By Jerry Gordon and Rod Bryant (July 2018)
Terror Antiquus, Leon Bakst, 1908
On March 23, 2018 President Trump signed into law the National Defense Appropriations Act. Among its amendments was the Taylor Force Act—named after a US Military Academy graduate and former US Army officer who served tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq. On the evening of March 10, 2016 while in Israel with a group of Vanderbilt University School of Management graduate students, he was brutally murdered in a knifing attack by a Palestinian terrorist at a seaside restaurant in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv. Taylor’s wife was seriously injured as were others in the terrorist incident.
The Palestinian terrorist was shot and killed by an Israeli police officer.
The incident might have been buried in the back pages of The New York Times as just another Palestinian ‘militant’ incident, if it had not aroused the commitment of a New York hedge fund principal and fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Sander Gerber, and colleague, Israeli Brig. General (res.) Yossi Kupperwasser, former Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs. The research effort they led at the JCPA revealed the extent of the Palestinian Authority’s annual payment of more than $360 million annually to 36,000 terrorists and their families in accordance with its laws. The research by the JCPA team led to the development and enactment of the eponymous US Taylor Force Act. We noted in a New English Review interview with JCPA colleague, Dan Diker, that we considered the Center’s effort led by Gerber and Kuperwasser as exemplary “entrepeneurially-driven counterterrorism.”
Gerber’s background was well positioned to lead the effort for passage of Taylor Force. Gerber is Managing Partner and CEO of the Manhattan-based Hudson Bay Capital. Besides being a Fellow at The Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs, he is a Member of the Council of Foreign Relations here in the U.S. He served as a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee board from 2004 to 2016. In 2005, Gerber represented the United States at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Conference on Anti- Semitism and other Intolerances in Cordoba, Spain. He was appointed by President Bush in 2006 as a Trustee of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. He served as Vice Chairman in that capacity from 2008 to 2016. For Gerber’s leadership on the research and advocacy for the Taylor Force Act he was awarded the Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson Distinguished Service Award by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America or JINSA in November, 2017.
Israel’s Knesset is currently considering passage of a parallel bill, the Stern Act, introduced by former Shin Bet Director Avi Dichter and a senior IDF leader Gen. Elazar Stern. It is currently undergoing development towards possible passage. This, despite internal Israeli government opposition from a unit of Israel’s Ministry of Defense COGAT—the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the Finance Ministry. Their opposition is directed at provisions to withhold tax remittances due the PA collected by Israel to provide compensation for court awards to victims of Palestinian terrorism. Gerber considers that an important feature not included in the Taylor Force Act. Especially in view of two US Supreme Court rulings this Spring barring lower federal court awards for compensation to both US and Israeli victims under the 1991 US Anti-Terrorism Act.
There was skepticism from US newspapers of record about the findings of the JCPA team.
Sander Gerber and Yossi Kupperwasser noted in a June 5, 2018 Washington Examiner article what happened when the JCPA report findings confirmed the magnitude of the Palestinian “pay for slay” program. They wrote:
The stunning acknowledgment by Congress through the passage of the Taylor Force Act that the Palestinian Authority has laws in place and budgets allocated to paying terrorists and their families has changed the narrative regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
This bloody truth has also finally been acknowledged by the mainstream media. Even The New York Times felt compelled to issue a correction that PA payments to terrorists are not “far-right conspiracy stories” because the PA admits as much.
However, Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post, and a recent Atlantic article by Neri Zilber, dispute whether the 2018 PA budget of $360 million for Prisoners and Martyrs in fact goes primarily to terrorists.
Zilber and Kessler postulate that prisoners include innocents that happen to be arrested, and attempt to inject definitional terms on what a terrorist is. Both claim that these payments are a social responsibility. At least Zilber concedes that the PA should differentiate “between payments . . . to prisoners with blood on their hands . . . and genuine political prisoners, orphans, and the like that Abbas speaks of.”
