Page 1

The Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement Between People

N o n - Vi o l e n c e Ta x Resist a n c e


Non-Violent Tax-Resistance In Beit Sahour

By: Ghassan H. Andoni

August 1993

Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement Between People P.O.Box 24, Beit Sahour, Palestine Tel: +972-2-2772018 Fax: +972-2-2774602 E-mail: info@pcr.ps Web: www.pcr.ps

1


Table Of Contents: Subject

Page

Acknowledgement

3

Introduction

4

Objectives

4

Taxation In The 0. T. Beit Sahour As a Test Case

5

Introduction

5

Taxes and slow transfer

7

The legal bases for taxation in the Occupied Territories

8

Services in the Occupied Territories

10

Taxes and the Palestinian Intifada

12

The Tax Revolt in Beit Sahour

14

First Major Tax raid on Beit Sahour July 7, 1988

17

The crack down on Beit Sahour's Popular Committees

20

The second Tax raid on Beit Sahour, September 19, 1989

22

Palestinian Christians and the Intifada

27

An evaluation of the tax confrontation

29

Appendix " letter to Mr. George Bush"

33

Statement of Solidarity

35

A Call from Beit Sahour

36

Statement to the Public Opinion

38

New York Times Oct 29, 1989

39

Anthony Lewis " Abroad at Home"

41

The Principal " No Taxation Without Representation"

43

2


Acknowledgements The Palestinian Centre For Rapprochement Between People Would like to thank the Lutheran World Relief for their precious financial and moral support of its work. Their support made it possible for us to publish this book. We would like also to extend our thanks to Mr. John Lapp, the director of the Mennonite Central Committee in Jerusalem for his great help and support. We would like to acknowledge the support and the financial assistance of the Canadian Embassy and particularly his Excellency the Ambassador. We also thank Mr. Imad Al-Alrash for providing us with many of the photographs that are included in this book Above all we extend our admiration and appreciation to the people of Beit Sahour. Their commitment to peace and justice and their readiness to sacrifice and act peacefully opened a small window of hope in this troublesome area. Author: Ghassan Andoni

3


Introduction: Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement Between People (PCR) is a non-profit, nonaffiliate, non-political, and non-religious organization in the Occupied Palestinian town of Beit Sahour. PCR brings Palestinians and people from different nationalities, on a grass-root level, together to discuss and try to overcome stereotypes, prejudice, fears and promote learning among people in order to bring about a better understanding and readiness to advocate a just and peaceful solution for the Palestinian cause. The emphasis of PCR work is to facilitate dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. PCR started its activities since April 1988. Since 1990 the PCR has been formally registered under the auspices of the Mennonite Central Committee in Jerusalem.

Objectives: - Helps enhancing the chances for a just and peaceful Palestinian cause; - Works against the existing Palestinian image;

solution

stereotypes and prejudice

that

to

the

affect

the

- Provides for human interaction in which Palestinians will be exposed to different cultures, norms, and mentalities; - Provides first Territories;

hand

information

about

Palestinians

and

the

Occupied

- Helps in lobbying for and defending human and civil rights in the Occupied Territories, - Creates opportunities for a democratic communal Palestinians;

4

interaction

among


Taxation In The Occupied Territories Beit Sahour As A Test Case Introduction: Taxation in the Occupied Territories is an oppressive tool used by the occupation authorities to achieve political, demographic and ideological goals. Since the beginning of the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Israeli military government has completely changed realities to suit its political and military ambitions regarding Palestine and the Middle East. Arguments for a secure Jewish state or for a Jewish state in the greater land of Israel are demands for more land and fewer non-Jewish residents. More land: A greater Jewish presence in the newly occupied land and fewer nonJewish (Palestinian) residents have been the basic objectives of each Israeli government, since 1967. Regardless of who is in power, "Labour or Likud", land confiscation, the building of settlements, and the continued work to push more Palestinians east of the Jordan river are the main activities of Israel in the Occupied Territories. Settlement activities and land confiscation are well known to Palestinians and have been condemned by peace and justice leaders and organizations around the world, but attempts to gradually transfer Palestinians by various means are not as easily recognized as such. When Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 the majority of the Palestinian population were farmers living in villages and working in their lands. Israel managed to destroy the Palestinian agricultural sector through the following steps: 1) Intensive land confiscation, including much of the most fertile, privatelyowned land, thereby reducing the area of cultivated lands in the Occupied Territories. 2) The West Bank and Gaza market were opened to all Israeli products allowing a one-way exchange of goods, while denying Palestinians their right to free trade. Rain fed Palestinian farm products could not compete with the advanced intensive farming techniques in Israel. 3) Palestinian farmers were encouraged to join the unskilled, cheap labour force that was in great demand by Israeli industrialists and contractors. 4) Water resources were placed completely under the control of Israel, and Palestinian farmers were neither provided with adequate amounts of water nor allowed to dig for water on their private lands. As a result of these policies, Palestinian society has become highly dependent on the cheap labour market in Israel, a source of employment and income which is neither secure nor assuring for them. Moreover, they have become highly dependent on a government that not only occupies and oppresses them, but also plans to gradually eliminate them entirely from their own country.

5


For the Israeli authorities, the destruction of Palestinian peasant society was essential to loosen the tight roots of the Palestinian community to its land. In other words, Palestinians began to give way to slow transfer pressures and felt less and less rooted to their land. The transfer of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories is being accomplished with the implementation of various economic, psychological, social, and security pressures which have forced 25,000 Palestinians to leave the Occupied Territories every year. Most of those transferred are male adults between 20 and 45 years old, "the cream of the Palestinians crop". They represent the work force so badly needed to build a strong Palestinian economy. During the 20 years period between 1967 and 1987, half a million Palestinians lost their residency rights in the Occupied Territories. Palestinians were subjected to two major emigration waves: one during the 1948 war when 800,000 Palestinians were forced off their land; the second was during the 1967 war, when 350,000 Palestinians were forced out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The slow transfer policy added another 500,000 Palestinians to the list of homeless Palestinians. During the first 20 years of Israeli occupation, though Israel claimed to be administering a democratic occupation and that Palestinians showed little resistance, 600,000 imprisonment cases were registered in the Occupied Territories (according to Israeli official figures) for security reasons. Almost one third of the population served a sentence term in prison. In other words, almost every single working adult male had been incarcerated in one of the extremely unpleasant occupation jails. If the occupation is a democratic one, and if Palestinians have shown no resistance to it, then the only acceptable reason for the collective, indiscriminate detention of Palestinians is to apply pressures on them to force them to leave the country. This is one clear example of the hidden objectives of the occupation policy in the Occupied Territories. Having these hidden transfer objectives in mind, one can easily understand why no banks are allowed to function, no licenses for industrial projects issued, no basic development on the infrastructure allowed, and no improvement on the educational, health, and social service systems are implemented in the Occupied Territories. Adding to these pressures are the confiscation of 65% of the land, a fast-growing number of Israeli settlements, the illegal consumption of 85% of West Bank water resources, a punitive tax system, and the denial of family re-unification rights in the Occupied Territories. A slow transfer policy appeared to be efficient to the policy makers in Israel and because it was a covert policy it did not bring additional criticisms against Israel. What may have begun as an experiment in the sixties became the official policy of all consecutive Israeli governments. Since the early years of the eighties, channels of emigration to the Gulf area and other potential emigration targets were almost totally blocked and the continuity of the Israeli policy resulted in the internal explosion of the Palestinian community in the Occupied Territories. This explosion is well known as the Palestinian Intifada.

6


Taxes and Slow Transfer: A study conducted by the Coordinating Committee of International NGOs (CCINGO) and presented in a press conference on June 19, 1991 mentioned that: "Punitive tax policies, which constitute the chief obstacle to economic development, undercut the competitive edge of Palestinian enterprises". Since the early beginning of the Israeli occupation, the tax department in the Occupied Territories was militarized. Even when the Civil Administration was created, late in the seventies, the tax department kept enjoying the authority of an army unit. Tax collectors can arrest, confiscate, breakthrough and use force without the requirement of a court order. Tax departments are civil departments all over the world except in the Occupied Territories. One wonders why? Is it a security issue?. The undeclared policy behind creating this severe taxation system in the Occupied Territories is not strange in the history of the Zionist movement in the Holy Land. In Benny Morris' famous book, "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949" he wrote: "In a meeting for the Jewish Agency 1938 ...., Eliahu Berlin, a leader of the Knesset of Yisrael religious party, suggested that "taxes should be increased so that Arabs will flee because of the taxes". The same method is implemented today to achieve the same goal. Heavy taxation meant, in reality, the systematic destruction of the existing Palestinian economic infrastructure and an obstacle to any future Palestinian enterprise. If the burden of the licensing system of newly initiated businesses is added to it, then the Occupied Territories can only serve as a source for the needed cheap labour and a captive market for Israel. It is worth mentioning that getting a license to start a new businesses in the Occupied Territories is next to impossible. The example of the cement factory project in the Hebron area, initiated by local businessmen in cooperation with a Belgium company, is a good indication of the licensing policy. This project has been waiting for the Israeli permit since 1978. As a result of the systematic slow transfer policy, Palestinians are forced to look for job and business opportunities elsewhere. Many went to the wealthy Gulf states to insure a decent income needed to feed and raise their families. The authorities encouraged this attitude by issuing a three year permission for any Palestinian who wanted to leave the country. Most of the people who left kept coming back every three years to renew their permissions and to preserve their residency rights. Finally, the occupation authorities, which enjoy unlimited power in offering or denying travel permits, faced those people with a hard choice: Either leave for good or stay and lose their jobs and income outside. Many abandoned their interests in the Gulf area, where they had decent jobs and children in good schools and came home to face an

7


unknown future with limited opportunities. Those who where forced to stay out ended up as refugees in Jordan after the Gulf crisis.

The Legal Basis for Taxation in the Occupied Territories: A vast variety of laws are in force in the Occupied Territories. The Ottoman law, the British mandate temporary laws, parts of the Jordanian law, parts of the Israeli law, parts of the International law, and 1,300 military orders— all in use in the Occupied Territories. Each of these has certain advantages to the occupation authorities in controlling the Occupied Territories and in conducting their policies. The Ottoman law is mainly used to identify land ownership. The British mandate law is the source of administrative detention orders, Israeli law is the law to enforce the settlements, Jordanian law is used to define the minimum income for tax payment, and International law is used to enforce the value added tax (VAT).The military orders cover all other required activities by the occupation authorities. Military orders are easy to issue and implement. It only needs the signature of an officer and the approval of the legal adviser to become a law in force. 70% of the military orders are concerned with taxes, economic and land issues. Military orders are used primarily to change the structure and nature of laws in force to suit the occupation policy. In the Occupied Territories, it is assumed that international law takes precedence over all other laws. This law is comprised of the regulations annexed to the Hague Convention IV of 1907 (hereafter "The Hague Regulations") and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. According to the International law the basis for tax law in the Occupied Territories is the Jordanian tax law of 1964. Since 1967 the military authorities have passed hundreds of military orders which have legal power to expand and override existing laws (the laws in force). Military orders related to the tax system resulted in the following major changes in the structure of the Jordanian law: 1) The income brackets subject to different rates of tax have been altered by changing them from the Jordanian Dinar (JD) to the shekel, thereby reducing the volume of brackets. 2)

The tax rates charged on these brackets have increased by 10%.

3) New taxes have been applied in the Occupied Territories while not applied in Israel. 4) Following the 1967 Occupation, appeal to the court of cessation was terminated in so far as residents of the Occupied Territories were concerned. Subsequently, under military order # 109, all powers of the income tax appeal court were transferred to Ramallah district military court.

8


5) Tax personnel were given authority to use excessive power over imprisonment and confiscation procedures and are authorized to "overcome all resistance", and to break into buildings and property "by force", in order to obtain goods and equipment belonging to the debtor. According to the Hague regulations and accepted legal opinion, an occupant may collect tax on two conditions: firstly, all revenue collected shall be returned to occupied territory, and secondly, taxes shall be collected in accordance with international law. Failure to comply with these conditions deprives the occupant of the legal basis for tax collection. Throughout the years of occupation the Israeli authorities have been showing bad faith and irresponsibility in their administration of taxes to the severe detriment of the occupied population. They have refused to publish the full budget of the Occupied Territories showing all sources of revenue and items of expenditure contrary to local and international law. They failed to follow minimum internationally accepted standards of due process in the assessment and concerns of the local residents that all revenue collected be invested for the benefit of the local Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories. The sum of these violations is that the authorities have failed to comply with the two conditions listed above, and consequently, current attempts to collect payments from individuals and groups in the Occupied Territories are simply "ultra vires", or without legal effect. The changes effected by the Israeli authorities in the incidence and assessment of taxes contravene article 48 of the Hague regulations. Neither the dismantling of the system of appeal courts, nor the radical change in the periods for which tax is assessed, nor the drastic increase in the burden of tax can be justified by changing economic circumstances or security needs. In fact, the reverse is perhaps more likely, that a fair system of taxation reduces the incentive to evade payments and therefore serve both the security interests of the occupant and the economic interests of the local inhabitants. Nor have the Israeli authorities respected the fiscal principles of equality and social justice contained in local law, or the requirement that citizens should not be taxed beyond their ability to pay. The fact that these principles are set out in the fundamental instrument of the local law, the Jordanian Constitution, makes their abandonment all the more grave. In approving the implementation of the value added tax (VAT) in the Occupied Territories in 1982, the Supreme Court of Justice in Israel ruled as follows: 1) When an indirect customs tax is imposed in Israel, it is impractical that it is not imposed in the Occupied Territories since there are no customs boarders between these territories and Israel. 2)

The imposition of this tax would benefit the local Palestinian population.

After more than 10 years of strict imposition and militarized tax collection, it can now be proved that taxes are not "for the benefit of the local population". To meet the test

9


of benefiting the local population, the authorities have to demonstrate the good faith and the responsibility of the taxation policy. The fact that no full budget indicating all sources of revenue and items of expenditure of the Occupied Territories has been published since the occupation is by itself contrary to the requirements of the local and international law. Further, this creates profound concerns on whether all the revenue collected has been invested for the benefit of the local occupied population. In a study by Meron Ben-Vinisty, an Israeli researcher, he concluded that one billion dollars was transferred from the Occupied Territories budget to the Israeli budget in the first 20 years of the occupation.

Additionally the Israeli practices of militarizing the process of tax collection in the Occupied Territories and the disrespect of the minimum internationally accepted standards of due process in the assessment and collection shed serious doubt on whether these taxes are actually "for the benefit of the local population". Inequality of taxes imposed on the Occupied Territories and Israel (a Palestinian pays triple the amount paid by an Israeli) is by itself a violation to the Supreme Court decision taken, as indicated in the mentioned case. Within the structure of the occupying power there is not any system that has the credibility to administer taxes, which is contrary to the local and international law. It should be clear that the system of tax collection in the Occupied Territories not only cannot be justified, but further more it demonstrates a clear prospect and effective means of the indirect transfer policy adopted by the occupation power.

Services In The Occupied Territories: Occupation is a profitable enterprise for the Israeli authorities for the following reasons: 1) Ail the 120,000 Palestinian workers in Israel provide an important source of cheap labor needed by the Israeli economy. They do not benefit from any social or health insurance, yet they are taxed in Israel and only Israelis benefit from their tax payments. On the contrary all Israelis working or settling in the Occupied Territories pay taxes to Israel and according to Israeli law. 2) According to tax tables in the Occupied Territories and Israel, a Palestinian family with four children starts paying income tax from a monthly income of 600 NIS ($ 240) while an Israeli equivalent family starts paying at 2590 NIS ($ 1040). The tax gap expands even more widely as the monthly income increases. It is worth mentioning that those tax tables were issued by the authorities to "encourage investment in the Occupied Territories" and distributed by the Israeli delegation in the Madrid conference. 3) All Israeli products have access to the Occupied Territories, while most of Occupied Territories products are not allowed to be marketed in Israel. It is a one way traffic of goods. The Occupied Territories are the second major captive market for Israeli products.

10


4) Most of the infrastructure needed by settlers in the settlements in the Occupied Territories are paid for by Palestinians through collected taxes. Moreover the so called "Civil Administration" network and personnel are paid through taxes collected from the Occupied Territories. The Civil Administration runs the occupation in the Occupied Territories and consists of army officers, soldiers and a few civil employees.

Comparison between taxes in the Occupied Territories and Israel

Income Tax Israel & OPT

Monthly income NIS (x100]

5) Services: All employees in the public sector in the Occupied Territories receive minimum wages (average of 800 NIS). The public sector has been deteriorating during the occupation times. In the health sector, for example, the number of hospital beds in the Occupied Territories declined from 2,220 in 1967 to 1,781 in 1992, while the population increased from 0.96 million to 2.0 millions during the same period. The infant mortality rate in the Occupied West Bank is 50/1000 compared to 11.2/1000 in Israel. The budget of one Israeli hospital, namely Ikhilof hospital in Tel Aviv, is two times the budget of all the 14 governmental hospitals of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians are forced to seek external sources of funding to build private hospitals and clinics to cover the minimum need of the local community. Permits required to build a hospital or a clinic or to get money from external resources is a major obstacle put before Palestinian private enterprise. Education in the public sector is below the red line since the early beginning of the occupation. Shortage of schools and classrooms is a chronic problem. Employment is almost in freeze since 1967. Most local university graduates are denied employment in the public education sector for "security" reasons. Private schools are not capable of absorbing more than 5% of the students.

11


Industry is faced with heavy taxation, security and licensing procedures. Agriculture is lacking markets and subsidy. Tourism is lacking the fundamental services. Palestinians are not allowed to work as tour guides and its tourism industry is on the verge of collapsing. Municipalities have no money to pay their employees. There is confusion over whether a road is a Palestinian town road, a road leading to a settlement or a town in Israel proper. The mayors spend most of their time trying to convince the authorities to issue them "a permit" to try to collect grants from external resources. The only "high-quality services" provided by the occupation authorities to the Palestinian local community are: detention camps, prisons, tear gas "made in U.S.A.", newly invented guns and bullets, home demolition, fast deportations, land confiscation, and the build-up of Israeli settlements everywhere around them. Until recently most of Israelis believed that Palestinians were happy with the Israeli Occupation. Many of them are still arguing that Israeli occupation, contrary to other occupations, works hard to civilize Palestinians, raising their standard of living. They have for the first time in their lives refrigerators, TV and video sets, and above all the authorities have built four universities for the Palestinians. Palestinians are well known to be hard workers wherever they are. It is close to a miracle that they managed to survive the occupation pressures. It should be known that Israel paid not a single penny for the benefit of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. On the contrary, they did everything possible to block any local initiative to improve the living conditions for the local Palestinian community. The only thing they have done is to sign a piece of paper, "a permit", after a lengthy and tedious routine, to allow Palestinians to try to raise funds for their own projects. All Palestinian universities were created with Palestinian and Arab capital. The same applies to every single other local project. A realistic comparison between development in Jordan (a small, poor country with no resources) and the Occupied Territories in the last 20 years reveals the tragic situation in the Occupied Territories. Even the occupation authorities cannot deny that the Occupied Territories are on the verge of a sever catastrophe.

Taxes and the Palestinian Intifada: Since the beginning of the Intifada, the tax issue was high on the Palestinian list of complaints. Merchants, businessmen, workers and employees were demanding a solution to the unfair tax system. Since the first leaflet distributed by the Unified Leadership of the Intifada there was a call to Palestinians to boycott the Israeli tax department. This demand echoed loudly among Palestinians for the following reasons: 1) Taxes paid to occupiers are never justified. In principle people believed in the original American slogan, "no taxation without representation". It was part of their national pride and a commitment to their national identity.

12


2) Heavy, unjustified taxes left people incapable of paying as taxes are used as punitive measures against them. It was natural for them to boycott the tax department. Most of the people boycotted all the Civil Administration departments and Palestinians who were employed in those departments were called upon to resign. 3) Both popular resistance and Israeli oppression were intensified during the Intifada. In the eyes of Palestinians, it was not justifiable on the human and moral level to finance the bullets that are aimed at them and their kids. 4) Palestinians were forced to pay taxes to cover hostile activities against them and their brother Palestinians in diaspora. Taxes for the safety of the Galilee were "collected to finance the Israeli invasion of Lebanon", a Stone Tax "to cover the expenses of shattered windows of army jeeps and settlers' cars", an absorption tax "to finance absorbing the new Russian immigrants and housing them, sometimes on land confiscated from Palestinians. And recently the Scud Tax "aimed to reconstruct the buildings hit by the Iraqi missiles during the Gulf war. 5) Palestinians were getting no services in return for their taxes, except more oppression and harassment. 6) Many Palestinians were advocating the move towards civil disobedience and for them boycotting tax payments is one step on the way. With the idea widespread and getting more acceptance among the local community, an added tough and painful confrontation existed in the battlefield. In practical terms Palestinians stopped going to the tax department office, stopped submitting monthly reports and the Palestinian tax department employees resigned. Beit Sahour was the town to initiate the idea and was the one to hold the taxation revolt flag. With all the unlimited punitive measures in the hands of the tax department and the occupation authorities this struggle needed courage, solidarity, and readiness to sacrifice. The authorities started intimidating people to pay their taxes by different means:

1) By direct physical pressure; including imprisonment, properties, harassment and limitation on the freedom of movement.

confiscation

of

2) The authorities linked all aspects of life for individuals in the Occupied Territories with a clearance statement from the tax department. This included licensing of cars, birth certificates, import and export permissions, burial permission, movement between different areas inside the Occupied Territories, travel abroad, and the purchase of raw materials for factories. 3) Stationing permanent and random army and tax collection check points at roads linking Palestinian towns and cities with lists of debtors' names. At those

13


checkpoints the ID's, the cars, and the pocket money of the debtors are confiscated, and in some instances debtors are arrested on the spot. 4) Wide spread taxation raids against an entire town or city. Collective punishment through curfews, imprisonment of a huge number of residents, and usage of intimidation and excessive force were employed in those raids. The painful struggle between the occupation authorities, armed with unlimited oppressive measures, and local Palestinians, armed with their unity and determination have started. It is a new dimension of the Intifada. It is a struggle of will and readiness to sustain pain and losses. It is not a two hour clash in the streets between the Shabab (young men) and the army. It is a test for the whole community.

The Tax Revolt In Beit Sahour: Beit Sahour got its name in ancient times, when shepherds used to stop here to picnic; the name could be loosely translated as the house where people stay up at night. Its old stone houses, handed down from one generation to another, are built on gentle hills intercepted by terraced green patches planted with wheat and vegetables. Beit Sahour is about a 20 minute drive from Jerusalem where many residents worked until the Intifada began to loosen their economic, social, and political ties to Israel. It is 10 minutes from Efrat, a big settlement for Jews who claim the West Bank as part of Israel. In sharp contrast to the neat streets of Efrat, Beit Sahour's walls are overwhelmed with the menacing graffiti of the Intifada. At night Israeli soldiers wake up residents to paint over the slogans, knowing they will be back on the walls the day after. The Jerusalem Post described the Intifada in Beit Sahour as "A quiet kind of an Intifada". In the New Outlook October 1989, Cherly Beckerman wrote:" The Palestinian town of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem (Population 12,000 ) is engaging in a different kind of Intifada. It has taken up the flag of non-violence civil disobedience against the Israeli occupation. Referred to by some of its residents as the "Japan of the West Bank "because of its highly educated, independent and enterprising population, the predominantly Christian Beit Sahour is known for its close ties with Israelis including an ongoing dialogue with Jewish peace activists from Jerusalem". With their city-type life, people of Beit Sahour preserved their village social relations. Extending originally from five major families who settled there hundreds of years ago, they kept strong family ties. Modernization and tradition coexist harmoniously in the town and provide the community with a tremendous sense of solidarity, unity, and involvement. During the Intifada, Beit Sahour was a suitable soil for cooperative popular work in defying the Israeli occupation. "Beit Sahour's social structure blends moderation with tradition and is characterized by overlapping urban and rural lifestyles. Further, traditional social structures, dominated by the hamula (clan) system, and modern political structures also combine to produce a confusing array of socialization patterns. Nevertheless, it is

14


here suggested that this mixture contributed significantly to Beit Sahour's relative success in its tax campaign". {2} Shortly after the Intifada when the Unified National Leadership (UNL) leaflets issued in early 1988 made references to refusing to pay taxes to the Civil Administration, residents of Beit Sahour responded immediately and wholehearted. Sahourians felt partially responsible for the UNL's pronouncements on this issue because merchants in the town had been quite vocal in their support of a tax campaign in the town since the Intifada started. As such, in February, 1988, Sahourians began refusing to pay both income and VAT taxes to the Civil Administration and stopped submitting monthly reports. The slogan of "no taxation without representation" was first raised in the Occupied Territories by them. Based on local initiatives, the people of Beit Sahour adopted the non-violence civil disobedience strategy to confront the occupation's oppressive policies. Neighborhood committees, backyard farming, alternative popular education, alternative police force, peaceful popular rallies, ongoing dialogues with Israelis, popular boycott of Israeli products and the tax resistance make up the complete picture of the Intifada in Beit Sahour.

Kids learning at one of the 35 Popular schools in Beit Sahour The example of Beit Sahour looked terrifying to the Israeli authorities. In the words of then Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin: "We are going to teach them a lesson there, and no consuls will demonstrate and no Faisal Husseini will hold press conferences. There will not be any attempt to not pay taxes. Even if it has to take a month, in the end they will collapse. We will not let this kind of civil disobedience succeed, and we have to pass through this test. We should tell them: forget it, even if the curfew on Beit Sahour lasts two months".

15


Dialogue session in Beit Sahour

Popular Committees, community work

First Major Tax Raid on Beit Sahour on July 7, 1988 At 4:30 a.m. about 300 Israeli troops stormed into the town. The soldiers burst into the homes of leading merchants and confiscated their identification cards and their cars and ordered them to assemble in the local school yard, which was turned into a temporary tax department and army base. Inside the school classrooms they were harshly interrogated and ordered to pay an arbitrary amount of tax debts. Each of them was given a payment bill to be paid within a week. The campaign was accompanied with severe brutality and mistreatment that resulted in an unexpected reaction from the people of Beit Sahour. At 10:00 a.m. hundreds of town residents gathered in front of the municipality building. In protest against this barbaric raid, they started submitting their ID's, issued by the occupation authorities, to the acting Mayor in order for him to deliver them

16


back to the military governor. Clergy, merchants, heads of local institutes, educators, and other prominent figures in the town, turned in their ID's along with the rest of the towns people. In practice, ID's are a major source of humiliation for Palestinians. In order to force a Palestinian to paint graffiti on the wall, to force him to clear the streets of road blocks or to bring down a Palestinian flag hung on an electric pole, or to force him to appear before the military governor or the tax department office, soldiers will first confiscate his ID. Despite the pain and humiliation of having to carry an ID, Palestinians have carried them as they provide the only documentation providing them with the residency rights. It is a nightmare for a Palestinian to lose his ID. He looses his right to stay in his land and can end up as a refugee somewhere. Each Palestinian keeps his ID as "a source of pain and humiliation" in his pocket, near his heart, worried about the idea of losing it. By throwing away their ID's, the people of Beit Sahour affirmed that the occupation authorities lost their legitimacy as the recognized controlling power in the Occupied Territories. In other words, delivering back their ID's was an extraordinary step. For Palestinians, it could mean being accused of illegally residing in the Occupied Territories and as a consequence being deported by force. "It worried the Israelis immensely because the identity card was the backbone of the Civil Administration's control over the population. Without it, the Israelis would have no way of monitoring the population and controlling Palestinian movement If such a tactic caught on and spread throughout the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Israelis would have been confronted with the prospect of a complete breakdown in their authority". {2} By the end of the day thousands of Beit Sahour residents were gathering in front of the municipality building facing hundreds of Israeli soldiers who surrounded the place. All the payment bills, delivered to the merchants in the school yard, were collected and burned in the sight of the soldiers. At 5:00 p.m. the soldiers reacted by first ordering the Palestinians gathered at the municipality to disperse. The group refused and opted instead to sit down in front of the soldiers, a peaceful strike that lasted for hours. Exasperated, the soldiers reacted violently, firing their weapons (tear gas grenades and rubber bullets) over the heads of the people, and arresting those they could apprehend, typically Sahourians stationed at the front of the sit-in. Loudspeakers announced a curfew on the town, while the shooting continued. Finally the crowd was forced to disperse and the soldiers burst into the municipality building arresting the ones found inside. The authorities took all the ID's delivered to the Municipality and called for a meeting with the acting Mayor and municipal board at midnight. During the meeting the military governor threatened to immediately deport 50 selected prominent figures from the town and considered any resident still without an identity card to be an infiltrator subject to banishment from the West Bank, if the ID's

17


were not given back to the people of Beit Sahour before sunrise. He ordered the acting mayor to deliver ID's to individuals at their homes. Starting at midnight, the acting Mayor went from home to home giving back the ID's to the people. The curfew prevented the existence of the minimum required coordination between the residents to come up with a unified position. Individuals accepted their ID's then those who had been arrested inside the municipality were released, but the curfew continued for 11 days.

