what do palestinians do with humanitarian-aid mone

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    What do Palestinians do with humanitarian-aid money?


    By Ike Seamans
    The Miami Herald
    July 25, 2003

    The Bush administration has waived the 10-year ban prohibiting direct aid to the Palestinian Authority. It's sending $20 million for humanitarian and infrastructure programs. The president believes that this is tangible evidence to Palestinians that life is getting better, which will undermine support for Hamas. (If you listen closely, you may be able to hear the gales of laughter pouring from the West Bank and Gaza.)

    Regarded here as just a vicious terrorist organization, Hamas is revered in the occupied territories for its free hospitals, schools and other humanitarian efforts. It is the difference between life and death for poverty-stricken Palestinians. If a child is sick or the rent can't be paid, families appeal to The Islamic Society, Hamas' welfare branch, whose social workers tirelessly comb refugee camps looking for needy recipients.

    On the other hand, the PA, a cesspool of corruption to most Palestinians, provides relatively little assistance even though it receives abundant cash from many sources, including the United States:

    € $375 million in U.S. government funds contributed in the past two years to the United Nations and relief agencies earmarked for average Palestinians.

    € $1 billion from the Arab League since 2000.

    € $1.3 billion in private donations last year, the largest per-capita contribution to any group since World War II, according to the World Bank.

    € $1.5 billion from the European Union since 1993.

    Many generous benefactors have no idea what happens to their donations and apparently don't care. In January, Israeli investigators seized records revealing that since 1996, PA officials have sold food and medicine donated by the United Nations, yet its aid continues unabated. EU auditors found that $20 million meant for low-income housing in Gaza was diverted to build a luxury apartment complex for government officials, concluding, ''the money was spent with no controls and isn't recoverable.'' Nevertheless, on July 9, the EU approved $11 million in additional humanitarian aid and has also kicked in $7 million to strengthen the judicial system.

    BILLIONS FOR PEACE

    ''Money isn't the problem,'' a disgusted Palestinian lawyer told The Jerusalem Post; ``it's our leaders who believe they're above the law, making a mockery of the system.''

    Last year, The Los Angeles Times reported that millions, if not billions, given for ''peaceful purposes'' have been spent to arm militias and security forces. Israeli military intelligence charges that Yasser Arafat and his cronies have $20 billion stashed in Swiss bank accounts and invested in foreign real estate. With PA financial help, Yasser Abbas, the prime minister's son, joined the gravy train. He has gained control of the electronics industry, even though he's a Canadian citizen who lives in Ramallah only a few months a year.

    The PA is not broke. Abdel Salaam Abu Eissa, the director of the International Bank of Palestine, said three years ago that there was $2 billion in local banks and $30 billion in foreign accounts. With 70 percent of Palestinians living in poverty, why don't they get some of those big bucks?

    Israel repeatedly has charged that the money finances terrorism. Last year, the EU asked the International Monetary Fund to audit the books. Nothing was amiss. Then it was discovered that Salaam Fayyad, a close Arafat associate, had conducted the audit. An embarrassed EU immediately sent its own inspectors. Arriving in May, they've already determined that $250 million may have been funneled to terrorist organizations since 2000. The final report is due in December.

    Now that Uncle Sugar (aka the USA) has joined the cash flow orgy, State Department officials insist that the United States won't fall into the same trap. The new Palestinian finance minister assures them that taxpayers' money won't be misspent. And who is this new minister of finance? Why, none other than Salaam Fayyad.
 
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