We applaud the media for following Congress and finally recognizing this way in which the PA is rewarding and incentivizing terror. But a simple examination of the facts—for example the PA’s institutional commitment to sponsoring terror against Israel; the PA’s annual budgetmedia reports$360 million per year—more than 7 percent of its entire budget and 45 percent of the foreign aid it expects to receive in 2018.
We have interviewed Sander Gerber on Israel News Talk Radio—Beyond the Matrix. The first time was on the background leading up to the enactment of the Taylor Force Act. The more recent interview focused on reactions in Israel to the JCPA research on the Palestinian Authority’s “pay for slay” program, Taylor Force implementation by the Trump Administration, the Israeli Knesset Stern Act and the difficulty of changing the PA commitment to radicalization of civilians turning them into ‘shahids’ or martyrs seeking the destruction of the Jewish nation.
What follows is an excerpt from our recent interview with Gerber.
Gordon: On March 23, 2018 the Taylor Force Act was enacted into law by President Trump. What has the Trump administration done since we last interviewed you to shut down possible U.S. funding of the PLO Fatah pay-to-slay program?
Gerber: The Trump administration has been quite busy, and the reality is most aspects of the Taylor Force Act have yet to be implemented. I put the blame for a lack of implementation on the Embassy move, which diverted a lot of State Department attention. The legislation contains a schedule for implementation of the Taylor Force Act. In late May, the Secretary of State was supposed to submit a list of all the projects that will be suspended because of Palestinian Authority (PA) violations of the terms of the Taylor Force Act. That did not happen. Other previous deadlines have been missed. There is no indication, however, that the State Department will not eventually comply. By law they are obligated to comply, but they are behind schedule. The only thing they have done so far is they have sent a list of what it means to provide aid that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority. They sent a list of criteria. However, we are still waiting for implementation of the rest of the Act. What I am particularly happy with is that under the Act the State Department is charged with highlighting and identifying whether the PA is still paying terrorists, whether they are publicly condemning violence, and whether they have revoked the laws governing the system of compensation for the prisoners and their so-called martyrs. There is a lot of work for the State Department to do, and I think everyone will be quite pleased to see what the State Department comes up with. However, frankly they are behind schedule at present.
Bryant: During our prior interview you indicated that certain elements of the Israeli government didn’t consider the PLO-Fatah pay-to-slay program significant. Has there been any change in the views of those Israeli officials?
Gerber: Yes, there has been a dramatic change. One must remember that Israel, like many other democracies, has factions with differing opinions within different parts of the government. There is also the military angle, which is very important in a country like Israel. By now the political establishment is uniformly disgusted and appalled by the existence of the Palestinian Authority pay-to-slay program. Hopefully, they are working to shut that down or make it harder for the PA to deal with. On the military side, there is still a disagreement within the military establishment – there is one group that is still very concerned that if the PA were to collapse there might be a humanitarian crisis. They are trying to find the right balance, or how to avoid their fears of triggering of a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian areas with the fact that the Palestinian Authority is clearly sponsoring terrorism, which should be stopped. This is still being worked out within the military establishment.
Bryant: Would there be a collapse of their economy, because of the funds that would be impounded?
Gerber No, absolutely, not. No one really believes that cutting the aid to the Palestinian Authority would cause a collapse of the Palestinian Authority. In fact, most assessments are that the real worry is there is a very high likelihood the Palestinian Authority will collapse if Abbas passes on.
Bryant: What we are saying here is that at least one part of the Israeli military is above the whole pay-for-slay thing.
Gerber: Correct. However, it has nothing to do with the Taylor Force Act. The pay-for-slay program is currently being addressed by Israel within the Knesset. There is a bill making its way through the Knesset called the Stern Act. It is co-sponsored by Knesset members Avi Dichter, former head of the Shin Bet and General Elazar Stern, who was a very senior ranking IDF official. They are seeking to cut the amount of funds the PA uses to pay terrorists and martyrs under pay-to-slay programs from the Palestinian tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the PA and transfers to them. The bill is still being worked on in the Knesset. Part of that bill has a provision which we frankly should have put in the Taylor Force Act, but we didn’t think of at the time. The provision says that money withheld from the PA will be available for victims’ claims, allowing collection from those funds for victims who have a court judgment against the Palestinian Authority. Those funds would be held in escrow to be used for victims’ claims. The Ministry of Defense is in favor of it. Stern and Dichter are in favor of it. However, the Ministry of Finance raised their hand and said, oh no, you can’t do that, these funds are Palestinian Authority tax revenues, they belong to the Palestinian Authority and you can’t give it to victims. Recently, forces in the government have tried to introduce elements that would weaken the legislation, but so far, to their credit, the Knesset has resisted these moves. These issues are being worked on now in the Knesset.
