Making Crime Pay

Norwegian TV station reveals EU paying salaries to imprisoned Palestinians

Palestinian president and then-Norwegian foreign minister in 2012 / AP
March 19, 2013

A Norwegian public television investigation that found taxpayer-funded developmental aid to the Palestinian Authority is being funneled to convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons has ignited controversy in Norway and could be the tipping point for the European Union’s reconsideration of aid, according to an activist group.

The PA is using foreign aid to pay salaries as high as $3,111 per month to imprisoned terrorists, according to the in-depth report by the NRK, a Norwegian public broadcasting station, which cited the findings of Palestinian Media Watch. The salaries reportedly start at around $400 per month and increase with length of prison time.

The PA has maintained the payments are actually "social welfare" for the families of terrorists, not rewards for murderers of Israeli citizens. But Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide acknowledged last week that the PA mischaracterized the payments.

"It is unfortunate that the incorrect information obtained from the Palestinian Authority was communicated to the Parliament," said Eide.

Members of the Norwegian parliament have called for a reconsideration of funding, and are investigating the issue.

Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli-based research institute that uncovered the payments, said the Norwegian government’s response to the controversy could influence policy for the entire E.U. Norway chairs the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates Palestinian developmental aid policy. Other participants include the E.U., the U.S., and the United Nations.

"Once Norway, the head of this committee, has to recognize the money can’t go to the [Palestinian Authority] budget anymore, I think that will effect the E.U.," said Itamar Marcus, director of PMW.

"The Norwegian government will have to admit that the money is going to the Palestinian prisoners, the British will have to admit it," Marcus added. "And when they do they’ll realize giving money to the [Palestinian Authority] violates their laws."

The American Jewish Committee’s Transatlantic Institute denounced the misuse of funding and called on the E.U. and other donors to the PA to investigate ahead of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in Brussels Tuesday.

"These shocking revelations suggest that the more violent and deadly the crime, the more money the perpetrator receives," said Daniel Schwammenthal, director of AJC’s Transatlantic Institute in Brussels. "European taxpayers must have absolute certainty that aid to the PA is spent on facilitating peace and not on fueling the conflict through perverse incentives that reward and encourage terror."

The E.U. is the largest single provider of foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority.