The Legitimacy of Family Compensation for Palestinians Killed, Injured, and Imprisoned

The Legitimacy of Family Compensation for Palestinians Killed, Injured, and Imprisoned

by Kathryn Shihadah

JTA reports on what would seem to be a no-brainer: a bill requiring that aid money to the PA be withheld if the PA continues its Martyrs Fund or “pay to slay” policy. Of course nothing is quite as simple as meets the eye.

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Top Senate Democrats said they were closer to signing on to a Republican-backed bill that would slash aid to the Palestinian Authority if it did not stop subsidizing Palestinians jailed for attacks on Israel. [Ed. note: Info on bill is here]

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer told attendants at the Orthodox Union’s annual Washington action day on Thursday that he would support the Taylor Force Act or legislation similar to it if the Trump administration is unable to get the Palestinian Authority to stop the payments. [Ed. note: Senator Schumer is a major advocate for Israel; see video.]

“Abbas has to stop making payments to terrorists and their families, and all elected officials should call them out,” Schumer said.

Also edging closer to endorsing the legislation was Senator Ben Cardin, top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The United States now gives the Palestinian Authority about $500 million in annual aid. The bill, which was introduced by Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, would only leave the portion for security assistance — about $60 million in 2013. Cruz also attended the Orthodox Union event.

“We’re going to find a way to pass the Taylor Force Act,” Senator Cardin said, suggesting that he wanted changes to the bill before he could fully endorse it. The measure was named for the American killed in a 2016 stabbing attack in Tel Aviv.

The Taylor Force Bill “prohibits certain assistance…from being made available for the West Bank and Gaza” unless the State Department is satisfied that the PA is working to end violence against US and Israeli citizens, is publicly condemning such acts and cooperating in investigating them, and has “terminated payments for acts of terrorism.” (Here is a list of cosponsors of the bill.)

If the bill becomes law, the US may withhold 88% of aid to the Palestinian Authority until it complies.

Economics of occupation

Israel has also withheld money from the PA in the past—tax revenues that are collected by Israel but that actually belong to the Palestinians, about $125 million per month. For example, funds were held back by Israel in November 2012 as a punishment for the UN vote which brought de facto recognition of Palestine’s statehood, and again in January 2015 as a penalty for Palestine’s application to join the ICC.

The transfers are an important revenue source for the cash-strapped Palestinian government.

Palestinians already suffer economically from the hardship of a brutal fifty-year occupation. According to a study by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, agriculture and industry have suffered huge losses. One reason is the inaccessibility of “Area C,” which accounts for over 60% of West Bank land (66% of its grazing land) and is off-limits to Palestinians. The report estimates that “the occupation of Area C costs the Palestinian economy the equivalent of 35% OF GDP.”

Gaza is also barred from half of its farmland and 85% of its fishery resources. Over 2.5 million productive trees have been vandalized or uprooted since 1967; 82% of Palestinian groundwater has been confiscated by Israel, and must be bought back by Palestinians at inflated prices.

Even tourism has been “annexed”: Israel has “rebranded” popular West Bank sites as being in the “Holy Land,” obscuring their Palestinian identity. Israeli tour guides control most visitors, making it easy to take a day trip to Bethlehem, but then stay in an Israeli hotel.

Adding to its many economic advantages, Israel garners $10 million a day in aid from the United States, compared to the $500 million per year that Palestine receives now and is in danger of losing.

Israel uses its huge aid budget to finance the occupation and fight wars with Gaza—both of which are illegal according to international law and condemned by almost every country in the world. Its assaults on women and children, as well as noncombatant men, is well documented. For example, the Middle East Children’s Alliance reported that “1,518 Palestinian children were killed by Israel’s occupation forces from the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000 up to April 2013…meanwhile the number of children injured by the Israelis since the start of the Second Intifada against Israel’s occupation has now reached 6,000. That number means that one Palestinian child was killed by Israel every 3 days for almost 13 years.”

However, Israeli leaders argue that the “hate-filled climate” against Israel was created not by occupation and war, but by “fiery speeches” by Palestinian leaders and “venomous” Facebook posts.

