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Withholding Palestinian tax revenues is a criminal act

Dec. 21, 2012 7:16 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 23, 2012 10:34 A.M.)
By: Rashid Shahin
This is not the first time the Israeli occupation authority withholds Palestinian tax revenues; in the last few years, the Israeli government has used this money as a Damocles sword hanging over the head of the Palestinians. It was used to blackmail them and as a tool to pressure them when needed.

Unfortunately, the Israeli government practices this policy in a way closer to a gang mentality rather than a civilized, modern or democratic country which respects international law and treaties.

Palestinians know and admit they are the weak party in the conflict equation; the world community knows this fact but they are doing and saying nothing in order to make Israel retract its policy.

Since the Palestinians announced their intention to go to the United Nations to demand upgrading the status of Palestine to observer non- member status, the Israeli occupation leaders haven’t stopped their threats to not transfer the tax revenue, in an attempt to make Palestinians reconsider their plans.

Israel said it wouldn’t transfer the Palestinian money until March at the earliest, in a protest measure against the successful Palestinian bid to upgrade its status.

The Israeli step is coming amid Arab and international silence, inability and compliance, despite the fact that this step would have disastrous effects on more than a million Palestinians.

Anger and frustration is overwhelming the Palestinians who have not received their salaries regularly like other people in the world.

In 10 days, the second month -- December -- will end, and the salary of November remains in the hands of the Israelis. This is no more or less than official theft and robbery, Palestinians believe.

It is not true that Israel is holding the tax revenue for electricity debts, especially when it was announced several months ago by many Israeli leaders that Palestinians must pay a price for going to the UN. It seems that the time has come, and the Palestinians must pay for the support they had at the UN.

The Israeli intention to punish the Palestinians was no secret, and knowing the fact that the world community would not react, the Israeli government didn’t hesitate to realize its threats; it was clear that this policy has nothing to do with electricity debts.

Withholding the tax money is another collective punishment that Israel is practicing against the Palestinian people. The same policy was practiced against the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip; more than 1.5 million Palestinians facing an unjust and illegal siege over many years.

The financial problem which the Palestinians face is directly linked to the Oslo accords signed in 1993. The direct blame falls on the shoulders of those who lift the financial responsibility and obligation from the Israeli shoulders as an occupying power.

Since 1967 until 1994 when the Palestinian Authority was founded, there was no problem regarding the salaries of the Palestinian employees. At that time Israel was in charge as an occupying power, and Israel didn’t do it as a favor, but because it is obliged by international law to do it.

The Oslo accords lift this responsibility from the Israeli shoulders and put it on the PA and world donors, with whom they became direct partners in one way or another in this occupation, and the PA is paying what Israel is supposed to pay from its own treasury.

When describing the Israeli occupation as the cheapest occupation on earth in modern history, or an occupation without a price, it is not only because of the lack of resistance or because there are no losses among the occupation troops, but also because of the financial issues, which the Israelis are supposed to carry, but they don’t.

These territories are run by Palestinian employees, who are supposed to have their salaries from the occupation authorities, not from the world donors, or from the Arab League countries.

Asking the Arab countries to form a "safety net" by paying $100 million a month is another mistaken message to Israel, a message that says "Israel can do what ever it wants and the Arabs are ready to pay what Israel holds or even steals".

The Arab countries which the PA is calling on to help the Palestinians are the same countries involved in the "revolutions" of the "Arab spring", some of which have paid billions of dollars to destroy countries like Libya, Syria, and before that Iraq.

By Israel not paying the Palestinian money it becomes a double-edged sword; no one can guarantee the consequences if this policy continues, no one can tell the reaction of the Palestinians when they feel they cant buy food or medicine or milk for their children, in which case, somebody must be held accountable.

To have food, medicine and shelter are basic human rights; by not paying the Palestinians their money, the Israeli authorities are violating these rights. It is an apartheid system in Israel which is trying to take away the rights of the people of Palestine, linked to the most basic right, which is the right to life. This is what the international charter and law states.

Withholding almost $100 million a month will worsen the lives of the Palestinians, prevent them from having their basic needs and putting more than a million Palestinians beneath the poverty line.

The mentality of theft and robbery is not the correct solution or the remedy. It will backfire on Israel and the PA which is, in fact, a need for Israel and the region.

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish wrote:

do not hate people nor do I encroach

But if I become hungry

The usurper's flesh will be my food


Of my hunger and my anger!


Beware of my hunger and anger

The author is a Palestinian journalist and writer based in Bethlehem.
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