Seiged inside the home during the curfew

For 11 continuous days, ten thousand people were locked inside their homes, not allowed even to look through their windows. Soldiers moving inside the town shot at any moving target. The serious shortage of food and medicine did not convince the army to lift the curfew even for a limited period of time. Thanks to the backyard farming project, people were able to survive 11 long days. With the backyard farming project people were encouraged to grow all kinds of vegetables in their gardens and to raise chickens and rabbits. People found food in reach, in their backyard, during the curfew. Many stories of soldiers vandalizing the crops in the gardens and stealing chickens and rabbits were registered during the curfew. The first day, the curfew was lifted people rushed to the markets to get food and medicine and to visit their relatives and friends. Admon Ghanem, a 17 year old boy, was moving to the town centre to buy food for his family. Passing under a permanent military observation point, located at the top of a four story building, he did not look up to see the death coming to him in the form of a 25 kg stone thrown directly at his head. 18


The stone smashed his head and he died on the spot. Soldiers claimed that the stone was dropped by accident due to the winds. Local people witnessed soldiers were gambling among themselves whether the stone would hit the kid or miss him if dropped while he was moving on his way. They were playing Russian roulette. The weather that day was nice,with a cold breeze. The soldiers were not questioned or detained. The shock of Admond's death, "the first martyr in the town" was much more significant than the 11 days of curfew. People went angrily into the streets demanding that his body should be delivered to his family and that he should get a decent funeral. The army failed to impose a curfew again on the town and Admon was buried at midnight after a funeral attended by every person in town. After the funeral shocked people went back to their homes unable to believe what had happened. They were awakened from their shock with loudspeakers announcing another curfew on the town. The curfew was lifted five days later and the authorities realized that it was not going to be easy to defeat such a united and organized community. Delivering the ID's back saved Beit Sahour major tax confrontations with the authorities for more than one year. The message reached the authorities that no matter what you do we have the power and the determination to fight back. Up until September 1989, except of few individual harassment cases, the tax department kept away from Beit Sahour. "The painful confrontation ended with a tactical victory for the Sahourians. While they took back their identity cards, they nevertheless continued refusing to pay their taxes and sent the Israelis a serious message regarding the town's capacity for non-violence resistance". {1}

The crack down on Beit Sahour 's popular committees: Since the early days of the Intifada, people of Beit Sahour worked hard to organize their community. This work was needed to make the people steadfast under the hardships of intensive harassment, to share the suffering, to organize non-violence community 19


resistance and to achieve the highest degree of unity and solidarity within the local community. During 1988, more than 40 neighborhood committees were elected in the neighborhoods of the town. Many other specialized committees were initiated, such as: the agricultural committee, the educational committee, Health committee, The dialogue group, and the Merchants committee. A coordination committee was formed to coordinate the work of all different committees. "It is important to note that, before the Intifada, the activities of these committees, all of which represent classic examples of non-violence resistance in the form of institution building, were not forbidden by any existing military orders. Further, the head of the Civil Administration said in 1988 that no punitive measures would be taken against popular committees which did not engage in or incite violence. However, the success of these institutions presented the army with a near total breakdown in its authority in Beit Sahour. Therefore, the IDF decided to undertake punitive measures to repress the committees". {1} On March 1989, Mr. Rabin, the Israeli defense minster at that time, declared all popular committees as illegal and issued a military order by which membership of popular committees became subject to a maximum of ten years imprisonment. Even Before Rabin's declaration, many neighborhood committee activists were subject to continuous harassment by the authorities. Activists of the agricultural committee were the first to spend a six-month period in detention camps under administrative detention orders. In July, 1989, the major campaign against the popular committees in Beit Sahour started. In a TV interview Mr. Shiki Erize, the head of the occupation Civil Administration, announced the arrest of the leaders of the popular committees in Beit Sahour and accused them of working to take over his authority in the town. The real aim of the continuing arrest campaigns against popular committee activists was to prepare the ground for the second tax raid on the town which took place in September 1989. The authorities decided to crack down on the social organizational structure of Beit Sahour before the start of the second round. For many Israelis, especially the ones running the occupation, Palestinians are not civilized to the extent of developing individual and collective principles for themselves and fighting to defend them. For them Palestinians are only moved by the incitement or the intimidation of terror groups. So in order for the authorities to keep order and law in the Occupied Territories they should use firm collective deterrent measures to prevent Palestinians from being mobilized by terror groups. This racist attitude contributed much to Israeli failure in understanding the Intifada and in working against it. According to the analysis of the authorities, terrorists and organizational leaders were in prison, the people of Beit Sahour were alone and helpless, so now was the time to crack down on them. It would not take more than 48 hours for them to queue in front of the tax department office.

20


The 2nd Tax Raid on Beit Sahour September 19, 1989: In an Information packet on Beit Sahour issued by the Palestinian Human Rights Information Centre on October 31, 1989 the following appeared:" Since September 19, 1989, Beit Sahour has been besieged by hundreds of Israeli troops. A new military compound has been set up near Shepherds Field for interrogations and rapid enforcement of military orders. What began as a campaign to enforce payment of taxes has become a full-scale military campaign against the residents of Beit Sahour aimed at destroying the city's economy, breaking bones, detaining even children, and pillaging stores, factories and homes". After a five-day curfew (from September 19 to 24) was lifted, a nightly curfew from 5 pm to 5 am was imposed. Checkpoints and observation posts on house roofs were established at 100 meter intervals throughout the town. One purpose of the posts was to intercept urgently needed food stuffs, which had not been allowed into the town since September 22. Soldiers cooperated with tax officials in checking the identity cards of any residents entering or leaving the town. Another purpose of the posts was to monitor the movement of residents. The wholesale confiscation of goods from stores and factories had been met by the merchants1 total refusal to pay taxes. The authorities had been unable to force any resident to negotiate with them or pay even trivial amounts to regain their property. The campaign moved from shops to homes, where in some cases almost the entire content of homes was carted into trucks and driven away, reportedly for auction in Israel. The authorities issued a flyer to convince the residents to cooperate, and tax men also attempted to bargain for return of confiscated property by offering trivial amounts for tax payments (e.g. $50) to those who had been assessed thousands of dollars. The authorities' policy did not yield any results, despite the severe pressures exerted on the residents, who were placed under complete siege with a systematic policy of pillaging, beating, and arrests. Telephone lines were cut off and entry of press and solidarity groups was prohibited. In an unprecedented action in the history of the town, even religious leaders were banned from entering the city on October 27 in order to conduct prayers with the predominantly Christian residents". Army intimidation and harassment of the Sahourian middle class entrepreneurs went so far that the IDF knowingly and willfully violated its own High Court ruling. This is evidenced by the fact that one pharmacist, Elias Rishmawi, had obtained an injunction from the Israeli High Court stipulating that the tax authorities must give ten days notice before attaching any of his property. However, less than ten days after receiving notice of overdue taxes, soldiers appeared outside Rishmawi's home and store and loaded goods and equipment worth approximately $150,000 onto military lorries. Despite Rishmawi having proffered the court order to the soldiers, his drugs were kept outside for hours after which the blazing summer sun rendered them unusable.

21


During the 42 days of siege, hundreds of residents were arrested, many not related to the tax issue. Detainees were used by the authorities as hostages, offering their release in exchange for tax payment. Debtors where arrested in the night and brought to their shops and homes the next day to witness the confiscations. Most of confiscated properties were damaged during loading in the trucks, other confiscated food and medicine stuff was damaged due to long storage in metal containers under the hot summer sun. This indicated that the aim of the raid was not to collect the tax debts, but to destroy and punish. Brutality and ill-treatment marked every minute of this operation. Unnecessary beating, arrest of debtors and others, physical torture against detainees during arrest and interrogation, and deliberate humiliation of residents during the confiscation procedures, are examples of such brutality, even though residents showed no resistance against tax collectors. One resident said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post on September 29, 1989, describing detention conditions:

The Largest grocery shop in the town before the Tax raid

The Largest grocery shop in the town after the Tax raid

22


"In the Middle Ages, jails were better. Seventy people in one small room, using their shoes for pillows - you can imagine the situation. A cup of rice was thrown on the floor. That was our lunch. Each tomato was divided into five". In all cases of confiscation, the amount of confiscated items far exceeded the required debt. Tax collectors insisted on confiscating workshop and production tools and machines so that the debtor would have no chance to start business again. Many houses where evacuated completely, refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, bedrooms, TV and video sets, and children's toys were confiscated. Many kids returned to empty homes.

