The aftermath of the murder of U.S.-Israeli citizen Elan Ganeles has brought renewed focus to the Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund, whose compensation to those convicted of terrorism against Israelis and Israeli targets, and their families is commonly known as “pay for slay.”
Stuart Force, whose son Taylor—a West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran—was murdered in 2016 on a study trip in Jaffa, knows all about payments for killers and their families. The Taylor Force Act, H.R.1164, passed the House in 2017 and became law the following year as S.2946, the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act.
“I hate to see this going on,” Force told JNS of Ganeles’s killing. “It is an emotional time compounded by this rise of terrorism we are seeing in Israel, and here we see yet another victim.”
After former President Donald Trump signed the legislation into law, Washington suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the P.A. and the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The Biden administration has reversed those decisions.
David Simpkins, a former U.S. Army officer and close friend of the late Force, told JNS that the Taylor Force Act was “a huge wake-up call.”
“It taught the Palestinians there would be consequences for terrorism,” he said.
Simpkins and Force became close friends while studying together at West Point in 2009. After completing his military service, Simpkins moved to Israel and studied in Jerusalem at Machon Meir Yeshiva, where he underwent an Orthodox Jewish conversion in 2016. He now lives in Kiryat Arba, near Hebron.
“Taylor was the kind of person who nobody had anything bad to say about at West Point,” said Simpkins.
‘Fuel a vicious cycle of violence’
Ronen Gurievsky, the Israeli tour guide who led the trip in which Force participated when he was killed, told JNS that he blames the president, whose administration has resumed funding the P.A., directly for the recent wave of Palestinian terrorism.
“When the Taylor Force Act became active, there was an immediate reduction in suicide terrorism,” he said. “Biden is disgracing not only the memory of Taylor Force but his family and anyone who treasures his memory.”
“If the Biden administration cared about saving lives, they would not be financing the Palestinian Authority’s ‘pay for slay’ policy, which does nothing but fuel a vicious cycle of violence,” he added.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is reintroducing the Taylor Force Martyr Payment Payment Prevention Act, which sanctions “foreign banks that process these so-called ‘martyr payments’ for the P.A.,” the senator said recently.
Gurievsky praised Cotton’s bill, saying “it is a different but necessary way of attacking the same problem of terror financing. Many banks don’t have the necessary relationships to convert American dollars and this attacks a different root of the same problem.”
Stuart Force told JNS that he is frustrated that Biden is not enforcing the act named for his son. In December 2022, America First Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of him and other victims of terrorism against the Biden administration for alleged violations.
“The way Biden is handling the Palestinian Authority’s ‘pay for slay’ program is very upsetting,” he said. “The current administration is not enforcing the law at all. Biden and the secretary of state are equivocating. They both know American taxpayer dollars are going to support Palestinian terrorism.”
Ensuring that U.S. taxpayer dollars do not support Palestinian terrorism is a matter of honoring his son’s memory.
“We have now reached the seven-year anniversary of my son’s death,” said Force. “I’m honored that Senator Cotton invoked Taylor’s name, and that my wife and I are a part of this initiative. Whatever we can do to help the memory of such a wonderful young man—that is our son—that is our mission.”
Neither the White House nor the State Department immediately responded to queries from JNS.