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WASHINGTON: Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Thursday described a US congressional hearing that accused the Palestinian Authority of supporting violence against Israelis in the occupied West Bank as “misleading and unfair.”

Only supporters of Israel were invited to attend the hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia on Wednesday, which discussed the implementation of the Taylor Force Act, a 2018 law that bans the provision of US financial aid to the PA on the grounds that the authority “rewards Palestinians to murder Israeli citizens.”

Palestinian officials told the Arab News that the organizers of the hearing failed to invite them to present the views, and in doing so had revealed its “bias” in favor of Israel and the anti-Palestinian sentiments of some members of Congress.

The hearing was led by Joe Wilson, a Republican member of the House of Representatives who chairs the subcommittee. He accused the Palestinian government of operating a system of “pay to slay,” in which Palestinians are rewarded for killing Israelis, an allegation Palestinian officials vehemently denied in comments to Arab News.

Eliot Abrams, a pro-Israel former deputy assistant to the president and national security adviser, and several other members of the subcommittee also accused the PA of participating in a system that “honors and rewards terrorists.” Several representatives of right-wing, pro-Israel US organizations who spoke during the hearing made similar claims and called on US President Joe Biden to halt financial aid to Palestinians.

Palestinian officials said such allegations are “totally untrue” and “misleading.” Qaddura Fares, the Palestinian minister of detainees’ affairs, told Arab News that such US hearings treat Israel and its supporters in the US as the only sources of information about issues involving the Palestinians or their cause.

He described the hearing as “misleading and one-sided” given that Palestinians were not invited to present their side of the story or even consulted. The subcommittee should have asked Palestinian officials or their representatives to participate, he added, in the interests of balance and fairness.

Fares said the welfare-payment system to families of people killed or imprisoned by Israel, which lies at the heart of the “pay to slay” allegations, operates in accordance with Palestinian law, under which the government is obliged to provide financial support to any family that loses its breadwinner as a result of Israel’s actions as an occupying state.

Wasel Abu Yousef, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official, told Arab News that successive US administrations and Congress have often engaged in “covering up for the Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people” instead of supporting the peace and security of both sides.

“The issue of financial and moral support for the families of martyrs who were killed by the Israeli occupation forces, and those who were detained by it, cannot be neglected or bypassed by any Palestinian official,” he added

According to Abu Yousef, 260 Palestinians have died as a result of Israeli actions so far this year, and about 220 were killed last year.

Fares, whose ministry helps to support the families of Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails, said there are about 5,200 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, including about 1,200 administrative detainees who are being held without charge or trial, and 170 children under the age of 18.

Israeli authorities imprison thousands of Palestinians each year, he added, for nonviolent actions such as raising a Palestinian flag, participating in anti-occupation protests, or political activism on college campuses.

He said only 10 percent of Palestinian prisoners, about 500 in total, are serving life sentences in Israeli jails, indicating that they were convicted of involvement in the killing of Israeli citizens. In accordance with Palestinian law, Fares said, the families of those people should not have to suffer, be held responsible for their relative’s crimes, or be deprived of social support services provided by the government.

Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official, told Arab News the issue of Palestinian support for the families of martyrs and detainees will only end when the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land ends.

“It appears that some members of the US Congress only care about supporting the continuation of Israeli occupation, not an equitable peace between the two peoples,” he said.

“This issue is very sensitive for the Palestinian people because it touches the core of their existence and their struggles to free their country and end the Israeli occupation.”

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