Property Confiscation in Beit Sahour Many people tried to convince tax collectors and soldiers that there was no need for brutality and ill-treatment as nobody was resisting the confiscation process. Soldiers responded with more brutality and harassment. Four heart strokes attributed to ill-treatment were registered. Many were admitted to hospitals after being beaten severely by soldiers. In many cases relatives of debtors were subject to confiscation without any justification. As time proceeded, and the campaign did not force people to agree on paying taxes, tax collectors and soldiers lost their temper and brutality reached an unlimited scale

Peaceful protest against the tax raid in Beit Sahour

23


After 42 days of siege, brutality, and tax raids, the Israeli authorities lifted the siege of Beit Sahour claiming that the operation achieved its goals. In a press release they said: "All persons who owed taxes had either paid them, had their property confiscated or been arrested during the five week confrontation". "After the siege ended, residents emerged into the streets, dancing, singing, and cheering their "Victory" over the IDF. Despite having their economic infrastructure decimated, the town felt it had achieved a victory for not having succumbed to the siege by lining up to anxiously pay their taxes as the Civil Administration had earlier predicted. Rather, not only did many residents continue refusing to pay their taxes, but Beit Sahour continued its non-violence resistance by declaring a 100 day commercial strike. Shops stayed closed from November 1989 until February 1, 1990 when "normal" business resumed". {1}

A soldier beating a Palestinian teenager during Kelt Sahour celebration of the reopening of their town In a press release, the people of Beit Sahour affirmed that no one had paid taxes to the authorities, and estimated the amount of property confiscated at $ 5 million and called for a prayer for peace on the 5tn of November, to which Christians, Moslems as well as Jews were invited. Four days later, in an effort to squash the pre-organized "Prayer For Peace", the soldiers returned and again declared the town a closed military zone. Soldiers refused entry not only to Palestinian leaders and Jewish peace activists, but also diplomats, including a Swedish parliamentary delegation. The occupation authorities managed to impose unlimited suffering, to destroy the economical infrastructure of Beit Sahour, and to convert wealthy middle class families into poor bankrupt ones. But they did not succeed in breaking the will of the people.

24


road blocks at the entrance of Beit Sahour

Jewish peace activists denied entry to Beit Sahour

25


Palestinian Christians and The Intifada: Beit Sahour is the last town in the Holy Land which still has a Christian majority. 80% of its population is Christian, the other 20% Moslem. Christians in the Holy Land represented 26% of the total population at the beginning of the twentieth century. Now they are less than 3% of the total population. The Christian community in the Holy Land suffered a serious emigration problem which was intensified during the last 25 years of the Israeli occupation. Christians were more vulnerable to the slow transfer pressures than their brother Moslems for many reasons:

1)

They are mostly a middle class, urban community.

2) Many were westernized in their social life due to the ongoing missionary work and intensive interaction with the western societies. 3) They have more opportunities to emigrate to the Western countries than Moslems. The Israeli authorities took advantage of this trend and intensified the pressure against the Christian minority in the Occupied Territories. One obvious example is the policy conducted in the Old City of Jerusalem which resulted in evacuating almost all the Christians who used to live inside the walls. Christians there were once 35% of the total population but now are now much less than 1%. "Compared to many other Palestinian towns, Beit Sahour's population has remained relatively stable and intact even during the last quarter century under Israeli occupation. Given the greater tendency of Palestinian Christians to emigrate, this is especially poignant. Its demographics were not largely affected by the refugee problem created as a result of the 1948 war although several extended families did in fact settle there. And unlike other towns with significant Christian communities, such as Bethlehem, Ramallah and nearby Beit Jala, Beit Sahour's Christian population has remained largely sedentary; comparatively less emigration has occurred. In the nearby Beit Jala it is estimated that one out of every four Christian residents emigrates". {1}

26


How shall Christmas be ? my brother in prison Beit Sahour did not suffer from emigration. People managed to keep their traditional Arabic social life. They never felt estranged from their Palestinian Arab community. On the contrary they played a distinguished role in the social, political, and economic life of the Palestinian society. Residents of Beit Sahour are well known for their high percentage of university graduates and for being hard working business people. Many people in Beit Sahour are convinced that the major aim of the tax raids on the town was to destroy its infrastructure in order to force its Christian residents to leave. It is worth mentioning that at the end of the tax raid on the town each resident received in the mail an advertisement offering an opportunity to emigrate to the United States of America. In the middle of the first page appeared the picture of Uncle Sam pointing his finger, and a phrase reading: "I want You". The offer included payment for air flight, arrangement for a visa, and a chance to an arranged marriage for singles to help them gain American citizenship. The advertisement did not include the name of the company responsible, but a mail address only. Fortunately the Christians of Beit Sahour were not leaving and visitors could still find few "living stones" living near the holy shrines in the Occupied Territories. During their hard times, the Christians of Beit Sahour were looking towards the Christian countries in Europe and the U.S.A, many of which are long term supporters of Israel. In particular, they were disappointed when the U.S.A vetoed a resolution, in the Security Council, condemning the Israeli tax raid on Beit Sahour and asking Israel to give back properties confiscated. In a letter sent by the people of Beit Sahour to President Bush, they said: "The position of your representative has actually shocked us, because we have always hoped that you would take a decision which would denounce the brutal and illegal 27


Israeli actions against our people, especially the latest ones practiced against our peaceful city which has always believed in peaceful coexistence. Our position is not different from that of your great American people during his revolution against his occupiers in which your people raised the slogan of (no taxation without representation)". If the occupation policy of slow transfer is to continue, we will end up, definitely, with a Holy Land without Christians. A warning that should reach the ears of every committed Christian all over the world.

A kid demanding the release of his father in a peaceful march in Beit Sahour

An Evaluation of the Tax Confrontation: On the organizational level, the neighbourhood committees proved to be very efficient in providing the local community with the needed unity, solidarity, and involvement. Today, the committees are not functioning. Nevertheless, their structure continues to exist, albeit in dormancy. Because their members and their constituents still reside in the same neighbourhoods the committees can be reÂŹactivated on a moment's notice and as need arises. For example, during the Gulf War when Beit Sahour had to cope with lengthy curfews, the neighbourhood committees were reactivated. Further, while the localized neighbourhood committees are not in operation right now, the more centralized and specialized committees of the town dealing with for example, health, still function. Beit Sahour provided an efficient example of the ability of generating public support to its non-violence resistance on local, Israeli and international levels. During the siege, Beit Sahour issued dozens of appeals, conducted a few press conferences, and 28


some protective peaceful demonstrations. The daily events of the siege, confiscations, brutality and mistreatment were reported regularly to the outside world. The Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between people played a key role in generating public support for the non-violence resistance in Beit Sahour. With its outreach program with Israeli peace activists, the Jewish participants in Rapprochement activities acted on behalf of their Palestinian brethren during the height of the tax siege. They helped communicate Beit Sahour's suffering to the outside world, they arranged solidarity visits to the sieged town and they also appeared in military courts to vouch for several Sahouris who had been arrested and were standing trial.

A reporter denied entry to Beit Sahour during the siege

For its efforts in conducting non-violence resistance against the occupation and also its efforts in promoting and practicing peaceful dialogues with Israelis, Beit Sahour was nominated by a Norwegian commission for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. "Another key success of the tax resistance was that it demonstrated the Palestinians ability to withstand extreme suffering and violence while themselves remaining almost entirely non-violence. While not inspired by Gandhian principles nor even invoking the Christian tradition of non-violence, Sahouris confirmed the power of non-violence by confronting an oppressive regime. Process goals were thus achieved insofar as Palestinians now realized that non-violence forms of protest were possible and indeed a potent type of resistance". {1} The fact that the tax resistance did not inspire widespread tax campaigns across the territories is the major shortcoming in the non-violence strategy of Beit Sahour. During their two years tax resistance, Beit Sahouris did commit two major tactical mistakes: firstly, during the one year "truce" between the end of the first tax raid and the start of the second, Beit Sahouries watched the authorities preparing for the 29


second round and waited for it to occur. They did not keep the initiative in their hands and did not initiate any popular or legal procedure during a full period of one year. Their offensive legal move came only after the end of the second tax raid. Secondly, Beit Sahouris waited for other Palestinians to join the campaign without investing any nation-wide effort to advocate their non-violence tax resistance strategy. Sahouris did not understand the social difference between their unique and highly organized society and that of major cities in the West Bank and Gaza. They thought that all Palestinians were ready to join the minute they receive the UNL orders. The tax revolt in Beit Sahour spot-lighted on one of the major tools of the slow transfer policy against Palestinians. It created awareness, concern and raised many questions among Palestinians, Israelis, and other interested people, organizations, and governments all over the world. It also spot-lighted many illegal procedures and policies conducted by the occupation authorities. Controlling and administering the Occupied Territories for 25 years, during which hundreds of military orders were issued, the authorities had never been challenged legally by Palestinians. They were unchallenged to the extent of adopting many illegalities as daily procedures. Even according to their own Supreme Court rulings, not to mention the international law, the Occupation Civil Administration and the tax department are illegally conducting the major part of their policies in the Occupied Territories. With its limited achievements, the intensified tax resistance in Beit Sahour paved the way for another, slow but more widespread and productive, phase of the nonviolence tax resistance in the Occupied Territories. A case is submitted to the Supreme Court in Israel accusing the authorities of losing the license of collecting taxes from the Occupied Territories. More than one hundred merchants and business people from different cities and towns in the Occupied Territories are involved in this case. This case is providing a legal platform to advocate tax resistance, on legal bases, all over the Occupied Territories. It is also creating more awareness and concern about the issue among different interested parties. The legal case is not a substitute for the refusal to pay. Rather it is a supplement to tax refusal, a way of involving people who, because of the serious economic situation are unable to resist paying. It represents an attempt by the Palestinians to seize the initiative back from the Civil Administration by involving dozens of merchants from around the territories. It is an attempt to nationalize the tax campaign by extending it beyond the town of Beit Sahour. This could prove more constructive than a localized campaign which is virtually impossible to sustain. The example of Beit Sahour convinced interested parties that the tax issue in the Occupied Territories is a human rights issue and many human right organizations are showing a growing interest in this case. In addition to solidarity, internal unity, readiness to sustain losses, and the existence of an efficient campaign for public support, Beit Sahour's experience in its tax campaign pointed out few urgent needs for Palestinians to conduct an efficient non-violence tax resistance: 30