Compensation in the event of death or injury

Payment to the family of a service member killed or injured in the line of duty is a common practice. In America, for example, families receive a one-time payment to help surviving members deal with financial hardships connected with the loss of their loved one. This “death gratuity” is currently $100K.

Israel too has a compensation program for families of IDF soldiers killed or injured in the line of duty.

Because the Palestinian Territories are forbidden from having armed forces, their resistance against the occupation is carried out by civilians. In the event of their death, injury, or imprisonment their families face the same type of struggles that any service member’s family would face, and the Palestinian Authority provides for them through the so-called “Martyrs Fund.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to withhold revenue from the PA until the fund is dismantled, as he considers these payments “an incentive for murder.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, leading sponsor of the Taylor Force bill, fails to make the connection between the US and Israeli compensation programs and the Palestinian Martyrs Fund, declaring that “the practice is inconsistent with American values, inconsistent with peace, and inconsistent with decency.”

Not a reward for violence

Nasser Tarayreh, whose son was killed after stabbing an Israeli girl, explains, “I don’t think anyone is willing to sacrifice his life for money. And for us as a family, all the money in the world won’t replace my son.” In fact, the money would be needed to provide shelter soon, as their home was scheduled for demolition—an Israeli practice in retribution against the families of attackers. Nasser will receive $350 a month from the Martyr’s Fund.

Many “martyrs” were not killers or attackers, but were themselves killed while walking to school, participating in a peaceful demonstration, or sleeping in their beds. If they died as a result of Israel’s brutality, they bear the title of martyr.

The fund also compensates families of prisoners and detainees. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network reported that “the Israeli occupation arrested 6,440 Palestinians in 2016, including 1332 children and 164 women,” in addition to members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and journalists.

The fund had a budget of $170 million in 2016 and makes monthly payments to about 35,000 Palestinian families. Qadora Fares, who works with the system, explains, “This is a kind of social protection for the family. The children of the prisoners and martyrs and wounded have the right to go to schools, hospitals and get food.”

Fox News reported that the Washington Post strongly condemned the support of victims’ families in the Palestinian resistance. Fox quoted the WP as saying, “The PA is running a bounty system. Payments to terrorists and their families are enshrined in Palestinian law, provided for in the PA budget, and indirectly supported by foreign aid…incentivizing the murder of civilians is barbarism…”

It should be noted that this quote is not from a WP journalist, but part of an opinion piece by Israel partisan Thane Rosenbaum. Ironically, Rosenbaum authored Payback: The Case for Revenge, a book presenting the theory that “if the law won’t set things right, which it so often fails to do, then it’s ok, indeed moral, for us to do so ourselves”—a theory with which many Palestinians would, to Rosenbaum’s dismay, agree. Rosenbaum has elsewhere implied that a child whose father works for Hamas is actually a target by association, and that therefore it is morally acceptable to kill children.

Daniel Larison of the American Conservative said in his review of Payback, “Rosenbaum’s argument is extremely similar to the justifications that terrorist groups use when they target civilians in their own attacks…It is very important to reject this logic no matter where it comes from or whose cause in a conflict it is being used to advance, because this is the logic that has been used to justify countless atrocities down through the years.”

Origin of violence

In an interview for the Institute for Palestine Studies, Palestinian psychiatrist Eyad al Sarraj explained that many Palestinians who turn to violence have themselves witnessed great violence perpetrated on their families. “During the first intifada, studies showed that 55 percent of the children had witnessed their fathers being humiliated or beaten by Israeli soldiers.

“The psychological impact of this is stunning. The father, normally the authority figure, comes to be seen as somebody who is helpless, who can’t even protect himself–let alone his children. So children became more militant, more violent…The militant ones believe that if they die as suicide fighters in the struggle for justice, they are conquering defeat and death itself.” Sarraj continued, “they wouldn’t turn their bodies into bombs if they had F-16s, Apache helicopters, tanks, or a tiny fraction of the weapons Israel gets from the United States.”

