintained that not one euro of EU funds has been used to fund Palestinian terror attacks. But, as he knows, money is fungible. Stephen Bloomberg, a British born Israeli who was left widowed and paralyzed in a roadside ambush attack by Palestinian police officers, whose salaries are funded by the EU, bluntly concludes, “My parents in London are paying taxes which go partly towards the EU and that money has contributed to the murder of my wife. European taxpayers should know that their money is used to blow up buses and cafes, and to murder innocent civilians.”
Ms. Ehrenfeld is the Director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy, and the author of the forthcoming book: Funding Evil. Ms. Zebaida is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.