Most Americans either intuitively or consciously understand that money collected from them in taxes is fungible, meaning that, while it may be collected under the auspices of paying for one thing, it may actually end up paying for something else. In early October, Congress apparently began recognizing the consequences of such fungibility when they put a hold on $200 million in aid to the Palestine Authority (PA). Unfortunately, as columnist Debbie Schlussel reveals, last year’s grant of $100 million to Palestinians via the federal government’s USAID program has helped to underwrite a particularly egregious enterprise: gifts provided by Hamas to terrorist mass murderers released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Each of these thugs was given $2000 and a Nokia X3 cellphone, no doubt as a reward for their efforts to exterminate Jews. Who are these prisoners? Men like Yehya Sinwar, 49, who helped establish Hamas’s military wing in Gaza as well as its internal security apparatus, which killed Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. He was serving four life sentences for his involvement in the 1994 kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldier Nachshon Wachsman. As far as Sinwar is concerned, kidnapping or capturing Israeli soldiers “is the best news in the universe, because [a Palestinian prisoner] knows that a glimmer of hope has been opened for him,“ he told The New York Times.
Other hard-core terrorists among the 477 prisoners released include: Walid Anajas, 31, who was serving 36 life sentences for his role in two suicide bombings at Jerusalem’s Café Moment and the Rishon LeZion pool hall in which a total of 27 Israelis were killed; Husam Badran, who helped plan four suicide bombings during the Second Intifada, killing a total of 81 Israelis; Ahlam Tamimi, proud of being the first female Hamas combatant, who was serving 16 life sentences for her role in the 2001 attacks on a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, killing 15; Nasser Yataima, who received 29 life sentences for planning the bloody Passover bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya, killing 30; and Abd Al-Hadi Ghanim, who received 16 life sentences for grabbing the steering wheel of a bus en route to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, steering it into a ravine, killing 16 people on board during the first Intifada in 1989.
Adding insult to injury, Sinwar and his fellow terrorists were greeted like heroes upon their release. And in a perverse bit of reporting, The New York Times acknowledged the “progress” Hamas had made between the time Sinwar was incarcerated and his release, noting that “he came home to a world he could not possibly have imagined during his long incarceration. As a young guerrilla fighter, he had collected knives and guns. But as he was driven from the Egyptian border to Gaza City on Tuesday, he saw thousands of Hamas fighters lining the highway, carrying automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades and driving pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns.”
How much of that “progress” was funded by U.S. taxpayers is impossible to determine. How much aid we provide to Palestinians in general, however, is not. A report released this month by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reveals that since the mid-1990s, “the U.S. government has committed over $4 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians,” who, the report also noted, “are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid.” Furthermore, from FY2008 to the present, “U.S. bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip has averaged over $600 million, including annual averages of over $200 million in direct budgetary assistance and over $100 million in non-lethal security assistance for the PA in the West Bank.” The United States is also “the largest single-state donor to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).” This is despite the fact that the actual benefit of such aid to US interests “remains a polarizing question, particularly with respect to its presence in Hamas-controlled Gaza.”
The ostensible rationale for providing such aid? Incredibly, the first of three reasons given in the report is “Combating, neutralizing, and preventing terrorism against Israel from the Islamist group Hamas and other militant organizations.” The other two reasons are equally pie-in-the-sky suspensions of reality: “Creating a virtuous cycle of stability and prosperity in the West Bank that inclines Palestinians–including those in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip–toward peaceful coexistence with Israel and prepares them for self-governance,” and “Meeting humanitarian needs and preventing further destabilization, particularly in the Gaza Strip.”
One is left to wonder how such nonsense can sustain itself, especially when one considers that as recently as two weeks ago, it was reported that PA President Mahmoud Abbas will resume efforts to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal for “renewed talks on ways of achieving unity” between the two factions. This reality makes an utter mockery of the CRS report which states that “Because of congressional concerns that, among other things, funds might be diverted to Palestinian terrorist groups, U.S. aid is subject to a host of vetting and oversight requirements and legislative restrictions.” Schlussel explains that such vetting “is minimal and on the surface only” and that “we don’t have the guts to end it, but for a few Republicans, led by Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who are trying to stop this.”
Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has seen through this charade for months. Back in May, about a week after Fatah and Hamas announced their intention to form a unity government, Ros-Lehtinen was emphatic about refusing to release taxpayer funds to “whatever hybrid marriage, whatever Rubrik’s cube” is used to rationalize such funding. The particular rationale the Obama administration is trying foist on Congress? As long as Hamas doesn’t “control” a unity government, American taxpayer dollars can keep flowing. Ros-Lehtinen wasn’t biting. “That’s not what the law says,” she explained. “I don’t care if there is one or five or hundreds of members of Hamas, no U.S. funds can go to the PA. Call it what you want…Be fools if you want. But we will hold the Obama administration’s feet to the fire.”
As of the beginning of October, the funds remain unreleased, something characterized by the Palestinian Authority as “collective punishment” in response to Abbas’ bid for statehood at the U.N. “It is another kind of collective punishment which is going to harm the needs of the public without making any positive contribution,” said Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), member of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, was unimpressed, telling a group of congressmen and Jewish organization leaders that “there may need to be a total cutoff of all aid to the Palestinians for pursuing [the U.N. route to statehood] which is very dangerous and ill advised.”
Bradley Goehner, communications director of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs confirmed Congress’s stance on the issue. “There is an informational hold on the funding,” he noted. “The Chairman (Ros-Lehtinen) and other Committee Members are seeking further details about how funds have been used in the past, how they will be used, safeguards, and the system in place to phase the Palestinians away from dependency on the U.S. This is a tool of Congressional oversight.“ Goehner then spoke directly to the issue. “Members believe that the funding cannot be considered in a vacuum, and that the PA’s activities at the UN, its arrangement with Hamas, and its failure to recognize Israel’s right to exist as Jewish State must all be taken into consideration,” he said.
Yet the Obama administration remained adamant. “We still have some money in the pipeline but the concern is that if we don’t get this going with the Congress in short order there could be an effect on the ground,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. Former president Bill Clinton also expressed the idea that Congress should allow the Obama administration to call the shots on funding. “Everybody knows the U.S. Congress is the most pro-Israel parliamentary body in the world,” said Clinton. “They don’t have to demonstrate that.”
Perhaps not. But considering the level of Israeli support demonstrated by an Obama administration willing to countenance the funding of a federally-designated terrorist organization, as long as they don’t control a Palestinian unity government, Congress remains a counter-weight to the kind of faculty lounge, pseudo-intellectualism that afflicts the president and his enablers. All one has to do is substitute the word “Nazi” for “Hamas” and consider if funding a Fatah-Nazi unity government–as long as the Nazis are in the minority, of course–would make any sense. As to the inevitable comparison that progressives will make about the fact that we give foreign aid to Israel, thus it is only “fair” that we fund Palestinians, the response is simple: as of now, neither Fatah nor Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and the latter’s charter of existence calls for the annihilation of the Jewish state and the extermination of Jews.
U.S. taxpayers helping to provide cellphones and cash to facilitate that ambition isn’t fair. It’s obscene.
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