Sarraj describes violence as a manifestation of a deep-seated issue: “Suicide bombings and all these forms of violence–I’m talking as a doctor here–are only the symptoms, the reaction to this chronic and systematic process of humiliating people in effort to destroy their hope and dignity. That is the illness, and unless it is resolved and treated, there will be more and more symptoms of the pathology.”

Sarraj expressed deep opposition to Palestinian violence, but distinguished between the martyrs and their families: “As a Palestinian, as an Arab, as a Muslim, and as a human being, I feel obliged to support them. I cannot leave their children in poverty–I have to do what I can to leave them some hope and dignity.”

The face of the Fund

One story that illustrates both the tragedy that qualifies Palestinians for the Martyrs Fund and the experience that produces even more martyrs, is that of Abu Jameh. At dinnertime on July 20th 2014, Israeli planes bombed an apartment building in Gaza, killing 24 members of family—a woman, her son, four of her daughters-in-law, and 18 of her grandchildren. One member of Hamas was also present for the meal. Abu Jameh who survived but was injured, lost his pregnant wife and six of his seven children. He reflected, “there is nothing left. It is the end for us,” and added later, “I will marry again four times, and I will have 10 sons with each wife, and they will all be in the resistance.”

Emmanuel Nahshon, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman got it wrong when he stated, “Terror has become a comfortable business for families.”

Top photo: Members of the Abu Jameh family gather in the cemetery to mourn their loved ones. 24 family members were killed in an attack on July 20, 2014

Knesset Inquiry Reveals Yemenite Babies Abducted, Exploited, Murdered in Medical Experiments

Knesset Inquiry Reveals Yemenite Babies Abducted, Exploited, Murdered in Medical Experiments

by Richard Silverstein
originally published in Tikun Olam


The Israeli Knesset has, after sixty years of cover-up, exposed one of the most lurid scandals in the history of Israeli medicine.  In the late 1940s and early 1950s, inspired by Ben Gurion’s philosophy that Israel must populate itself via Jewish immigration to compete with the Arabs, Israel airlifted tens of thousands of Yemenite Jews and resettled them.  It was celebrated as a great humanitarian operation in which the Yemenites were “saved” from a life of destitution and anti-Semitic victimhood in their native land.

Within months of their arrival, reports began circulating of babies who disappeared from hospitals and medical clinics. The final count amounted to hundreds, perhaps even thousands of babies who were purportedly kidnapped from their parents or even killed.  The grieving parents received no word about what had happened; no death certificate; no explanation.  Even decades later, after three separate boards of inquiry spanning thirty years, the results of the investigations were sealed and victims learned nothing.  The State refused to accept responsibility nor did it compensate the victims for their personal losses.  It is perhaps the greatest medical scandal in Israeli history, ranking right up there with the Tuskegee syphilis experiment in its deviousness and lethality.

In addition, the scandal also involved the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which paid Israeli hospitals nearly $1-million (in current value; then it was 160,000 Israeli lira) to provide fetuses of dead Yemenite babies and corpses of adults which were used in medical experiments to determine why Yemenites did not develop heart disease.  One doctor sought to prove that Yemenites were of African descent.  To do so, he tested the blood of dead Yemenites to determine if they had sickle-cell anemia.  He even wrote a medical paper about his claims.  In their testimony, the doctor who reported on this arrangement said they had called the Yemenites kushim, which is roughly equivalent to “darkie” or “N****r.”

Israel HaYom, which first broke the story, sought comment from an NIH spokesperson who responded that it could not release information without a FOIA request.  I am exploring doing so now.  It’s extremely important to expose whatever role U.S. doctors or researchers played in this disaster.

Living children were also used in anatomy demonstrations in which parts of their bodies were outlined in ink with the names of various organs.  Presumably, this was meant to serve as a live demonstration for students who could see where the organs were located on a living body.

In none of these experiments were the parents of the children asked for permission.  Researchers simply used the Yemenites, living or dead, for the benefit of medicine, which was deemed more critical than the feelings of the mourning parents.

