Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Beware of Palestinian hunger

Israel’s decision to withhold millions of dollars in Palestinian tax revenues is a criminal act illegal under international law, writes Rashid Shahin in Bethlehem

Al-Ahram Weekly

This is not the first time that the Israeli occupying authorities have withheld Palestinian tax revenues, since over the past few years the Israeli government has used this money as a sword of Damocles hanging over the head of the Palestinians. It has been used to blackmail them and as a tool to pressure them when needed.

The Israeli government practices this policy in a way that is closer to that of a gang mentality rather than that of a modern or democratic country that respects international law and treaties. The Palestinians know that they are the weaker party in the conflict. The international community also knows this, but it is doing nothing to assist or to make Israel retract its policy.

Since the Palestinians announced their intention to go to the UN General Assembly to ask for an upgrade in the status of Palestine to observer non-member status, the Israeli occupation authorities on the West Bank have been threatening to withhold Palestinian tax revenues in an attempt to make the Palestinians reconsider their plans.

Israel said it would not transfer the Palestinian money until March next year at the earliest, in a protest measure against the successful Palestinian bid to upgrade the country’s status. The Israeli step has come amid Arab and international silence, despite the fact that this step will have disastrous effects on millions of Palestinians.

Anger and frustration are already overwhelming Palestinians who have not received their salaries as a result. In a few days December will end, the second month during which the withholding has been implemented, and Palestinian salaries from November remain in the hands of the Israelis.

This is no more or less than official robbery, the Palestinians believe.

It is not true that Israel is withholding the tax revenues in order to claw back unpaid electricity bills, as the occupying authorities say, since it was announced months ago by Israeli leaders that the Palestinians would “pay a price” for going to the UN. It seems that the Palestinians are now being made to pay for the support they received.

The Israeli intention to punish the Palestinians was not a secret, and, knowing that the international community would not react, the Israeli government has not hesitated to carry out its threats. It was also always clear that the policy had nothing to do with electricity debts.

Withholding the tax money is another form of collective punishment that Israel is practicing against the Palestinian people. A similar policy has been practiced against the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians have faced an unjust and illegal siege over many years.

The financial problems that the Palestinians face are directly linked to the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993. The blame should be put on the shoulders of those who have lifted financial responsibility for the Palestinian territories from Israel, which is the occupying power.

From 1967 to 1994, when the Palestinian Authority (PA) was founded, there was no problem regarding the salaries of Palestinian employees. At that time, Israel was the occupying power, and it had an obligation to meet its responsibilities as such.

The Oslo Accords lifted this responsibility from Israeli shoulders and put it on the PA and international donors, who became direct partners in one way or another with the occupation. As a result, the PA is now paying what Israel is supposed to pay from its own resources.

The Israeli occupation is often described as the cheapest occupation on earth, not only because of the lack of resistance or because there are no losses among the occupying troops, but also because of financial issues. These are supposed to be met by the Israelis, but they refuse to meet their obligations.

The territories are run by Palestinian employees, who are supposed to receive their salaries from the occupying authorities, not the international community or donors in the Arab League.

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

The Arab countries, which the PA has been calling upon to help the Palestinians, are in many cases the same countries involved in the revolutions of the Arab Spring. Some, on the other hand, have also been paying billions of dollars to assist in the destruction of countries like Libya and Syria and before them Iraq.

Israel’s refusal to pay the Palestinian money is a double-edged sword because no one can say what the consequences will be if the policy continues. What will be the reaction of Palestinians unable to buy food or medicine or milk for their children?

Food, medicine and shelter are basic human rights. By withholding money from the Palestinians, the Israeli authorities are violating these rights. There is an apartheid system in Israel that aims to deny the people of Palestine their rights, these being linked to the most basic right of all, the right to life.

The withholding of almost $100 million a month will worsen the lives of the Palestinians, preventing them from meeting their basic needs and thrusting more than a million Palestinians beneath the poverty line.

The mentality of theft and robbery is not the correct solution. It will backfire on Israel and the PA, which is needed by Israel and the region.

As the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish once wrote

I do not hate people nor do I encroach,

But if I become hungry

The usurper’s flesh will be my food.

Beware…Beware…

Of my hunger and my anger!

Beware… Beware…

Of my hunger and anger!

 

The writer is a journalist based in Palestine.

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