Palestinian ‘Authenticity’ overlooked by Seumas Milne

In his CiF article of January 26th, Seumas Milne lamented the passing of ‘authentic’ Palestinian leadership, much in the same spirit as his paper’s editorial of January 23rd which described the current PA as ‘craven’ and ‘weak’.  Milne’s primary complaint is that the spirit of an ‘authentic national liberation movement’ has evaporated from the PA and that dependency upon foreign funding – particularly that from the US and the EU – means that “the PA’s leaders are now far more accountable to their funders than to their own people”.

How strange then that the Guardian should choose to completely ignore this news item from the indispensable Palestinian Media Watch which indicates that the PA is still doing exactly what it always did with European and American taxpayers’ money.

Abbas gives terrorist’s family $2000

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

Earlier this month a Palestinian terrorist attempted to attack an Israeli checkpoint. Carrying two pipe bombs, he ran towards the Israeli soldiers, screaming “Allahu Akbar” – “Allah is Greater” – and was shot and killed before he could detonate the bombs.

Yesterday Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas granted “the relatives of the Shahid” $2000:

“The governor of the Jenin district, Kadura Musa, has awarded a presidential grant to the family of the Shahid (Martyr), Khaldoun Najib Samoudy, during a visit that took place yesterday in the village of Al-Yamoun. The governor noted that the grant is financial aid in the amount of $2000 that the President [Mahmoud Abbas] is awarding to the relatives of the Shahid, who was recently killed as a Martyr at the Hamra checkpoint by the Israeli occupation forces.”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Fatah) Jan. 25, 2011]

Over 60% of the PA’s GNP now comes from foreign donations – mostly from the US, the EU, the World Bank and the UN.  The percentage of foreign donations as part of the annual PA budget has steadily risen in recent years. In other words, the PA is becoming more –rather than less – dependent upon aid as time goes by.  In 2000 foreign aid comprised 10.5% of the annual income, in 2005 – 22.4% and in 2007 – 35.9%.  Some of this money finds its way to Gaza in the form of transfers from the PA – including funds to pay the salaries of Fatah employees who are paid to stay at home. The Hamas regime of course has its own donor network and an up to date insight into the entire economy of Gaza can be found here.

The ‘tradition’ of siphoning off funds from foreign donations in order to finance terror was initiated by Seumas Milne’s hero Yasser Arafat. With the creation of the PA – whose financial affairs were overseen by the international community from the very beginning – a special ‘Presidential budget’ was established.  A rather laconic description given in a 2003 International Monetary Fund report on the PA’s finances stated that:

“Presidential budgets (or for heads of State) are sensitive issues in all Middle East countries and most developing countries. In most cases, information is quite opaque if at all available.”

The report went on to state (chapter V, p. 107) that:

“In the case of the PA, actual expenditures of the President’s office are published on a monthly basis, broken down by wages, operating expenses and transfer. The 2003 budget appropriated US$74 million to the President’s office (8 percent of the total budget), of which US$34 million is dedicated to “transfers.” The President assumes the prerogative of providing aid to various organizations and individuals…

…However other claimants and organizations are part of politically favored networks who should not be getting such grants under any criterion.”

Despite the subsequent (mainly post-Arafat) reforms within the PA, the tradition of ‘Presidential transfers’ continues, albeit on a smaller scale as can be seen in the PMW report above.

I personally have considerable difficulty with the knowledge that EU and US taxpayers’ money has been  used to finance terror attacks upon Israeli citizens and reward the families of ‘martyrs’ and I think that it is high time that the World Bank, which supervises the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan, was called to give both past and present accountability on this subject, along with the donor countries themselves.

Seumas Milne, however, will most likely be delighted to learn that the spirit of the ‘authentic national liberation movement’ he finds so inspiring lives on.

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