The new report explains why so many Yemenite children died: since none of the Israeli medical staff spoke Yemenite and the patients didn’t speak Hebrew, staff could not learn the names of the children.  Instead, they numbered them.  The numbering system often broke down and patients’ numbers were often switched, misplaced or lost, which led to the wrong medicines being taken and wrong treatments offered.  As a result many died.  The medical staff decided that it should make the best of the opportunity by whisking the bodies off for autopsies or post-mortem experimentation.

”One of the most ghoulish reports concerns four babies who were hospitalized because they were malnourished.  Though they were in stable condition, doctors decided to inject them with “dry protein.”  In the ‘understated’ words of the chief of staff of the Rosh HaAyin hospital:

Mendel said, “I remember one or two cases in which Dr. Matot gave instructions to give an injection of dry protein that we would separate. Serum, dry plasma … and the results were not good.

The protocol includes a letter from Dr. Kalman Jacob Mann, deputy medical director of the hospital, to Mendel, dated Nov. 21, 1949, saying: “I visited our hospital in Rosh Haayin, and found that that morning four babies who had received active treatment had died. These babies were in more or less balanced condition according to their physio-pathological condition, but after they were injected with various solutions, the balance was upset and they died.”

The Likud MK leading the current investigation called such acts “murder.”

In further testimony, the lawyer on behalf of the board of inquiry questioned Dr. Mendel about the practice of using dead fetuses for experimentation:

When Nahmani-Roth [the lawyer] asked him whether the unapproved autopsies had caused problems with the parents who wanted to see their children’s bodies, Mendel replied, “I don’t think so, since after the autopsies we’d fix up the baby, so they [the parents] could see its face, so it looked undamaged … but it was completely legal. There were no problems.”

The lawyer shot back: “Not legally, but morally, and out of a sense of the parents’ feelings. Isn’t it possible that consistently, you would conduct autopsies on children and then not show the bodies to their parents?”

Mendel also told the committee that all the testing had been meticulously documented, but that he had heard rumors that “someone destroyed them [the records] seven years later.”

In a number of cases, medical staff simply adopted babies as their own.  The parents, again, were never told a thing other than that the baby had died.  The tragedy in this case is not just that of the parents, but of the children raised by Ashkenazi parents who could or would never tell them how they came to be their parents.  Many of these children grew up to sense they were victims of this disastrous experiment.  But the State offered them nothing, which made things even worse.

A corollary to this tragedy is the Ringworm Affair, in which Israeli doctors treated Yemenite children with radiation against ringworm.  They did so without realizing at the time that the dosage they were giving the children was toxic, even lethal, and would later cause cancer in many of them.  The State similarly denied any culpability for this disastrous medical treatment.

In this age of roaring hate, it’s important to put this story in proper perspective.  There are those who will attempt to compare these experiments with Nazi medical experiments on Jewish children and adults.  There will always be those who seek to prove that Israelis are no different from Nazis.  That’s why it’s important to note that such outrageous medical practices happened around the world including here in the U.S.  They were the result certainly of racism and heartlessness.  But the Israeli experiments, while immoral, were not conducted within a framework of genocide as the Nazi ones were.

However, that in no way lessens the horror of what Israeli medicine did.  It in no way lessens Israeli government culpability for these crimes. As the MK leading this inquiry noted: this was outright murder.  The fact that Israel has suppressed this story for as long as it has is a dark stain on the nation.  It is yet another reminder of the profound racism at the heart of the Zionist enterprise.  At the very beginning of the State, Yemenite babies were treated as the equivalent of cannon fodder.  Alive, they were meant to fill in the population gaps of Israeli Jews in the demographic battle against the Arabs.  Dead, they were used for the “good” of medical science.  Israel’s doctors and politicians treated the Yemenites as disposable, interchangeable objects to be manipulated for the good of the State.

Richard Silverstein is the creator of Tikun Olam, and describes himself as a”progressive (critical) Zionist” who supports an “Israeli withdrawal to pre-67 borders and an internationally guaranteed peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Top photo: Yemenite babies treated by Israeli nurses as mothers look on

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