RAMALLAH: Palestinians on Monday criticized a decision a day earlier by the Israeli Supreme Court as ‘piracy’ of the Palestinian Authority’s finances and a collective punishment against the Palestinian people by Israeli extremists and right-wing groups.
Palestinian leaders called on the international judicial system and legal and human rights institutions to take immediate action to end what they described as “Israeli judicial extremism.”
The 68-page Supreme Court decision, a copy of which was obtained by Arab News, opens the door for families of Israeli victims of terrorist attacks, whether they take place in the West Bank or Hamas-run Gaza, to sue the PA for financial compensation, on the grounds that the PA currently provides money for Palestinian prisoners and the families of martyrs who carried out attacks on Israelis. Such payments “constitute confirmation of their carrying out terrorist operations” and therefore the authority is responsible for compensating victims’ families, the court stated.
Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayieh said at the start of the PA’s weekly cabinet session on Monday that the Israeli court’s decision “is unacceptable to us and is illegal and illegitimate.”
He added that the Palestinian government was simply carrying out its duty “toward orphans of the sons of martyrs, prisoners and their families.”
The decision followed an appeal by four families whose relatives were killed about 20 years ago by Palestinian attacks in Jerusalem during the Second Intifada. Their case for compensation had been rejected by a lower court.
The Supreme Court said it was proven that the PA transferred money to the perpetrators or their families, though the authority did not accept any responsibility for the attacks. However, two of the three judges hearing the appeal ruled that the PA policy of payments to prisoners and their families constituted an “incentive” and “reward” for terrorism.
Setting out the ruling, Justice Yitzhak Amit said: “In this conduct, there is a reward, incentive, contribution and recognition of acts of terrorism, on the face of it even in violation of the Law on Combating Terrorism, and it should be seen as a confirmation of the wrongs committed by the prisoners-perpetrators.”
The decision does not mean the PA will be forced to pay compensation to the families of settlers injured or killed in attacks but it allows them to sue the PA and any financial restitution could be obtained by the Israeli government through the compensation law that enables it to deduct money from PA funds.
Qadri Abu Baker, minister of the PA’s Detainees and Ex-Prisoners Affairs Authority, told Arab News that the court ruling is a “miserable attempt to deter the Palestinian people and its leadership” and described it as “piracy and extortion” in an attempt to seize the authority’s funds.
“The Israeli extremist right-wing takes advantage of any opportunity or security circumstance to pass such decisions, all of which are supported by the head of the fascist occupation government,” he said.
Abu Baker called on the international judicial system and legal and human rights institutions to take immediate action to put an end to such Israeli judicial extremism.
“At a time when the American courts have rejected the lawsuits filed by Jewish extremists against the authority to demand compensation, the Israeli judiciary is legislating this demand,” he said.
A high-ranking Palestinian security source told Arab News the implementation of the court’s decision could prove to be a complicated matter that could have devastating effects. Currently, Israel collects taxes and customs tariffs on imported Palestinian goods through a process known as “clearing” and then transfers the funds to Ramallah each month, after making certain deductions.
“Whenever an Israeli is wounded or killed by an attack by Hamas, Israel will deduct the compensation money from the Palestinian tax money that it collects on behalf of the PA,” the source said. “However, nothing will remain of it, which will lead to the weakening of the PA and perhaps later its collapse.”
A senior PA security official told Arab News: “This is piracy of the PA’s money and a collective punishment against the Palestinian people.”
Israeli political analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem said: “Since the Palestinian Authority is the legitimate representative of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it is the party that must pay compensation to the Israeli victims of Palestinian violence.
“When Hamas launches a rocket from Gaza and injures Israelis, they cannot go to Gaza to file a case in its courts and demand compensation from those who launched the rocket. So, where does the Israeli victim complain? Surely he will be able to file a complaint with an Israeli court, which will compensate him with the funds of the Palestinian Authority that are in Israel’s possession.”
Ben-Menachem told Arab News that the court ruling was long overdue and should have been made a long time ago.
“The Palestinian Authority instead of fighting terrorism pays salaries to the families of prisoners and martyrs, so they must pay compensation to Israeli citizens who are victims of Palestinian violence.”
Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin agreed with this view.
“The Israeli High Court’s decision to allow Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism to sue the Palestinian Authority for responsibility and compensation should encourage the Palestinian Authority to reconsider the compensation being paid to the families of Palestinians who murdered Israelis by killing themselves, or to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, based on a pay scale that pays more if more Israelis were killed,” he told Arab News.
“There is no other way to view this system than paying people for killing others. Palestine needs a social-welfare system that provides a social network for those in need. There should be a pension scheme and there can even be a legitimate system for compensating people who are part of the struggle to free Palestine.
“But rewarding people based on how many other people they killed is simply wrong.”