WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and 11 other Senate colleagues, in introducing the Taylor Force Martyr Payment Prevention Act, legislation aimed at eliminating Palestinian “martyr payments.” The bill would deter foreign banks from making these payments by putting at risk their access to the United States financial system. A one-pager about the bill may be found here. Bill text may be found here.
“I’m pleased to co-sponsor the Taylor Force Martyr Payment Prevention Act to strengthen important efforts to thwart the Palestinian Authority’s abhorrent ‘martyr payments’ that encourage terror attacks against innocent Israelis and Americans by restricting the access of liable banks to the United States financial system. This bill is a critical step in defending our allies and countering our terrorist adversaries,” said Senator Hagerty.
“Radical Islamic terrorists shouldn’t be rewarded for killing innocent people, and banks should be held responsible for processing any sort of ‘martyr payments.’ Our bill will build upon the Taylor Force Act to ensure Palestinian terrorists don’t benefit financially for committing these senseless murders,” said Senator Cotton.
In March 2016, a member of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas murdered U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force in Tel Aviv, Israel. The terrorist that stabbed Taylor also severely wounded ten others before being killed by Israeli police. Soon thereafter, the terrorist’s family started receiving “martyr payments” from the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a reward for his actions.
In 2018, Congress passed the bipartisan Taylor Force Act, which significantly restricts non-humanitarian U.S. aid to the PA until it ends its “pay to slay” program. The Taylor Force Act recognized the fact that money is fungible and that U.S. aid, even if restricted towards good governance programs, frees up money for the PA to spend more on martyr payments. Although this act penalized the PA for its use of martyr payments, further action is required.
Recent reporting reveals that Palestinian banks and other banks in the Middle East continue to knowingly process these martyr payments, sometimes in U.S. dollar-denominated transactions. These banks flout U.S. anti-terrorism financial regulations but escape sanctions by avoiding an official U.S. presence while maintaining correspondent accounts in the United States. This untenable status quo offers a lifeline to the PA “pay to slay” program.
The Taylor Force Martyr Payment Prevention Act would:
- Strengthen the Treasury Department’s existing anti-terrorism financing authorities by giving Treasury the additional authority to designate foreign banks as institutions of primary money laundering concern and to forbid them from holding or using correspondent accounts in the United States if:
- The banks are used to facilitate or promote martyr payments to terrorists.
- The banks knowingly provide financial services to Hamas.
- Establish the sense of Congress urging Treasury to find foreign financial institutions that flout anti-terrorism financial regulations to be of primary money laundering concern and to prohibit them from holding or using correspondent accounts in the United States.