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PHOTOS: Israel cuts off Palestinian power twice in one week

Photos and text by Ahmad Al-Bazz

At the height of a harsh winter season, the Israel Electric Company cut power to two major Palestinian cities in the West Bank twice over this past week. Nearly 650,000 people were left without power for an entire hour in the middle of the day in Jenin, Nablus and 18 villages in the area.

Vendors in Nablus are seen in the middle of a major power outage. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Vendors in Nablus are seen in the middle of a major power outage, February 25, 2015. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

The decision comes as a response the Palestinian Authority’s unpaid debt to the company, which totals some 1.9 billion shekels ($483 million). However, the Palestinian electricity company in the north of the West Bank claims that the numbers Israel provided are inflated, and that the decision to cut the power supply is strictly political, coming on the heels of the Israeli government’s decision to withhold the PA’s tax revenues. It is worth noting that according to the Oslo Accords and the Paris Protocols, the Palestinian Authority is required to buy its electricity from Israel.

A vendor in Nablus uses a candle in his store, after Israel Electric Company deliberately shut down power to the city and the surrounding area. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

A vendor in Nablus uses a candle in his store, after Israel Electric Company deliberately shut down power to the city and the surrounding area, February 25, 2015 (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights urgently contacted the CEO of Israel Electric Company and the head of the Civil Administration, demanding them to refrain from disconnecting West Bank cities from electricity. According to Adalah, cutting power leads to the violation of various constitutional rights, especially the right to life and health, and emphasized that these violations are only exacerbated by the fact that power was cut during a cold spell and an especially harsh winter.

In her letter to the Israel Electric Company and the Civil Administration, Attorney Sawsan Zaher from Adalah wrote that the Palestinian Authority’s debt to the electric company does not justify taking steps such as cutting off power from hundreds of thousands of people — especially in light of the fact that Israel Electric Company is the main source of power to the West Bank. Zahar further emphasized that, “since the West Bank is under full Israeli control and occupation, it has the obligation to maintain a decent life for the civilian population and take into account its well-being. Violating this obligation is a violation of Israel’s responsibility as an occupying power under both Israeli and international humanitarian law.

Adalah further noted fact that the CEO of the Israel Electric Company did not call to disconnect debtors in Israel due to difficult weather conditions, stating that “the reasonable conclusion is that disconnecting Palestinians from power was intended as collective punishment, which joins a list of steps taken against the Palestinian Authority in other realms.”

On Thursday, the Israel Electric Corporation agreed to stop cutting power to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for the Israeli government’s promise to use some of the Palestinian tax revenues it has been withholding to partially offset the PA’s debt.

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      If you do not pay your power bill, the utility company cuts off your power.

      Palestinians should pay their bills instead of investing in terrorism.

      Reply to Comment
      • Richard Lightbown

        Come to that how about the terrorist state of Israel pays compensation for blowing up the Gaza power station (again)?

        Then again there is rather a long list of vandalised projects that the terrorist state ought to be paying up on, all of which would pay the utility company’s bill many, many times over.

        Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Sheer unadulterated nonsense Pedro. The PA has an unpaid debt because Israel unilaterally suspended the payment to the PA of the transfer of revenues it collects for the PA. Please provide any evidence that the PA is investing in terrorism – it is on the contrary acting has an obsequious and subservient contractor in Israel occupation. The problem is the occupation, not terrorism.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jello

          You know and I know that the PA pays salaries to terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons depending on how severe their action was. The more Israelis a terrorist killed the higher the salary. That money could have been paying for electricity or for economic investment, but instead it was invested in rewarding those that engage in terrorism.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            You and I both know Jello that, in the words of British Minister for International Development, Alan Duncan: “The PA operates two social assistance programmes to provide welfare payments to households who have lost their main breadwinner. I hope you will also agree that dependent spouses or children should not be held responsible for the crimes of family members, or forced to live in poverty as a consequence.”

            Do you mean to say that when thousands of West Bank settlers are arrested and imprisoned by the IDF, sometimes without any trial or even knowing the charges against them, and often for non-violent “crimes” of political resistance or demonstrating, or on obviously trumped up charges, the Israeli state provides no welfare safety net to protect their families from hardship? I suppose your also going to tell me that such payments are universally condemned by right-wing bloggers as an intolerable incitement to political violence, terrorism, hate crimes and price-tag retaliation?

            Reply to Comment
          • Jello

            You and I both know that the PA pays salaries to terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons. Money that could have been used to pay the electricity bills.

            “under 2004 Palestinian legislation known as the Palestinian Law of the Prisoner, people convicted of terror offences are immediately placed on the Palestinian Authority payroll.”

            Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10790490/Palestinians-reward-terrorists-from-British-aid.html

            So, save your stupid obfuscations. It is completely explicit and the Palestinian do not deny it. They pay a salary to anyone that carries out attacks on Israelis.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Jello

      The PA hasn’t been paying its electricity bill. This has been true for years now and the debt keeps going up. At some point the electricity company is going to stop supplying freeloaders with electricity and we have reached that point now.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        My fellow American taxpayers: the U.S. helps pays Israel’s “electricity bill” with 3 billion a year in financial and military aid – why don’t we adjust that a little bit. We don’t want Israel to freeload off of us, do we?

        Reply to Comment
        • Bryan

          Agreed Bruce. The only thing worse than free-loaders with a sense of entitlement are free-loaders who accept the largesse of the American tax-payer and then bite the hand that feeds it (as we are about to see on Capitol Hill), free-loaders who accept gifts from America’s arsenal and then attempt to sell the same technology on to potentially hostile states, and free-loaders who accept the diplomatic immunity provided by the US SC veto and then selectively leak confidential information in order to undermine American policy, and free-loaders and their fifth-column allies who corrupt US democracy.

          Reply to Comment
          • Jello

            Go right ahead. Use all the legitimate means at your disposal to get the United States to change its policy and to abandon its allies. Your president has already started this work and all you have to do is support him.

            Reply to Comment

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