1) There is a need to keep the issue of taxation alive in the popular struggle against the occupation by the use of limited and unlimited boycott of the taxation department, by individual and some times collective resistance against tax collectors. 2) There is a need to legally challenge the occupation authorities. Even with almost no trust in the Israeli legal system, one can gain an important legal platform to advocate the suggested strategy regarding taxation in the Occupied Territories and abroad. 3) There is a need for an intensified comprehensive study of the taxation issue regarding all its dimensions to define legal and practical tactics needed in the continuing confrontation. People of Beit Sahour know for sure that if they are forced to go to another tax confrontation with the authorities they will, definitely, have more friends than enemies. They will have more internal solidarity and involvement among Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, and they will have more legal and practical tools in their hands to use.

Soldiers seizing protesters inside the local Church

References: 1. A quotation from a research paper prepared by Mr. Michel Nojaim 2. A quotation from a research paper prepared by Mr. Glen Robinson.

31


Appendix Beit Sahour

16 November 1989

Dear Mr. George Bush, President of the United States of America We, the citizens of Beit Sahour, hereby wish to convey our deep regret for the unjust position adopted by your Government through its delegate to the Security Council. The use of the American Veto prevented the adoption of an equitable resolution pertaining to our just cause on the pretext that the proposed resolution lacks balance. We would like to ask about the nature of this balance which your Government sought by placing the aggressor and the victim on the same scale, thus bestowing legitimacy on the Israeli practices in the occupied territories and encouraging Israel to escalate its measures which would lead to greater collective punishment against Palestinians. Although the non-payment of taxes is a means of peaceful and non-violence struggle, yet it was confronted by an extreme campaign of violence by the Israeli authorities. Despite their allegations, the Israeli authorities have never provided services in proportion to the direct and indirect taxes which they have levied from the Palestinians have not once made public a budgetary statement pertaining to the occupied territories which leads us to the conclusion that the funds levied from the Palestinians are channeled to the Israeli treasury for the purpose of building settlements and for funding of the oppressive measures taken against the Palestinian people. Our people who for decades have been subjected to dispossession, dispersion and the denial of their national rights and Palestinian identity had looked towards the United States for a different position. While the United States presents itself as an advocate of human rights it simultaneously opposes Palestinian human rights - the rights of a people which has suffered twenty- two years of Israeli occupation and whose suffering has been compounded during the two years of the Intifada to prove to the world that it's a peace-loving people deserving of life. As the Palestinians reach out for peace foregoing the tragic past, our people in Beit Sahour, have been subjected to a vicious tax campaign accompanied by a number of inhuman measures by the civil administration authorities, confiscating and looting of property, production tools and even childrens' food, declaring the area a military zone; not allowing the media to know what was happening; imposing a fifteen day curfew in addition to the nightly curfews; imposing an economic and starvation siege which prevented sufficient essential food items from reaching the city placing it on the verge of a real collective starvation,; arresting tens of people for not paying taxes, or under the pretext of incitement, some of those arrested were old people and sole supporters of their families. The authorities disposed of and stepped on food supplies including milk for children which some women tried to bring into town from the neighbouring Bethlehem, thus was the violation of the basic human right of obtaining food for survival. What's next?. What's beyond all this Mr. President!. Do you support such practices which are against all international laws and conventions relating to human rights that you always call for, advocate and defend wherever you are? Aren't Palestinians human

32


too ? How long would your government go on denying us our annullable national rights expressed in the right of return, self determination and the establishment of our independent Palestinian State under the leadership of the PLO our sole legitimate representative. Our people have looked at your Administration's decision to start a dialogue with the PLO with optimism. Yet, this dialogue is still stumbling and hasn't resulted in concrete steps in the direction of accelerating the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis through their mutual recognition of each other's right to exist. The position of your Representative has actually shocked us because we've always hoped that you would take a decision which would denounce the brutal and illegal Israeli actions against our people, especially the latest ones practiced against our peaceful city which has always believed in peaceful co-existence. Our position is not different from that of your great American people during his revolution against his occupiers in which your people raised the slogan of "no taxation without representation." Hasn't the time come, Mr. President, for your government to realize its historic responsibilities towards the cause of peace in the Middle East, which will not be fulfilled until you recognize our rights in our homeland, our sole and legitimate representative, PLO, and our Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital as was declared in the Palestinian National Council meeting in Algiers on the 15™ November 1988? We call upon you, Mr. President, to change your prejudiced position towards our people. We have suffered a lot, and have always aspired for a just and durable peace. We call upon you, quickly and unequivocally, to denounce all the Israeli illegal and inhuman practices against our people. We call upon you, to adopt the Palestinian peace plan which calls for the convening of an International conference to be attended by all parties including the PLO for the sake of achieving a comprehensive and just peace for all the states of the region and for the coming generations.

Respectfully Submitted

Citizens of Beit Sahour

33


STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY BY THE AMERICAN FRIENDS OF BEIT SAHOUR PRESENTED TO THE MUNICIPALITY OF BEIT SAHOUR NOV. 5. 1989

We, the undersigned American citizens, being present in the village of Beit Sahour in the days immediately following the lifting of the siege by Israeli military occupation forces, hereby proclaim our solidarity with the courageous people of Beit Sahour. We have come from our homes and jobs in various cities of the United States at this critical juncture in order to see for ourselves the conditions confronting the people of Palestine and of your town in particular. Having done so, we have taken steps to investigate and document the abuses of internationally accepted norms of human and civil conduct which have taken place here. Our findings have resulted in several major areas of concern : TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION - The American people hold especially dear the principle that there shall be no government without the consent of the governed. Our own independence was fought and won over the principle of no taxation without representation. The whole world now knows that this principle has been violated here. Militarization of tax collection - Throughout history, the most rapacious governments, including the ruling power in this very area at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, have always been characterized by the practice of tax collections carried out by military forces, which amounts to little more than piracy, and is susceptible to numerous abuses of personal safety and human dignity. Suspension of the minimal norms of civil law - Among the repugnant practices which we have noted and verified in Beit Sahour have been the use of collective punishment, absence of due process, absence of the right of appeal, the use of arbitrary assessments, third party attachments, unreasonable searches and seizures, illegal imprisonment, absence of judicial proceedings, forced compliance, absence of the right to consul, the immediate executions of judgments, excessive collections, the use of tax notices in a foreign language, and execution of civil proceedings by unqualified low level military personnel and civil servants. Brutalization of civil procedures - The use of physical violence to compel compliance with unjust, undemocratic, and unrepresentative military laws can only be described as a veritable reign of terror. We, the undersigned American citizens, not only feel a justifiable sense of outrage, shame, and concern that these things have happened to the people of Beit Sahour, but also are outraged because our own government has not taken effective measures to protest and to stop this type of abuse and similar well-documented human rights abuses from happening throughout Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza for the

34


past twenty-two years, but especially during the past twenty-three months of the Palestinian Intifada. Political science teaches that the first essential for the success of any government is legitimacy. Israelis occupation army has no legitimacy in Palestine, as the entire world knows. Military rule is always illegitimate, and to allow it do continue for such a long period is totally indefensible. No theory of the state, and no form of government, whether democratic, communist, religion-based, or Zionist, has the right to take away God-given, inalienable human rights. These rights were proclaimed for all people in 1789 in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and in the mid-twentieth century by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We urgently request that all government, but especially the government of the United States, undertake investigations of the events of the past weeks here at Beit Sahour. We demand appropriate and commensurate action. SIGNED :-

A Call From Beit Sahour Today we are meeting you under circumstances which differ from those under which we met throughout the 22 months of our Palestinian Intifada, you have accompanied the events in Beit Sahour since the very beginning, and you have reported our protest against occupation and our commitment to a national Palestinian identity, you have seen how Beit Sahour is a safe and wonderful place where any Israeli who comes as a visitor and not an occupier can sleep and break bread. Today it is we who are reporting to you, as clear a picture as we can give of what has been going on here for the past few days: an intensification of collective punishment against this town. On the 21st of this month the authorities started a tax collection campaign soon accompanied by a curfew. The confiscation reached about forty shops, factories and houses, with the value of the goods taken ranging from $30,000 to $100,000. Here we list some of the practices during the campaign: 1) The amount confiscated exceeds the amount assessed by tens of times. 2) The soldiers break locks and doors of shops during curfew and in the absence of their owners. 3) Soldiers damage remaining goods after confiscation is completed. 4) Soldiers beat and humiliate owners of the shops during confiscation. Some people have also been treated in the same way within their own homes. 5) Military patrols are stopping and beating people throughout the streets, creating an atmosphere of terror.

