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Palestinian workers struggle as Israel seizes PA tax funds

Palestinian public-sector workers receive only partial salaries as Israel punishes the Abbas administration for its ICC bid by withholding tax funds it collects on the PA’s behalf.

Text and photos by: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org

A Palestinian teacher holds a sign that reads: "Freezing our money is an Israeli piracy", during a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in the West Bank city of Nablus, February 8, 2015. On January 3, Israeli authorities froze the transfer of tax funds collected by Israel for the Palestinian Authority in response to Mahmoud Abbas' move to call on the ICC to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel. PA salaries are estimated to total some $200 million per month, $120 million of which is covered from the taxes collected by Israel. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian teacher holds a sign that reads: “Freezing our money is Israeli piracy,” during a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in the West Bank city of Nablus, February 8, 2015. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian public-sector workers finally received part of their monthly salaries from banks in West Bank cities and towns on Monday. The Palestinian Authority announced on Sunday that it would pay only 60 percent of January salaries, except workers who take salaries less than NIS 2,000 per month. In mid-January, workers had also received 60 percent of December salaries. When the remaining portion of the salaries will be paid is still unknown, as is the situation for the coming months.

The PA is now facing a financial crisis following the Israeli authorities’ January 3 decision to freeze the transfer of tax funds it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The punitive action came in response to Mahmoud Abbas’ move to join the International Criminal Court to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel. PA salaries are estimated to total around $200 million per month, $120 million of which comes from the taxes collected by Israel.

Palestinian public-sector workers stand in queue for their salaries in Nablus, West Bank, February 9, 2015. Monday, the PA announced it will pay only 60% of January's salaries. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian public-sector workers stand in line for their salaries in Nablus, West Bank, February 9, 2015. The PA announced it will pay only 60% of January’s salaries. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Standing outside an ATM machine, the headmaster of the Zaita village school, said: “60 percent of my salary is not enough for my family. And we must not forget the bank loans deduction.” Another woman screamed: “207 shekels is all I received!”

Many Palestinian families have significant bank loans. Banks often deduct their monthly payments automatically. Because of that, many of workers were surprised when were able to withdraw only NIS 500 or NIS 700 of their paychecks from the ATM machines. At the same time, payments for prisoners and the families of those killed or injured by Israeli forces — usually paid by the PA — were not available.

On February 8, Palestinian teachers participated in a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in the West Bank city of Nablus calling for an immediate reaction against, in their words, “Israeli piracy” of tax money. Palestinians criticized the PA lack of emergency reserves, resulting in a collapse in the first month. The head of the teachers union in Nablus, Isam Dababseh, denounced the Israeli measure. He added: “The PA way of dealing with the crisis is not logical. Low-income workers should have their entire salaries, while the deduction must only be on people making more than NIS 10,000.”

A Palestinian public-sector workers holds part of his salary withdrawn from an ATM, Nablus, West Bank, February 9, 2015. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian public-sector worker holds part of his salary withdrawn from an ATM, Nablus, West Bank, February 9, 2015. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian public-sector workers stand in queue for their salaries in Nablus, West Bank, February 9, 2015. Monday, the PA announced it will pay only 60% of January's salaries. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian public-sector workers stand in line for their salaries in Nablus, West Bank, February 9, 2015. The PA announced it will pay only 60% of January’s salaries. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Related:
UN aid agency to Gazans: Sorry, but there’s no money
The hard fact is that Israeli repression works

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    COMMENTS

    1. Kolumn4

      You mean there are consequences on explicitly breaching previous signed agreements by unilaterally joining international organizations?

      Terrible, just terrible that the Palestinians actually have to pay a price for refusing to negotiate in good faith.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        The very notion that there can be meaningful ‘negotiations’ between two parties of vastly different strengths is one of the finest creations of the hasbaric mind. This will all end when the U.S. taxpayer has had enough, not when ‘negotiations’ between David and Goliath are completed.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn4

          There were meaningful negotiations between the United States and the Empire of Japan at the end of World War 2 despite the vastly different strengths. That is the kind of negotiations that should be expected here because the Palestinians tried to destroy Israel and they lost and they lost profoundly and permanently. This isn’t a negotiation between two equal sides. It is a negotiation between a side that won – Israel – and a side that lost – the Palestinians.

          Reply to Comment
        • C.C. DeVille

          Bruce, that is a profoundly stupid statement. Are two sides in commerce or politics ever equal? Negotiation are never based on relative strength between the sides.

          Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        By ‘consequences’ you mean stealing other people’s money? How fitting for the pirate state.

        I guess it’s par for the course for a state that has been stealing Palestinian property since 1948. Your whole country is based on grand theft after grand theft, and I won’t shed a single tear when the day arrives when you will be forced to give it all back.

        Don’t worry – you can continue your larceny party for now, because there’s no way Zionist-occupied American will make you stop. But let’s see what happens twenty years from now when today’s college kids take the reins.

        Reply to Comment
        • C.C. DeVille

          Danny. In 20 years most of today’s college kids will radically change their political stance just like each cohort of college kids have done for decades. See the 60s college kids for details who became Reagan yuppies 20 years later. Hell, even Reagan himself voted for Roosevelt. To think today’s college kids will be different is just plain stupid. Nice try though!

          Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Kolumn4’s excellent point is that both sides agreed at Oslo that they would maintain the existing status quo until the negotiation of a final peace five year’s later. Israel did not breech the status quo by its continued building of settlements, nor frustrate a just peace by its obstructionism, which led Kerry to point out that Israel was the obstacle in the latest set of negotiations.

        However I cannot understand why Israel is bothered about the Palestinian application to the ICC – you would have thought Israel would welcome it – since if we are to believe the narrative, Israel employs hundreds of lawyers within its military to ensure it always observes the letter of international law, it has the most moral army in the entire universe, and only ever responds after patiently long-suffering the belligerence of terrorists who question its very right to exist within its proposed 1947 borders. So bring on the ICC – that will teach Hamas a real lesson and reveal to the entire world that Israel is squeaky clean and a light unto the world.

        One might question the morality underlying the bully-boy tactics of
        withholding funds that Israel committed to collect on behalf of the PA just to teach those Arabs a lesson (though of course collective punishment is a crime) but one also has to question the common-sense of the move (as Israel’s President Rivlen has already done). The PA has long been demonstrated to be the best solution to Israel’s security problem, so this action (Netanyahu appearing macho simply because elections are pending) seems incredibly short-sighted. But hang on – this would not be the Middle East were it not for collective myopia.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn4

          That is true. Israel did not breach the Oslo accords through the continued building of settlements. There was nothing in the accords that prevents that. However, the actions undertaken by the PA/PLO in applying to the UN and to the ICC are in fact explicit violations of the accords. None of this is changed by anything Kerry may have said. There was an agreement and the Palestinians are explicitly breaching it. There is no particular reason for Israel to continue abiding by that agreement.

          The PA maintains security because it knows that the alternative is a return to the conditions of the second intifada which were not great for the Palestinians. The PA is not doing Israel any favors in the matter. The idea that Israel needs to pay for this is stupid. The idea that Israel needs to persistently make concessions to the Palestinians for the Palestinians to continue ensuring that their people don’t go out to murder Israelis is insane and suicidal. The solution to Israel’s security problem is a peaceful Palestinian state living in peace and security next to Israel. As long as the PA/PLO continues to promote the narrative that Israel should be destroyed they can not be a constructive player for such an outcome. So, for all I care, let the PA/PLO collapse. The Palestinians will be far worse off than us were that to happen.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Oslo neither restricted nor permitted continued settlement building, but it did quite clearly specify (article XXXI-7): “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” How do you construe that as giving legitimacy for continued land-theft and transfer of civilians into the OPT? The Accords also specified (XXXI-5) that “Permanent status negotiations will commence as soon as possible, but not later than May 4, 1996, between the Parties. It is understood that these negotiations shall cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors, and other issues of common interest.” It is now almost 20 years later, and permanent status negotiations have got nowhere, so no-one can blame the Palestinians for seeking other non-violent avenues for advancing their statehood. The PA has been Israel’s security contractor, which role it performs much better than the IDF, because it is sincere about wanting to build a relationship of trust in which peace could progress. Even the much denigrated Hamas has for very long periods controlled other violent groups like Islamic Jihad to try to maintain peace, though scant gratitude has been returned. The PA/PLO certainly does not “continue to promote the narrative that Israel should be destroyed” but has conceded the legitimacy of Israeli rule in 78% of historic Palestine.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Bruce Gould

      At this point you might be asking yourself: why is there so little Palestinian violence? That’s right – why, relatively speaking, is it so low? (By the way, B’tselem faithfully records acts of violence committed by Palestinians – if you want stats on that sort of thing, just go to their website). Israeli journalist Amira Hass examines the question – since she’s lived among the Palestinians, perhaps we should pay attention to what she says: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.638375

      Reply to Comment
    3. C.C. DeVille

      Now may be a good time for Abbas to stop paying the families of terrorists and prisoners. As unpopular as this may be in Palisinian society.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        There is often two ways to kill a cat: if Israel stopped its illegal policies of targeted assassinations (under the pretext that every Palestinian is a terrorist) and detention without trial (usually on the basis of secret evidence the victim is not allowed to see) then the overheads of running the PA would immediately be reduced.

        Reply to Comment
    4. C.C. DeVille

      “under the pretext that every Palestinian is a terrorist)…”

      Why would you advocate such a bigoted ideology? Even the most dedicated foes of Palistinians would not argue such a platform

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        If my memory serves me correctly many apologists for last summer’s slaughter justified it on the basis that by living in an area ruled by Hamas women civilian and children had signed their own death warrants. What is it about the mentality of you people (“even the most dedicated foes”) that you have to interprete every dispute as war to the death? – kill or be killed – they are our enemies.

        Reply to Comment
        • C.C. DeVille

          No my putrid little interloper. Your memory failed you and your biases took over.
          Nobody ever said that the civilians deserved to die because of their inept rulers. Even those used as human shields died senselessly.

          Reply to Comment

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