By all accounts, Yasser Arafat is a very wealthy individual. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes that he has $900 million in just one undisclosed bank account, and Rawya Shawa of the Palestinian Legislative Council declared that he has wealth totaling a staggering $4 billion.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian population has become increasingly poor. Many are now seeing this as a deliberate strategy, whereby the PA and Hamas are creating Palestinian poverty in order to stoke anger against Israel.
The UN, Red Cross, USA, Israel, Europe and other world governments have poured money into the Palestinian territories. However, In June 2003, a survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics revealed that approximately 2.5 million Palestinians, most of them in the Gaza Strip, live in poverty and more than 50% of Palestinians are living on less than $2 a day. Other sources state that the figure is more like 70%.
Nonetheless, it seems that not everyone suffers in Gaza. Jerusalem Post editor Brett Stephens explains that Arafat's wealth is, "Composed largely of monies pilfered from the EU and Israeli transfer payments, the kitty is estimated to contain anywhere between $300 million (according to Forbes) to $4 billion (according to Rawya Shawa of the Palestinian Legislative Council), and is distributed across bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, North Africa and -- at least in the late 1990s -- at the Hashmonaim branch of Bank Leumi in Tel Aviv." (Nov. 13, 2003)
On Nov. 9, 2003 CBS' "60 Minutes" ran a report examining "Arafat's Billions." It seems that Arafat hired Jim Prince and a team of American accountants to examine his own finance ministry "Given what they've already uncovered, Arafat may be rethinking the decision." So far, Prince's team has determined that part of the Palestinian leader's wealth was in a secret portfolio worth close to $1 billion. In particular, he has investments in a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ramallah, a Tunisian cell phone company, and venture capital funds in the U.S. and the Cayman Islands.
CBS subsequently interviewed Martin Indyk, a top adviser on the Middle East to the Clinton administration. He tells how Arafat was always traveling the world, looking for handouts. "Arafat for years would cry poor, saying, 'I can't pay the salaries, we're gonna have a disaster here, the Palestinian economy is going to collapse'," says Indyk. "And we would all mouth those words: 'The Palestinian economy is going to collapse if we don't do something about this.' But at the same time, he's accumulating hundreds of millions of dollars."
In addition, says Indyk, Arafat "accumulated another $1 billion with the help of the Israelis, of all people. That money was transferred personally to Yasser Arafat to, amongst other places, bank accounts which he maintains off-line in Israel."
However, it is not just Arafat who is feathering his nest. It seems the entire Palestinian Authority is preventing the natural flow of money. Abdel Eissa, director of the International Bank of Palestine, announced in arabicnews.com that the PA has $2 billion in local accounts and a further $30bn stashed in foreign accounts.
http://www.freemiddleeast.com notes that in 1990 the CIA estimated that the PLO generated between $8-14 billion from a 5% tax on every Palestinian working in Arab countries. In addition The London Daily Telegraph revealed that the PA has real estate holdings in London, Paris and elsewhere worth a staggering $50 billion.
The Breeding Ground
In May 2002 the IDF raided the offices of the PA. Among the documents captured in the Preventive Security Apparatus compound in Gaza were hundreds of receipts and copies of checks. These documents concern transfers to Fatah, El Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and individuals. Sums range from between a few thousand, to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here is just one example found in this huge cache, showing Yasser Arafat's signature appropriating funds for terror activities. See more examples..
With Arafat's Intifada preventing Palestinians from working in Israel, and welfare payments diverted elsewhere, Palestinians have been left reliant on other sources of income. Enter Hamas, who not only provide welfare but also radical Islam. Hamas have been able to secure overseas funds from not only Arab sources but from many so-called "charities" in the West. This money forms a perfect recruitment tool for the cause of radical Islamic, dedicated to rid the region of Jews.
We now see a fuller picture. Money is withheld from the poor, used for self-aggrandizement or funneled into the official terror machine (Fatah, El Aqsa Martyrs Brigade). Meanwhile, large sections of a poor population are being Islamicized by Hamas. This is indeed a potent breeding ground for terror
Do something about it
Make no mistake, poverty does not cause evil -- but it does create the conditions that allow it to flourish. The Palestinians are poor and are getting poorer. The Palestinian Authority wants to keep it that way.
But you can do something about it. You don't have to sit back and feel helpless. There are now excellent on-line tools available that give you the ability to help the Palestinians out of their reliance on terror-welfare organizations such as Hamas, and at the same time help Israel.
freemiddleeast.com: This new site provides simple and effective tools to contact the media and politicians, pressuring them to take note of Arab oppressions in the Middle East. The site does almost all the work for you. The current highlighted issue is Palestinian Authority corruption. Take advantage while you can.
You could go one step further by writing a letter to your local newspaper highlighting Palestinian corruption. Call up your local radio station, and remind listeners that the PA is keeping its people deliberately poor, while at the same time purchasing weapons and lining their own pockets. Use the information from this article and also the information and links on freemiddleeast.com:
honestreporting.com: This site provides updates on media bias, and the tools to do something about it. It's a must for anyone who is genuinely interested in preventing the media manipulation of facts.
israelactivism.com: Learn the facts about Arab-Israeli conflict so that you are empowered to make a difference and educate others.
goisrael.com: Visit Israel -- show Israelis that they are not alone. If every Jew visited Israel once a year, imagine the impact!
Finally, use the best tool of all: prayer. A prayer for peace -- from the heart and with intent -- can make a world of difference.