35


These practices are still going on, and it seems that authorities intend to continue the campaign. In trying to justify their position authorities claim that these acts are in accordance with "laws" due to nonpayment of taxes. Before explaining why we do not pay taxes, we are entitled to ask: what kind of laws are these that permit such practices for the purpose of collecting taxes? Do such alleged laws really provide for collective punishment? or confiscating ten times the claimed amount? or beating and insulting people? Why do we not pay taxes ? First, the military authority does not represent us, and we did not invite them to come to our land. The principle: no taxation without representation. Secondly, the collected taxes are used to increase the harsh measures against our people. Must we pay for the bullets that kill our children? or for the growing number of prisons? or for the expenses of the occupying army? Isn't it enough that all the natural resources of our land are being , against international law? The allegation that these taxes are used to provide services for the people is not true since every observer can easily see the deteriorating health and educational situation here. Surprisingly, the authorities count among the services rendered all expenses generously provided to collaborators, such as the so-called village leagues. These collaborators were provided with buildings, offices, administrative facilities and weapons. The village leagues terrified people across the occupied land, including our Beit Sahour, beating and insulting people and sometimes causing damage to educational and social institutions. Yet, the authorities have considered them an asset to the development of the occupied land. Just a few days before the present tax raids, a number of suspected collaborators in Beit Sahour harassed people and kidnapped the mayor. The authorities claim that they are meeting prominent figures to consult with and discuss peace settlement. Now let us hear the real story. A few days before the tax raids four residents of Beit Sahour were called to the military governor in Bethlehem. When they reached the building they unexpectedly found that Shaike Erez was waiting for them, therefore they expressed their intention to leave, but Erez made it very clear that they had no choice but to attend the meeting. A few days later two of the four were arrested, one for not paying taxes, whose place of business was confiscated and a second for undisclosed reasons. The extent of such inhuman practices against our town is reaching every person, destroying property and sources of income. It is ruining all aspects of economic activity in Beit Sahour. Therefore, we are calling on international public opinion to stop these practices against our people. We are also calling on the Israeli peace-loving forces to realize what is really happening on this land and to understand that such a policy is not leading to peace. Peace does not come through collective punishment, confiscation, destruction of property, humiliation and beating, and creating hatred. The way to peace is to recognize the existence of the Palestinian nation on this land and its legitimate rights to self - determination and choosing its own representatives.

36


The Palestinians throughout more than 40 years of hopelessness and suffering have proved that they are strong enough not to be removed from this land, and it is up to the Israelis to decide when they will realize this absolute fact.

A Statement to the Public Opinion For sometime, the tax authorities in cooperation with the security, army and Israeli police forces have frequently been raiding the inhabitants of the town of Beit-Sahour in an arbitrary manner during which they would confiscate or seize properties in addition to humiliating, beating and detaining the residents in an unjustifiable brutality. What happened in Beit-Sahour on June 19, 1989 is a clear example of this continuous process when a large number of tax collectors supported by a huge number of Israeli army, police and security personnel raided the commercial centre in BeitSahour and its surrounding area attacking people brutally, arresting the shop keepers and either confiscating their cars or other properties for allegedly not paying the taxes. We, the citizens of Beit-Sahour as part of the Palestinian population under occupation, emphasize the following : 1) The international laws and regulations emphasize the illegality of imposing or introducing new taxes by the occupying power on the occupied people. 2) We deplore the immoral terroristic manners which the occupying authorities are using to collect these illegal taxes. 3) Taxes are paid by the people all over the world to its legitimate political bodies for the sake of covering the cost of services provided to the Palestinian population by the occupying Israeli authorities are :a. Opening of new jails and detention centers which are used to humiliate and annihilate our children depriving them from their freedom and decent living . b. Purchasing, developing and financing the oppressive tools and equipment used to kill and beat our children including the toxic tear gas and the various types of bullets in addition to the rock throwing machinery. c. The closure of all schools and educational establishments which denies our children their basic human rights for education. d. The deliberate retardation for development and innovation in our economical, health and civilian institutions. 4) In addition to all of the above the Israeli authorities are coming up with additional "innovative" new taxes such as new license plate taxes for cars, Intifada, army, stone and broken glass taxes ... etc. All these measures emphasize that the Israeli authorities are robbing our Palestinian people and depleting its economic resources in the name of tax collection and this robbery cannot be justified by any international laws or conventions. Consequently, we cannot but classify these measures as acts of robbery and terrorism practiced by a state with institutions and authorities.

37


We call upon the UNITED NATIONS, all peace-loving nations and international human rights committees to express their solidarity with us and to exert their efforts to alleviate our sufferings which are unnecessarily being imposed on us. As we reiterate our steadfastness and rejection for these terroristic measures, we call upon you to bear your responsibility towards this clear violation of human rights and act to provide international for our people under the Israeli occupation. THE CITIZENS OF BEIT-SAHOUR June, 20, 1989

NEW YORK TIMES OCT. 29. 1989 Palestinians Life in the Occupied Territories : Resisting Israeli Taxation

By the PSC Delegation to the Occupied Territories In June of this year all the pharmacies in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour were raided by the Israeli army and all the medicines were confiscated. The confiscation took place because everybody in Beit Sahour refused to pay taxes to the occupation authorities. Today, this town does not have adequate access to the necessary medicines. Elias Rishmawi, one of the affected pharmacists, explains what happened. Delegation: Why did you stop paying taxes and what happened subsequently? "Well, I stopped paying taxes in January 1988, as everybody did, responding to a call from the Unified Leadership. "I should add something important that you should know. Taxation is something legal in most countries, People usually pay taxes to their legally elected governments, and these taxes are spent on services and the welfare of the people. Now, consider what we have here in Palestine; we have occupation authorities that are not legally elected and they are using taxes to cover the expenses of the occupation, the services that we are getting are really unbelievable : more killing, more prisoners, more house demolitions, and the closure of our academic institutions for the last two years they opened the primary and secondary schools in the last couple of weeks,yes, but they already are starting to close some schools and the rest will, I believe, be closed very shortly. These are the "services. I don't think that anyone can justify paying taxes for those services. "The cost of water is another example. In the West Bank we pay about $1,00/m^, the [Jewish] settlement five kilometers east of Beit Sahour pays less than $0.50/m3, and lsraelism Jerusalem and Tel Aviv pay about $0.60/m3. You should also know that the Israelis use more than 94% of the water reserves of the West Bank - transferring it to the settlements and to Israel - leaving for the West Bank population only 6% of our water resources for which we pay double the price that they pay. This, as a symbol, is what occupation means. 38


To continue with the story, last November the four pharmacists of Beit Sahour received memoranda of the tax department. We were given 30 days to reconsider our refusal to pay taxes. A few days later a group of tax collectors backed by dozens of soldiers took all of us to the military headquarters, and later that day we appeared in front of a military court. "At the court we showed the tax memoranda to the military judge, but he ignored them. Then the tax man could not prove that he had asked us to come to interrogation and that we had refused. Nevertheless, with all these documents the judge said that we would have to go to prison for ten days or pay a $2,500 bail and submit the reports to the tax authorities. We immediately refused, and were placed in jail. "According to the law we should have been placed in a West Bank jail, but instead they placed us in a Israeli jail in cells among Israeli drug addicts. We were kept there for nine days and then taken again in front of the military judge to determine if we'd go back to prison or to interrogation. It was very clear to us the interest of the tax people was not to interrogate us, but rather to keep us in jail in order to impose pressure on us to pay the taxes, the judge admitted this in his verdict because none of us had been interrogated during our stay in prison. Nevertheless, the judge gave us the option to go to jail for another 18 days or to pay a $750 bail. This time he was more clever than the previous time because he did not connect the bail to the payment of taxes. After deliberating with our lawyers we were satisfied that the bail was not connected with a condition to pay taxes, but that it was a guarantee for us to reappear in court. The bail was paid by an Israeli friend of mine who was disgusted by the court proceedings. "During the next three months the four of us were subjected to many long interrogations, but we refused to cooperate in any way. Then they declared that they would confiscate our property. We appealed to the High Court in Israel, and on June 22, 1989 the High Court gave the verdict that the tax authorities had no right to confiscate anything unless they gave us 10 days advance notice. Imagine what happened, four days after the verdict, about 70 soldiers came to my pharmacy backing ten tax collectors. They confiscated everything, that is, medicines, laboratory supplies, chemicals, baby food, baby products - everything. I showed the officer in charge the verdict of the High Court, but he started to laugh sarcastically and taunted me by saying : " go back to court. " I shut up and left the pharmacy, it is not mine and more in such a way ". "AH my actions, with the exception of not paying taxes to the occupation authorities, were within the letter of the law. All their actions, on the other hand, were without exception outside the law ", Rishmawi added.

39


ABROAD AT HOME Anthony Lewis It Can Happen There BOSTON - Suppose the people of some small American town decided to protest Federal Government policy by withholding their taxes. The Government responded by sending in the Army. Soldiers cut all telephone lines to the town. They stopped lines to the town. They stopped food from coming in and barred all visitors. They imposed a curfew from 6:30 every evening to 4:30 in the morning. They went into homes and took furniture and other belongings worth many times a family's unpaid taxes. They broke into shops and dumped goods in the streets. They arrested people and held them for days without charge. Unthinkable? Of course it is, in this country. But it is happening in another, right now. And the Government responsible in not some remote totalitarian regime. It is the Government of an Americanally, one that we have admired as an outpost of democracy and law: Israel. Israel soldiers have sealed off the town of Beit Sahour, in the occupied West Bank, since Sept.22. Telephone lines have been cut. The town has been declared a "closed military zone" and everyone from the outside world kept out -sympathetic Israelis, journalists, Western diplomats. Christian bishops who tried to bring three truckload of food in the other day were turned back.

