Time is running out for the European members of parliament to launch a probe into the longstanding claim that the Palestinian Authority has misused European taxpayers’ money to finance terrorist attacks. British MEP Charles Tannock initiated a petition six months ago to investigate how 540 million Euros given to the PA since 2000 have been spent, as a comprehensive accounting of the funds has yet to be produced by the Palestinian Authority.
British Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith made a last-minute plea to MEPs to support an independent investigation last week, saying “It is very disturbing to contemplate the possibility that our taxpayers’ money could be financing the bombs and explosives used to attack Israeli civilians.”
So far, only 140 MEPs have signed Tannock’s petition calling for an investigation — 17 names short of the number required to schedule a debate in the European parliament in Strasbourg. If the remaining MEPs do not sign on by January 31, the investigation will be abandoned.
Christopher Patten, the EU commissioner for external affairs, has successfully persuaded 12 of the MEPs who had wanted to sign on to the petition to withdraw their support on the basis that he has seen no evidence of misuse of EU money, and has accused the MEPs supporting the investigation of “flogging a dead horse.” Charles Tannock (the British MEP) says he is astonished by Patten’s attitude: “My campaign has incurred the wrath of Commissioner Patten, who regards this initiative as a direct challenge to his authority and credibility. The sole purpose of this investigation is to clear the air and I have always maintained a balanced approach to the Israel/Palestine question favoring a peaceful settlement based on a two-state solution.”
Patten’s unwillingness to investigate how the PA used the EU aid money is peculiar, given that the EU court of auditors declined last November to approve the EU’s budget for the eighth year running, admitting it can only guarantee that five percent of taxpayers’ money is being spent properly.
Israel has persisted in trying to convince the EU that the European body should condition and monitor its funding to the PA to prevent misuse of the PA’s salary budget — which is partially funded by the EU. Israel presented Chris Patten with volumes of the PA’s own documents, which were captured by the IDF over the last year, containing evidence that the PA initiated and paid for terror attacks against Israel, and funded the Tanzim, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and even Hamas operatives.
Documents discovered by the IDF in 2002 that have been authenticated by the U.S. and German authorities prove that terrorists who carried out attacks on Israeli civilians have been on the payroll of the PA, and were paid with checks ordered personally by Yasser Arafat and issued by the ministry of finance. The EU monthly budgetary assistance of ten million euros is specifically designated to cover the salaries of PA civil servants, and is given to the ministry of finance.
A new IDF report includes letters and documents signed by Arafat ordering payment of: the mortgage of the families of Hamas homicide bombers, and a grant of $2,000 to each family; $17,500 to senior Fatah official Tzafut Udah Rachmi, who also served as the head of Fatah’s Popular Resistance Committee (a terror group in Gaza supported by the PA’s Preventive Security Forces); and $9,000 to the “El-Farouk” rental-car company in Gaza, for damages incurred when a Hamas activist’s rented car was bombed by the IDF. This last check provides clear evidence that Arafat and the PA, despite their public denials, also support Hamas terror activities.
Other documents show how the PA’s Preventive Security Forces paid $1,200 to arrange “spontaneous” demonstrations in support of Marwan Barghouti, the former head of the terrorist organization Fatah/Tanzim in the West Bank, who is on trial in Israel for orchestrating attacks that killed 26 Israelis.
While Israel continues to provide aid to needy Palestinians, and does not object to EU aid, it is calling attention to the PA’s misuse of its own salary budget because of the clear link between unmonitored EU aid to the notoriously corrupt PA — a survey taken last year in the West Bank and Gaza found that 70 percent of Palestinians believed there was widespread corruption within the PA — and Israel’s own safety.
A recent report published by Human Rights Watch, a group not known for its pro-Israel bias, concluded that:
The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades appear to have benefited from the routine misuse of PA funds. Arafat and other senior PA officials, as well as many rank-and-file Fatah members, have overlapping identities as employees or officials of the PA, on the one hand, and as members of Fatah on the other. This dual identity appears to have facilitated the use of PA resources to fund Fatah activities directly and indirectly, including payments to individual al-Aqsa Brigades activists.
In July 2002, an EU official told the German newspaper Die Ziet that “The EU will not accept that funds fall into the hands of terrorist organizations.” Last week, Patten’s spokeswoman, Emma Udwin, added that “The EU has no wish to take risks with funding terrorism.” It is for these very reasons that an EU investigation into this matter is warranted.
— Rachel Ehrenfeld is the director of the New York City-based American Center for Democracy. Her new book, Funding Evil, will be published in the spring. Sarah Zebaida is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.