Bryant: Has there been any pushback from the media after Taylor Force passed?
Gerber: I would like to comment on that because it is significant. After the Taylor Force Act passed, Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post, and others in the New York Times and The Atlantic, all said, well okay, so they are paying terrorists, but the numbers are greatly exaggerated. Not three hundred fifty million dollars, it is a much smaller number. What they are saying is if someone throws stones, that doesn’t make them a terrorist, and you can’t lump together everyone who is attacking Israel as a terrorist. This biased media viewpoint goes to the heart of why the West has had such a hard time dealing with the tactical strategy of the Palestinian Authority, and now with Hamas at the Gaza border. The West has a hard time understanding civilians who are radicalized to become terrorists. The Palestinian Authority in their Arabic media clearly says these are our fighters and these programs of payments are only for fighters. In other words, by law you must be a fighter to be paid. So, if you are throwing a stone at an Israeli and you are not a fighter, you would not be paid. But if you are throwing a stone at an Israeli and you are a fighter, you would be paid. So the Palestinian Authority is self-defining these people as fighters. From the perspective of the West it’s – well a guy was just throwing a stone. Does that really mean he is a fighter?
Gordon: This Spring there were two rulings before the U.S. Supreme Court that stymied obtaining compensation for both American and Israeli victims of Palestinian terror. Do you know if there are any possible suggestions out there for litigation relief for both U.S. and Israeli victims of such terrorism?
Gerber: I think this is still an open question. The problem with the recent decision that went to the Supreme Court is it dealt with questions of can you sue a governmental entity that is based in a non-US jurisdiction. There was the fear by the U.S. State Department that if the answer was “Yes, you can sue,” would that spark lawsuits against the United States itself, and how can we deal with that? Of course, this decision seems to fly in the face of 1991 legislation passed by Congress that would enable victims of terror to obtain court awards. What we really need, I believe, is a legislative fix on this matter. I’m hopeful that with the passage of the Taylor Force Act, where the statute’s language is crystal clear that the Palestinian Authority is sponsoring terror, a claim could have been made that given that Congress has weighed in on this already, that the Court could have gone the other way if there was enough support. I’m hopeful that perhaps because of the findings of Congress memorialized in the Taylor Force Act the State Department would remove or curtail their objections in the future to enable victims to receive compensation awards.
Gordon: Given the eruption of violence in Gaza this spring does the West make a distinction between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in terms of conduct of terrorism?
Gerber: I think that this is really the purpose of the Taylor Force Act, which was to show that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are two sides of the same coin. Both are actively conducting a war against the State of Israel and they are doing it in different ways. Hamas is conducting an open war against the State of Israel. The Palestinian Authority is conducting a war by means of radicalizing civilians to operate as so-called lone wolves. Hamas tells its citizens and operatives go to the border and try to cross the border. If you get hurt, we will pay you. By the way, the Palestinian Authority also pays for the Hamas fighters that were killed. They are paid by the Palestinian Authority, not just by Hamas. That is why Hamas is openly directing people to attack Israel. The Palestinian Authority, however, wages war by means of education. They indoctrinate people from a young age that the Israelis are the enemy, that they are virtually subhuman, that they are part of a racist ideology which traces its roots back to Nazism. When you are indoctrinated and become a martyr or a fighter, you will be paid. Compared to Hamas, the PA’s way is subtler. The Palestinian Authority can on one hand have people smiling, wearing suits and ties, but on the other hand they back a whole institution of pay-for-slay.
