How British aid ends up funding terrorists

Published by The Mail on Sunday (27th March, 2015)

Ahmad Musa sits beside me, a convicted double murderer sentenced to life in prison. As we talk, I ask him if he did indeed kill the two men. ‘Yes, I shot them dead,’ he replies.

Yet we do not meet in a jail cell. Musa is free, released after just five years. For he is a Palestinian terrorist and he was liberated under a peace deal.

Like thousands more Palestinian prisoners, including jihadi bombers and killers of children, Musa enjoys his freedom after being awarded a ‘salary’ for life.

He gets £605 every month, others get far more. If they die, the cash goes to their family. These men are seen as terrorists, certainly by Israel, and many in the West

But, astonishingly, the money behind these payments – described by some as ‘rewards for murder’ – flows from British and European taxpayers.

The UK cash comes from the Department for International Development (Difd), which will give up to £25.5million this year to the ruling Palestinian Authority (PA) as part of a £72million aid package.

Our investigation discovered that the PA passes millions on to the infamous Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) – which in turn gives it to convicted terrorists locked up in Israeli prisons and their families.

Among them are Amjad and Hakim Awad, cousins who killed Ehud and Ruth Fogel and their three children in their West Bank home in 2011. It is estimated that Amjad alone may have been paid up to £16,000 from the fund so far.

Also paid is Abdallah Bargouti, a Hamas leader given 67 life sentences for lethal attacks in 2001 and 2002, including a restaurant bombing that killed 15 diners. He is thought to have earned more than £100,000 since conviction, handed to his family.

Dfid confirms that the PLO makes such payments, calling them ‘social welfare’ provisions for prisoners’ families. It denies, however, that any British cash reaches terrorists, with the PLO taking over such payments two years ago from the PA after an international outcry.

But a Mail on Sunday investigation has found that Britain funded the PLO until last year and that the PA openly boasts of still funding salaries of convicted terrorists, even in its own official statements. Former prisoners and the families of terrorists we have spoken to also confirmed receiving cash from both the PA and the PLO.

British aid money is supposed to be rebuilding and developing the Palestinian territories. However a devastating new report to be released this week by Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli NGO, suggests that Western donors have been duped by assertions that the Authority no longer funds terrorists.

‘Salaries’ go to relatives of suicide bombers and even teenagers involved in the latest upsurge of deadly attacks on Israel. Several ex-prisoners confirmed to me that they were paid monthly stipends that started in jail.

One said they also received a ‘bonus’ on leaving prison and lucrative civil service job offers, the most senior posts going to those serving more than 15 years behind bars, even though they are not qualified.

PA officials openly defend such stipends. Amr Nasser, adviser to the minister of social affairs, said: ‘It is not a crime to be fighting occupation. These people are heroes. We could be giving them much more money and it would not be enough.’

Nasser added that, if Palestine won independence, the government would seek reparations from Britain for its historic role in encouraging Zionism, saying ‘You should pay us more money.’

Tory MP Andrew Percy said last night: ‘How can we justify foreign aid as a noble endeavour when taxpayers money goes to pay terrorists? The government has got to get a grip.’

The four million Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza receive the highest aid support per head in the world. Few would deny they face unique problems given checkpoints, tough crackdowns and disputed settlements.

In recent months the standoff with Israel has led to fresh violence, with Israelis shot and stabbed and hundreds of Palestinians shot by Israelis. Critics says such attacks are encouraged by the PA diverting funds from public services into generous salaries for convicted terrorists.

Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, said: ‘This serves as a huge financial incentive to carry out acts of terror against Jews.

‘Is it imaginable for a Western government to contemplate subsidising acts of mass murder and terror in this fashion? Yet that is effectively what is happening.’

The cash-strapped PA relies on foreign aid for nearly half its budget. Yet it gives £79 million a year to prisoners locked up in Israeli jails, former prisoners and their families.

Although DFID says the salaries are ‘social welfare’ provisions, they go only to people convicted of ‘acts of resistance’.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was handed responsibility for prisoner welfare two years ago after concerns over aiding terrorism were raised in Westminster and Brussels. Yet the father of two brothers jailed for gun attacks on Israeli settlers and soldiers told me he received monthly payments of £428 from the PA as well as £285 from the PLO.

