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OpinionIsrael at War

How is the PA’s agenda not genocide?

Washington wants an entity that requires terrorists be paid for killing Israelis to rule post-war Gaza.

Then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, March 9, 2016. Credit: Flash90.
Then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, March 9, 2016. Credit: Flash90.
Sander Gerber
Sander Gerber
Sander Gerber is a member of the U.S. State Department’s Middle East Partnership for Peace Act (MEPPA) advisory board and a distinguished fellow at JINSA. He is a former vice chairman of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Last month, the International Court of Justice—prompted by South Africa—issued an interim ruling on the accusation that Israel is committing genocide in its response to the Oct. 7 massacre. The ruling stopped short of confirming the charge but warned Israel to prevent “genocidal acts” banned under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

The accusation of genocide was sickeningly offensive. It was also stunningly ironic.

It was a Polish Jew who immigrated to the United States, the jurist Raphael Lemkin, who first coined the term “genocide” in 1944. After the Holocaust, Lemkin’s definition was codified into international law. Israel was founded in 1948 following the genocide of six million Jews.

Meanwhile, as the genocide slander persists, the White House willfully ignores the Palestinian Authority’s incentive program for killing Israelis: the infamous “pay-for-slay.” Enshrined in Palestinian law, the program authorizes the eradication of Israel and the Jewish people. How is this not genocide? 

President Joe Biden has been busy enacting sanctions on four Israeli settlers who committed acts of violence against Palestinians. If he wishes to be even-handed, it is time for the White House to demand as a condition for peace that the P.A. finally end the far worse crime that is the “pay-for-slay” program.

The origins of the program are obvious. While the Israeli Declaration of Independence welcomes Arab citizens, the 1964 Palestinian National Charter declares war to the death against Israel. Technically, the charter was canceled during the Oslo process, but Palestinians still live by it and teach it in their schools. The P.A.’s ruling Fatah Party’s charter still explicitly calls for the “eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.” This is clearly genocide. 

More than a half-century later, not much has changed except that the budget for killing Jews and eradicating Israel has risen. The P.A. now pays the families of “martyrs” a lifetime salary and monthly salaries to terrorist prisoners. The payments are larger the more people the terrorist in question kills and the length of his prison sentence. Prisoners are offered government jobs upon release. All of this costs more than $350 million per year.

Yet the Biden administration has decided that the P.A. should govern Gaza when the current war ends. This is intolerable. Instead, the White House should end all support for the P.A.’s terror-supporting regime.

If for no other reason, it should do so because such support violates U.S. law.

In 2015, Israel was experiencing a wave of stabbing attacks, often referred to as the “knife intifada.” At the time, I was vice chairman of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, a nonpartisan think tank. I had a strong suspicion that the attacks were not committed by lone wolves, but rather coordinated as part of a larger plan.

To verify my hunch, I called friends who work in Arabic media. They tracked down the relevant Palestinian laws and translated them. They also found the documents that laid out the system of “pay-for-slay” payments, codified in 2004 and updated in 2013.

I was working on exposing this when another fatal stabbing occurred in March 2016. This time, the victim was an American: Former U.S. Army officer Taylor Force, who was stabbed while visiting Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, as a civilian.

I gently contacted Force’s bereaved parents and asked them if they knew who and what was behind their son’s death. Once they learned, they made it their life’s mission to expose the “pay-for-slay” program.  

In 2018, the Taylor Force Act passed both the House and Senate. It mandated that the U.S. stop using taxpayer money to fund the P.A. until it ends the “pay-for-slay” program. It further urged the State Department to call upon the international community to do the same.

Recently, after 12 members of the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA participated in the Oct. 7 massacre, nations such as the U.S. and Germany stopped supporting the agency. Yet the U.S. continues to support the P.A. even though this also means supporting Oct. 7 terrorists. Palestinian Media Watch, a Jerusalem-based watchdog group, recently revealed that the P.A. will pay 661 Hamas terrorists from Gaza who were involved in the Oct. 7 massacre.

The P.A., in other words, is party to Hamas’s genocidal agenda. The White House can no longer ignore this. By endorsing the P.A. without considering other options for a post-war Gaza government and without publicly condemning “pay-for-slay,” U.S. officials are handing power to the wrong people. They are supporting ideologies and actions hostile to peace that violate U.S. law. Even worse, they are condoning crimes against humanity.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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