A senior Palestinian Authority official, Brigadier General Hassan Asfour, has been visiting the U.S., taking tuition at the CIA, and also meeting with Palestinian-Americans in Virginia and Chicago. His talks to the latter audiences have been surprisingly frank about the motivation for terrorists in Judea and Samaria. More on his revelations can be found here: “Senior PA security official: Hamas, PIJ recruiting youth ‘with nothing to live for,’” by Jacob Magid, Times of Israel, July 27, 2023:
The Palestinian Authority faces an uphill battle in its attempt to curb terror in the West Bank, where Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have been recruiting impoverished youth to carry out attacks, a senior officer in the PA’s Preventive Security Service revealed in a meeting this week, a source with direct knowledge of the meeting told The Times of Israel.
Brigadier General Asfour wants to win the support of Palestinian-Americans, whose political influence in Washington he seeks to enroll for the benefit of the PA. Hence his scathing depiction of the PA”s rivals, the terror groups Hamas and PIJ, describing them as taking advantage of impoverished Palestinian young men desperate for money, by paying them to engage in attacks against Israel. That is undoubtedly true for some. But this practice is no different from the financial incentives offered to all Palestinian terrorists, whatever group they may belong to, by the PA, with its “Pay-For-Slay” program. That program provides lifetime support for imprisoned terrorists and for the families of terrorists killed during their attacks. One doubts that any of the Palestinian-Americans Asfour spoke to would have reminded him of that program by which the PA both rewards past, and incentivizes future, terrorists.
Brigadier General Hassan Asfour, who serves as director of central operations in the Preventive Security Service, told members of the Palestinian diaspora in the US that the PA has intensified its arrests of Hamas and PIJ fighters in the West Bank in recent months.
What has been happening in Judea and Samaria is that the IDF since May has been much more aggressive in rounding up terrorists, and would-be terrorists, members of both Hamas and the PIJ, in Judea and Samaria. Both groups have been weakened by repeated IDF attacks, such as the 44-hour IDF raid on Jenin camp in July, when 12 PIJ fighters were killed (while only one IDF soldier was killed), and vast stocks of PIJ weapons seized or destroyed. This has emboldened the PA to arrest PIJ and Hamas members in Judea and Samaria, a connection that Asfour passed over in silence.
While interrogating those suspects, the Preventive Security Service learned that many of them are from the poorest segments of society with “no food to eat” and “nothing to live for,” Asfour said, according to the source, who requested that the exact time and location of the meeting in the US not be shared in order to protect his identity. Asfour held several recent meetings with Palestinian diaspora communities in Virginia and Chicago and posted pictures from the latter gathering on Sunday.
The source said Asfour shared that the suspects arrested by the PA are often paid by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to carry out attacks against settlers and Israeli security forces. “Hamas and Jihad want to destroy the West Bank, and they don’t want the PA to be around,” said Asfur [sic], whose Preventive Security Service is tasked largely with counter-terror operations targeting the two terror groups that are Ramallah’s main rivals in the territory.
Asfour, as a PA official, is perfectly willing to blame many of the terrorist attacks not on nationalist or religious ideology, but on financial desperation. Hamas and PIJ, he claims, pay impoverished young Palestinians who “have nothing to live for” to attack “settlers and Israeli security forces.” This may well be true for some, perhaps many, of the terrorists. But an even greater financial spur for terrorism, in the view of Israelis, is the PA’s “Pay-For-Slay” program. That, of course, is not something Asfour would have been prepared to discuss.
Such detailed comments about the PA’s efforts to combat terror and the deteriorating situation for Palestinians in the West Bank are not typically shared publicly by government officials. Even rarer are candid remarks by a member of the domestic intelligence service to Palestinian expatriates.
Asfour said that in addition to being motivated by the money offered by terror groups, some of the suspects arrested by the PA confided with their interrogators that problems at home led them to participate in West Bank clashes.
“Someone who gets into a fight with his lover, his sister or his mother then wants to take it out on a settler,” he said.
Along with the allure of money, Asfour claims that family troubles lead some Palestinians to attack settlers – an admission that contradicts the PA’s claim that it is always the settlers who first attack the Palestinians. Again, this is not something Asfour could have expected would go beyond his chosen audience of Palestinian-Americans, but it did.
Asfour urged his American counterparts to pressure Israel to combat rampant settler violence and approve more permits for Palestinians to work inside Israel so that the younger generation suffering under Israel’s military control of the West Bank can have more “to live for,” the source said.
There have been cases where, following a particularly deadly attack on Israelis in Judea and Samaria, like those in which the two Yaniv brothers were killed, and the wife and two daughters of Rabbi Dee murdered, enraged settlers have entered Palestinian villages, destroying cars, damaging homes, pulling up olive trees. But this “settler violence” is not “rampant,” as Asfour claims, and the “violence” inflicted by the settlers is always directed at property, not persons, while the Palestinian attacks that provoked those settlers were intended to, and did, kill.
Asfour wants to make sure that in the end, Israel will be blamed for Palestinian terrorism, because it does not do enough to make the “lives of young Palestinians worth living.” He mentions the need for Israel to supply more work permits, but Israel already provides 100,000 work permits for Palestinians in the West Bank and another 20,000 for those in Gaza. And Israel is ready to provide still more permits if the security situation allows it. Asfour might also have mentioned that the jobs Palestinians do in Israel and the settlements pay them wages that are from three to ten times what they would make doing similar work at home in Gaza and the West Bank.
A spokesperson for the Preventive Security Service said Asfur [sic] did indeed meet with members of the Palestinian American community but denied the remarks attributed to him in this story….
Of course they would now deny that Asfour made such remarks. For such candor was intended to be limited to an audience of Palestinian-Americans: many of the Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank are from the most impoverished segments of society and are in it for the money. Some are paid by Hamas and PIJ to kill Israelis; others receive even better compensation; attacking Israelis is a way to ensure that they, if they survive, or their families, if they don’t, will be provided with generous lifetime support, according to the PA’s “Pay-For-Slay” program.
Were the PA to collapse, it would be replaced either by one of the two main terror groups that are its rivals — Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – or more likely, by a state of anarchy and chaos. In either case, the IDF would find itself forced to enter the former territories ruled by the PA and take control, becoming responsible for maintaining civil order and for delivering services to more than 2.2 million Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. This would be an enormous undertaking that Israel would prefer to avoid at all costs. Bad at the PA is – and its refusal to replace antisemitic schoolbooks and to its “Pay-For-Slay” program show just how malignant it continues to be – it is still better, from Israel’s point of view, than Hamas and the PIJ, or than possible chaos.