Britain has provided aid in the past to the PLO, although this ceased last year.

The Palestinian Media Watch report suggests that Western donors have been misled by detailing documents and official statements exposing how the PA still funds the salaries of convicted terrorists.

Evidence includes the Ministry of Finance saying in an official statement last year it transfers almost half its budget to Gaza, adding this includes ‘the salaries of prisoners, the released and the families of the Martyrs and wounded.’

The report also reveals the PA transferred an extra 444m shekels to the PLO in 2015 – significantly, only marginally more than the 442m shekel budget given to its own Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs the previous year before it transferred responsibility.

Itamar Marcus, the report’s author, said: ‘There is wilful blindness by the UK and EU, who were happy not to even carry out the simplest investigation.’

The group also claims to have discovered two cases of individuals who carried out attacks for cash.

In one, Khalad Rajoub, a father of seven arrested for attempted murder two years ago, told police he had big debts and planned to die during an attack. He is reported to have said: ‘My family would get money and live comfortably… my children would get a monthly allowance.’

A DFID spokesman denied funding terrorism and defended aid support to the PA. ‘This helps build Palestinian institutions and promotes economic growth.’

We give Palestine £72m…so they build an £8m palace

The sprawling building sits high on a hill, a presidential palace looking down imperiously on thousands of beleaguered West Bank residents crammed in below.

When I visited the impressive mansion on six acres of land, builders were putting finishing touches to its fine limestone walls and water displays. ‘This is like a five-star hotel,’ one security guard told me. ‘It has two helipads, two swimming pools, a Jacuzzi, restaurant… all the latest technology.’

This £9 million palace in Sudra, just weeks away from opening, was designed for Mahmoud Abbas – a president whose domain is so dependent on aid that last year his Palestinian Authority had to pass an emergency budget when some was held up by Israel.

Britain is sending £72 million this year to Palestine, where there is high unemployment, widespread poverty and one in three people are on food aid. Yet cash pours into Abbas’s pet project. A local man said: ‘When people pass here, they spit on the ground.’

In a nearby refugee camp holding 14,000 people, I asked the council leader his view of the palace. ‘Spitting is the least I want to do when I see it – I want to demolish it myself,’ said Mahmoud Mubarak, who added they were struggling to find cash for a community hall.

‘When a young Palestinian sees this going up, they wonder why it is being built with funds that should go on the people. If you sit at home with a leaking roof, no food, no money and no job, it’s very upsetting,’ he said.

Queues for UK aid money – for jobs that don’t exist

In Gaza – a place where there is rampant poverty – I witnessed bizarre scenes: long queues of people at bank cashpoints.

It was pay day for thousands of civil servants whose salaries are supported by Western aid, even though they have had no jobs since 2007.

Mahmoud, an accountant, said he was given more than £1,000 a month. ‘I just sit at home, spending time with my family. Sometimes I travel abroad to visit relatives,’ he said.

Others admitted to second jobs as shopkeepers and taxi drivers. One ex-teacher, who still draws his £6,000-a-year salary, confessed to running a dairy, completing a master’s degree in Britain and working as a journalist.

‘Getting paid from Britain while living here means you can have a good life,’ he said, although he added that his home was devastated in Israeli air strikes two years ago.

The salary payments are a legacy of the Palestinian divisions since Hamas took control of Gaza from Fatah, the rival faction recognised by the international community.

At least 60,000 officials were told to stop working by Fatah yet are still being paid. Many of them have been replaced by Hamas officials.

Mohammad Aboshair, 37, a police officer, said: ‘We hoped it would not last long. It is really wrong to stay in our homes and get paid without jobs. I wanted to serve my country, not become a burden – this is crazy.’

Three years ago auditors urged the EU to stop the salaries. Critics condemned ‘blatant misuse of taxpayers’ money’ that undermined the credibility of Brussels when millions of Europeans were jobless. Dfid sources said the cash went only to civil servants on an approved EU list and insisted they took precautions to ensure British aid did not support Hamas.

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