Bryant: Most westerners have no idea that this education that you are talking about is essentially a cradle to grave immersion in hate, not only in school but on their radio programs even children’s programs on television. If we could see that and understand the language it would be repulsive and shocking to anybody in the West. However, because we don’t know the language and generally don’t know this information it is completely ignored. Can you address that?
Gerber: If you go to Palestinian Media Watch, PMW, they do an excellnt job of cataloging and translating a lot of this indoctrination and radicalization. I used to see this stuff and think this is so outrageous it can’t possibly be true. What I didn’t realize is that this indoctrination and radicalization comes from the most senior levels of the Palestinian Authority. If you go to President Abbas’ website there are pictures nearly every day of him greeting the families of Shahids, as their martyrs are known, and welcoming prisoners back when they are released from Israeli jails. There are honor guards at funerals for stabbers and car rammers. This goes on and on. Recently there was a volleyball tournament to honor martyrs. The Palestinian Authority has created a society, a political culture which is based upon not just antagonizing Israel, but a culture based upon destroying Israel. That sounds radical and absurd but in fact that is what is going on.
Bryant: Is there really a solution to this? Do you think that there is anything on the table that is substantive enough to counter this or do you think that this is going to be a constant battle that we must deal with all the time?
Gerber: I think that the Palestinian Authority must change its political culture. I don’t know if it’s possible for the current leadership to do that. The current leadership is really the legacy of Yasser Arafat. Yasser Arafat, as you know, claimed to foreswear the use of force and earned a Nobel Peace Prize. He didn’t really change anything, though, he just didn’t do it openly anymore. So that is why the PLO- Fatah continues the war against Israel, but in a hidden way.
Gordon: There have been rumors about the unveiling shortly of a so-called Middle East Peace Plan lead by Jason Greenblatt, Senior Advisor to the President. What is your expectation at this juncture as to whether that plan is ever going to be released?
Gerber: I have heard lots of scuttlebutt and I have spoken to members of their team who have assured me that moving the Embassy was not a precursor to forcing Israel to make certain concessions. I think that the Trump team very well understands that the political culture of the Palestinian Authority must be changed for there to be any hope of a peace agreement. I hope that is what will happen. However, you know that what I just told you seems so crazy that it’s hard to believe that is going on. That an entire civilian population has been radicalized so that thirty-six thousand families receive payments from the Palestinian Authority under martyr reward programs, with thousands of others paid under prisoner reward programs, all because of violence they committed against Israel. Upwards of three hundred sixty million have been budgeted for terror payments in 2018. That is in an environment where the average income is around four thousand dollars a year, so that money goes a long way. The State Department still believes that perhaps it can be reformed, or it can be gradually dismantled. I don’t think that’s possible.
Bryant: Is the only way to combat this pay-for-slay program by economic sanctions or withholding funding?
Gerber: I wouldn’t say that is the only way. I don’t know that withholding money is going to change them. It may or may not. The Palestinian Authority has said repeatedly that they will not stop paying the terrorists under any circumstance whatsoever. In fact, when the New York Times originally printed an article that said four hundred million-dollars in payments to Palestinian Authority terrorists was a far-right conspiracy theory, they subsequently had to print a retraction. The retraction simply said the Palestinian Authority admits they are paying the terrorists – there is no conspiracy and they don’t even hide it. The Palestinian Authority has been very up front in saying under no circumstances will they stop paying the terrorists.
Jerome B Gordon is a Senior Vice President of New English Review and author of The West Speaks, NER Press 2012. Mr. Gordon is a former US Army intelligence officer who served during the Viet Nam era. He was the co-host and co-producer of weekly The Lisa Benson Show for National Security that aired out of KKNT960 in Phoenix Arizona from 2013 to 2016. He is co-host and co-producer of the Middle East Round Table periodic series on 1330amWEBY, Northwest Florida Talk Radio, Pensacola, Florida.
Rod Bryant is host of Israel News Talk Radio-Beyond the Matrix.
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