Evyatar Borovsky, age 31, was devoted to helping people across Israel — people of any background. His way was psychodrama and other role-playing techniques calculated to coax victims, especially children, out of their traumatic fog. Often the children were survivors of terrorism. Evyatar, a clown, was part of a so-called therapeutic theatrical troupe. On April 30, 2013, Evyatar went to Tapuah Junction to catch a ride.
Salam Zaghal came from an impoverished Arab family in Shuka, a village near Tulkarm. Once, Salam tried to plant a bomb. That landed him in an Israeli prison for more than three years. When Salam was released earlier this year, he had no job and no economic prospects. His family lived on the edge. Money was scarce. As Salam became more disconsolate, his brother Abdulfattah remembered, Salam increasingly began “talking more and more about the martyrdom of the prisoners in Israeli jails.”
April 30, 2013, shortly after dawn, Zaghal jumped onto a bus for the long drive to Tapuah Junction. He carried a blue plastic bag. Two items were secreted inside the bag. Zaghal asked to be dropped about 60 meters down the way from the intersection. When he stepped off the bus, he lit a cigarette. Then Zaghal texted his brother Abdulfattah. “My dear brother, take care of dad, mom and my sister, and keep your head up.” Zaghal sent a second text to his family: “Forgive me in life, in death, and in the end of days.” Then he broke his phone so no one could call back and dissuade him.
At 8:15 a.m., Evyatar was standing about, looking somewhere over there, oblivious to the Arab hitchhikers congregated nearby. Zaghal approached, carrying his blue plastic bag, which contained a piece of paper — a prosecution notice from a previous run-in with Israeli security, and a kitchen knife almost eight inches long. Suddenly, Zaghal screamed, “Allahu Akbar!” and “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.” Zaghal plunged the metal blade directly into Evyatar’s stomach and then again deep into his chest. A moment later, the medical clown lay on the ground, his life leaking quickly onto the asphalt. Salam then grabbed Evyatar’s gun, but before he could inflict more carnage, nearby border guards shot him. The killer was not shot in the head or upper body, but in the leg. In an instant, Evyatar — the clown with the big heart — was gone, stabbed to death. As for Salam, he was rushed to an Israeli hospital with a non-life-threatening leg wound. There, Salam received Israel’s world-renowned medical attention.
Soon, Salam will go on a special Palestinian Authority salary granted to terrorists, and will become one of the best compensated individuals in the Palestinian community.
It may astound many that American taxpayers are deploying their precious dollars in Israel not just to pay for peace but to fund terrorism. Each year, American aid and financial programs fungibly fund terrorist salaries paid by the Palestinian Authority. This astonishing financial dynamic is known to most Israeli leaders and Western journalists in Israel. It has been written about at least twice in The Times of Israel. But it is still a shock to most in Congress, who are unaware that US money going to the Palestinian Authority is regularly diverted to a program that systematically rewards terrorists with generous salaries. These transactions blatantly violate American laws that prohibit any US funding from benefiting terrorists. More than that, they grandly incentivize murder and terror.
Here’s how the system works. When a Palestinian is convicted of an act of terror against the Israeli government or innocent civilians, such as a bombing or a murder, that convicted terrorist automatically receives a generous salary from the Palestinian Authority. The salary is specified by the Palestinian Law of the Prisoner and administered by the PA’s Ministry of Prisoner Affairs. A Palestinian watchdog group, the Prisoners Club, ensures the PA’s compliance with the law and pushes for payments as a prioritized expenditure. This means that even during frequent budget shortfalls and financial crisis, the PA pays the terrorists’ salaries first and foremost — before other fiscal obligations.
The Law of the Prisoner narrowly delineates just who is entitled to receive an official salary. In a recent interview, Ministry of Prisoners spokesman Amr Nasser read aloud that definition: “A detainee is each and every person who is in an Occupation prison based on his or her participation in the resistance to Occupation.” This means crimes against Israel or Israelis. Nasser was careful to explain, “It does not include common-law thieves and burglars. They are not included and are not part of the mandate of the Ministry.”
Under a sliding scale, carefully articulated in the Law of the Prisoner, the more heinous the act of terrorism and the longer the prison sentence, the higher is the salary. Detention for up to three years fetches a salary of almost $400 per month. Prisoners incarcerated between three and five years will be paid about $560 monthly — a compensation level already higher than that for many ordinary West Bank jobs. Sentences of 10 to 15 years fetch salaries of about $1,690 per month. More severe acts of terrorism, those punished with sentences between 15 and 20 years, earn almost $2,000 per month. These are the best salaries in the Palestinian territories. The Arabic word ratib, meaning “salary,” is the official term for this compensation. The law ensures the greatest financial reward for the most egregious acts of terrorism.
In the Palestinian community, the salaries are no secret — they are publicly hailed in public speeches and special TV reports. From time to time, the salaries are augmented with special additional financial incentives. For example, in 2009, a $150-per-prisoner bonus was approved to mark the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha. President Mahmoud Abbas also directed that an extra $190 “be added to the stipends given to Palestinians affiliated with PLO factions in Israeli prisons this month.” Reporting on the additional emolument, the Palestinian news service Ma’an explained, “Each PLO-affiliated prisoner [already] receives [a special allocation of] $238 per month, plus an extra $71 if they are married, and an extra $12 for each child. The stipend is paid by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) each month.”
About 6 percent of the Palestinian budget is diverted to terrorist salaries. All this money comes from so-called “donor countries” such as the United States, Great Britain, Norway, and Denmark. Palestinian officials have reacted with defiance to any foreign governmental effort to end the salaries. “Deputy Minister of Prisoners Affairs Ziyad Abu Ein declared to the satellite TV network Hona Al-Quds: ‘If the financial assistance and support to the PA are stopped, the [payment of] salaries (rawatib) and allowances (mukhassasat) to Palestinian prisoners will not be stopped, whatever the cost may be. The prisoners are our joy. We will sacrifice everything for them and continue to provide for their families.”
Even though many in Israel do not completely understand all the details and the schedule of compensation, the victims are wracked by a basic knowledge that a cruel system is at play.
At the funeral, Evyatar’s widow, Tzofia, bent over her husband’s body in lamentation, waving five fingers. “Five orphans he left behind! Five orphans! Five orphans!” she cried. One young son rested his head upon his father’s prayer-shawl-shrouded chest in a striking image that made the rounds in Israeli press.
Later, in a court hearing, Tzofia said of her husband’s killer, “It is really useless to put him in jail, when one takes into account that he will be released in one swap or another, and will use his time there for academic studies free of charge, and the high standard of living that the State of Israel gives the murderers of its citizens. The continued court proceedings and jailing of the murderer until the next release of murderers, which will take place sooner or later, creates a false impression of justice, when the reality is that of a circus.”
Edwin Black is the award-winning author of the international bestseller “IBM and the Holocaust.” This article is the second of two pieces — following Financing the flames from a mobile home in Florida — published by The Times of Israel drawn from his just-released book, “Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel.”
Copyright 2013 Edwin Black
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