November 3, 2023

Senator Ricketts’ Weekly Column: Stopping Support for Hamas

November 3, 2023

On October 7, the world witnessed a horrible atrocity. The brutality and inhumanity of Hamas’ terror attacks on Israel shock the conscience. Hamas terrorists raped women, kidnapped children, burned a baby in an oven, and slaughtered over 1,400 Israelis. At least 33 Americans are among the dead. Such barbarism is sick and evil. It must be confronted and destroyed.

As Israel fights to eliminate Hamas, America must stand with them. Part of this will involve direct aid to Israel. We must also examine dangerous Biden administration policies and funding that enable Hamas’ terror. This week, I introduced the Stop Support for Hamas Act with Senator Tim Scott (R-SC). This bill will stop the flow of American taxpayer dollars funding programs that support Hamas’ grip on Gaza. 

For years, Hamas has stolen and abused international aid to Gaza to further its mission to annihilate Israel. For example, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has a long-documented history of allowing Hamas to infiltrate their operations. UNRWA has employed registered Hamas members. It’s been described as “effectively a branch of Hamas.” UNRWA schools have been found storing Hamas weapons. Its facilities have been used as staging grounds for attacks against Israel. UNRWA has employed educators who “regularly call to murder Jews.” They teach from textbooks “that glorify terrorism, encourage martyrdom, demonize Israelis, and incite antisemitism.”

In 2018, the Trump administration rightly ended American aid to UNRWA, calling it an “irredeemably flawed operation.” President Trump knew American taxpayer money should not support Hamas, directly or indirectly. Inconceivably, the Biden administration reversed the move. Since taking office, Biden has funneled more than $730 million to UNRWA. My Stop Support for Hamas Act would correct this mistake. It would cut off all contributions to UNRWA.

Additionally, my bill would freeze Economic Support Funds (ESF) to Gaza and the West Bank until Israel has verifiably dismantled the terrorist infrastructure of Hamas. ESF is the main channel for non-governmental organization (NGO) implemented economic development, civil society, and basic needs assistance in Gaza and the West Bank. Since taking office, the Biden Administration has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in ESF to Gaza and the West Bank. Biden has requested $225 million for this fiscal year. It makes no sense to provide ESF assistance while Israel is actively fighting a war to defeat Hamas. 

Once Hamas is defeated, it is critical that we do everything possible to prevent its revival. Current law limits assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) unless certain certification requirements are met. My Stop Support for Hamas Act would strengthen these requirements. It would prevent any assistance to the PA until the President can certify that no PA ministry or agency employs Hamas members. The Wall Street Journal reported that a Hamas terrorist who died while attacking Israel carried a monthly paycheck of 5,000 shekels from the PA. That’s a very high salary in Gaza. My bill would provide the PA with an incentive to rid its agencies and security services of Hamas members. It would also eliminate a waiver that allowed for exceptions to these requirements. Finally, it would ensure that any NGO assistance does not benefit Hamas or any other terrorist organization.

In addition, my Stop Support for Hamas Act would strengthen provisions to prevent any ESF that directly or indirectly benefits the PA until it ends its “pay for slay” program. The PA funds so-called “martyr payments” to the families of Palestinian terrorists who are jailed or killed for attacking innocent Israeli civilians. These payments can reach up to $3,500 a month. This provides incentives for Palestinians to commit terrorist acts. Some estimates suggest the PA may be compelled to spend nearly $3 million a month to the families of the Hamas terrorists who carried out this deadly massacre. My bill prevents U.S. assistance that indirectly benefits the PA until it ends “pay for slay” for good.

Hamas is a known terrorist organization that has proven it will kill Israelis and Americans. As America stands with Israel, we must continue to take steps to ensure American taxpayer dollars do not enable Hamas. My bill does just that. I will continue to work to support Israel’s efforts to eliminate Hamas. I’ll also continue fighting to ensure American tax dollars are not misused to fund terrorism.

My team and I are here to serve you. Contact us anytime by phone at 202-224-4224 or on my website at www.ricketts.senate.gov/contact.