In what kind of world is U.S. taxpayers’ money used to encourage and reward terrorists? Unfortunately, it is happening in our world.

When terrorists are arrested in Israel for murder or attempted murder, the Palestinian Authority (PA) rewards them. The families of those “martyred and wounded as a result of being participants or bystanders in the revolution,” in the words of the PA, receive a monthly salary, health insurance and tuition assistance. If a terrorist is killed, his or her family is paid. Parks, monuments, schools, streets and school sporting events are named for the “martyred.” Some are given a government job when they are released from prison. In 2017 the PA budgeted $350 million to reward terrorists. “This is roughly what American taxpayers contribute to Palestinians through payment of PA debts and direct support of projects in PA territories,” according to the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). These funds, therefore, free up money to incentivize terror.

In 2016 Taylor Force, an American veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, was murdered in Tel Aviv while on a spring break program with fellow Vanderbilt University graduate students. Force, a Christian, was stabbed to death. The terrorist was killed. The PA has rewarded his family with a monthly stipend. Stuart Force, Taylor’s father, is on a mission to see that U.S. taxpayers no longer support terror, through legislation called the Taylor Force Act. Stuart Force spoke at Congregation Beth El-Atereth Israel in Newton on March 12. He was interviewed by Michael Makovsky, CEO of JINSA.

The Taylor Force Act would suspend U.S. assistance to the PA until it stops promoting and incentivizing violence and murder. The legislation would, in effect, pressure the PA to choose between funding terror and helping its own people. Since the PA was established in 1994 the U.S. has committed over $4 billion in assistance to the PA. Thousands of Israelis – Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze and others – have been killed and wounded by terror attacks since the founding of the PA. Indeed, terror attacks have been ongoing since well before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.

Stuart Force told the audience that after serving his country, his son traveled to Europe, including a trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. “Taylor was deeply moved,” said Force. “He wanted to know more about Israel. My wife and I told him to go in joy. You can’t anticipate what’s going to happen. Taylor celebrated life; he had many friends. He was the type of person for whom the glass was always full.”

Taylor Force (Courtesy photo)
Taylor Force (Courtesy photo)

“Focusing on the Taylor Force Act is the right thing to do,” he continued. “Basic morality tells us that you don’t incentivize terror. I will never understand it.” He then quoted a friend who said, “You can’t change a person’s theology, but you can change his behavior.” After his son’s death, Force was told there was a video of the Palestinian celebration of the murder and the proclamation of the killer as a hero. He could watch only a little of it.

JINSA calls the payments for terror a “pay to slay” program. “The PA has regulations regarding gradations of support used to determine how much money they or their family get,” explained Makovsky. “The worse the crime, the more people killed, the bigger the payoff.” According to JINSA, those jailed for less than three years are paid a $368 monthly salary; for three to five years, $570 a month, while those serving at least 30 years get $3,400 a month. The unemployment rate for Palestinians is 20 percent, with an average salary of under $300. “This legislation is not geared to punish all Palestinians,” Makovsky affirmed. “If they don’t use money for terror, it’s better for them as a society.” The legislation passed unanimously in the U.S. Congress in December 2017. Force and his wife were present when the act was passed.

However, the Taylor Force Act has yet to be brought to the Senate for a vote, although it passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a vote of 17-4 in August 2017. Voting against were Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The legislation is currently on hold; it is not yet being sent to the Senate for a vote. The hold is being kept in place by anonymous members of the Senate. The White House has promised that if the bill passes, it will be signed by the president.

Those in attendance were encouraged to contact their senators and ask them to support the bill. “Pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring it to the floor for a vote,” said Makovsky. “Often legislators receive little or no input on any legislation, so calls and emails can have an impact. An email is as effective as a phone call.”

Makovsky pointed out that the bill has not been widely covered in the press. He noted that a benefit to the work being done to pass the bill is that more people have become aware of how U.S. tax dollars are being spent to fund terror. “The Taylor Force Act,” said Makovsky, “has had a dramatic impact on the narrative.”

Stuart Force spoke with quiet conviction, thanking the Jewish community in Israel and in the U.S. for their support, along with JINSA, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the Republican Jewish Committee and Taylor’s West Point classmates, who were devastated by his loss.

The parents of Ezra Schwartz, who was murdered in Israel at the age of 18 in 2015, were also in attendance. The graduate of the Maimonides School in Brookline and Sharon resident was spending a gap year studying at Yeshivat Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh.

The family of Taylor Force, JINSA and other supporting organizations continue to meet with senators to gain support for the bill. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren can be contacted at warren.senate.gov/contact/shareyouropinion. Sen. Edward Markey can be reached at markey.senate.gov/contact.

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