Force is used to crush a peaceful tax protest in the West Bank. Three truckloads of food in the other day were turned back. Beit Sahour is a town of 12,000, almost all Christians, near Bethlehem. It is a middleclass place. This summer its business and other leaders decided, as their part in the Palestinian protest against occupation, to withhold payment of Israeli taxes. Taxation without representation is a grievance in any case. Despite the blockade, quite a lot has been reported about what has happened in Beit Sahour since Sept.22. The army has seized property worth many times the tax claims, it has ransacked shops. And according to the residents, it has systematically harassed and humiliated the people of Beit Sahour.

I telephoned an Israeli who knows the town well, Hillel Bardin, a computer programmer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. For the last 18 months he has been part of a group of Israelis, carrying on a dialogue with a group from Beit Sahour, exchanging visits and talking about Israeli-Palestinian peace.

40


Mr. Bardin began by saying that, apart from the tax protest, those in Beit Sahour who have spoken out for peace with Israel have been punished. He mentioned two men in his dialogue group. Jamal Hilal and Ghassan Andoni. "Both have been arrested repeatedly, since July, " he said.

"They are never questioned or charged with anything, just held for 18 days as Israel's law allows ". "The last time, Oct.25, they were beaten so badly by soldiers on the way to headquarters that Jamal still cannot walk properly. They are in prison again ". As to the tax protest, Mr. Bardin said the reports of harassment and force in the Government's response were true. He said he had seen one man who was bloodied when soldiers came and took his furniture. At Elias Rishmawi's pharmacy, he said, "They put all the medicines in a large shipping container and left it in the sun until the drugs spoiled ". Any government will act against a concerted refusal to pay taxes. But the normal course is to act by law - by attaching property, and selling enough to pay the tax due. Israel has those legal remedies available. It is using military repression to show the Palestinians, as Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin has candidly said, that they cannot resist the occupation.

The irony is that Israel complains, rightly, when Palestinians use violence. Beit Sahour has chosen a totally nonviolent means of protest, and Israel is using force to crush it. Beit Sahour's latest idea is to hold, prayers for peace in its Roman Catholic church next Sunday. It is asking President Bush and other world-leaders to send representatives. If they did, would the Israeli Army keep them out ? Some American supporters of Israel companion that the press pays too much attention to israel's faults, the example of Beit Sahour shows that the oppressive reality of the occupation is in fact insufficiently known - to outsiders or to Israelis. If they knew it was happening, if they knew that Palestinians who want a peaceful solution are being punished, I think more Israelis would be ready to end the occupation. I am an Israeli who cares about the security of his country, " Mr. Bardin said. " I believe that if Israelis could see what is really going on, we would have peace ".

41


No Taxation Without Representation: Nonviolent Resistance in Beit Sahour OCT. 1989

- Cheryl Beckerman * The Palestinian town of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem (population 12,000) is engaging in a different kind of intifada. It has taken up the flag of nonviolent civil disobedience against the Israeli occupation. Referred to by some of its residents as the "Japan of the West Bank" because of its highly educated, independent and enterprising population, the predominantly Christian Beit Sahour is known for its close ties with Israelis — including an ongoing dialogue with Jewish peace activists from Jerusalem. Already in May 1988 some Beit Sahour residents began refusing to pay taxes to the Israeli Civil Administration. In recent months the Occupation authorities have begun an all-out campaign to crush the burgeoning tax resistance with widespread raids, arrests, curfews, and the confiscation of close to three-quarters of a million dollars in commercial and private property. Noting that Beit Sahour hopes to become a model for civil disobedience throughout the West Bank, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin has said that he will break the Beit Sahour tax resistance at all costs- even if it means keeping the town under curfew for two months. Cheryl Beckerman, a member of the Jerusalem dialogue group with Beit Sahour, recounts the story of the town's resistance., Bethlehem and Ramallah are a long way from Boston Harbor, but the Tea Party that was held there over 200 years ago showed every people aspiring to emerge from under the yoke of another people's control that "taxation without representation" violates fundamental principles of self-determination and civil rights. * The Palestinian uprising is associated in the public mind with rocks and petrol- bombs; the civil disobedience that takes the form of economic resistance is hardly publicized. Yet this economic resistance - whatever its long-term effect on the Israeli economy entails tremendous self-sacrifice on the part of Palestinians who refuse to consume Israeli products or pay taxes to the occupying authorities. Those who will not pay jeopardize their property and livelihood and risk jail sentences of indeterminate length.

Nearly every civil activity in the West Bank and Gaza from burying one's dead, to driving a car, to applying for a travel visa, requires a license from the occupying authorities who make their approval contingent on the payment of all outstanding taxes not only by the individual applicant, but by members of his or her family as well. Surtaxes, referred to by Palestinians as "intifada taxes," consist of large sums levied by the military authorities to help defray the costs of occupation and of the repression of the Palestinian struggle for independence. Can we blame people for refusing to finance the bullets that are aimed at them ?

42


Tax Raid in Beit Sahour Elias Rishmawi of the town of Beit Sahour last year spent ten days in prison because of his continuing refusal to pay taxes. On June 26 of this year all the goods in his pharmacy were confiscated. Six days earlier a large number of tax collectors, supported by an even larger contingent of army, police and security personnel, had raided the commercial centre of Beit Sahour, arresting shopkeepers and confiscating cars and other property. Residents describe their behaviour as brutal. The town has been subjected to repeated raids, curfews, and arrests of people who, like Rishmawi, are clearly committed to achieving a political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Beit Sahour has been a pioneer in the subtle intifada of nonviolent resistance that is practiced throughout the territories, as well as a pioneer in Jewish-Arab dialogue across the Green Line. Jad Is'hak, a professor of biology at Bethlehem University, was one of the first administrative detainee of the intifada. He was sent to the Ketsiot prison camp in the Negev desert (Ansar III) for his part in encouraging a back-yard economy of private vegetable gardens - he sold gardening supplies to his neighbour. Last year residents of the town held a mass sitdown strike to protest a tax collection campaign by the Israeli Civil Administration, and turned their identity cards over to their recognized authority - the mayor of Beit Sahour. After the tax raid in June, the townspeople gathered at the local Greek Orthodox Church where a statement entitled "Taxation Without Representation" was read. (As the crowd amassed, army helicopters hovered overhead and outsiders were turned away from the town, suddenly declared a "closed military zone". After four Israeli Jews snuck past the barriers, a cry went up in the church: "The peace forces are here!"). "We, the citizens of Beit Sahour, as part of the Palestinian people under occupation..." begins the statement, which wryly goes on to describe the "innovative" levies demanded by the authorities : License plate taxes, broken glass taxes. "Taxes," it notes, "are paid by people to their legitimate [representative] political bodies to cover the cost of services provided... the services provided to the Palestinian people by the occupying authorities include: a) opening new jails and detention centers to humiliate and terrorize us and our children; b) purchasing and developing weapons and equipment to kill and maim us; c) the closure of all schools and educational establishments to deny our children their basic right to education; and d) the deliberate retardation of development of our economic, health and social institutions... The civil disobedience that takes the form of economic resistance is hardly publicized. The Israeli tax authorities are robbing the Palestinian people and depleting their economic resources in the name of tax collection. This sophisticated understanding and the determination of the Palestinians to press on with their economic resistance pose a threat to the occupation which is taken very seriously. Officials of the Civil Administration have said explicitly that they intend to clamp down on such "defiance of authority", and on tax resistance in particular. Not everyone has the choice to resist taxation; for many kinds of workers, tax deductions are

43


automatic. For the rest, the tax bill confronts them with a cruel dilemma: acquiescence with oppression or privation for their families. Thus nowhere is tax resistance total but Beit Sahour is not the only Palestinian community where it and other forms of economic resistance are widespread. Where political consciousness is high - and there is scarcely a place in the territories where it is not - every homegrown tomato is a political statement.

Property Confiscated The charges against Elias Rishmawi and other local pharmacists are pending, Rishmawi is once again in jail. Dozens of merchants have been threatened i administrative detention, deportation and, reportedly, even shooting — measures unprecedented for tax evasion. Daily detention did not break grocer Kamal Abu-Sa'ada's determination to resist taxation. Every morning for weeks on end Abu Sa'ada was required to report to the military headquarters. He was let go at whatever hour the authorities decided release him on that particular day. With arrests and intimidation unsuccessful, confiscation of property seems to the latest tactic. On September 21, with outsiders barred from the town, hi moving trucks accompanied a retinue of soldiers and tax authorities in a major raid.

Can we blame people for refusing to finance the bullets that are aimed them? Abu - Sa'ada's grocery was among the stores rampaged, its stocks disappear into the trucks. Where shop owners were not on the premises, the locks were forcibly broken. Hours later, anyone was free to walk into these shops, to witness the chaos left behind. A number of Beit Sahour residents watched as there household goods and electrical appliances disappeared into the trucks. By September 25, over 40 businesses and four private homes had goods confiscated estimated at a value of hundreds of thousands of dollars -- far beyond the amount claimed by the authorities in back taxes. There are no signs that the raids are coming to an end. Residents of Beit Sahour say that the Civil Administration has given the tax authorities a "50 day grace period" to collect taxes by whatever means they see fit.

Administrative Detentions Merchants who refuse to pay taxes are not the only group which faces repression in the nonviolent intifada. Civic leaders across the West Bank were targeted in a wave of raids in early June. Twelve Beit Sahour residents, including the writer Jamal Banoura and Mohammad Shreim, the president of the Islamic Society, were arrested in a nighttime raid. The town remained under curfew for three days. Ghassan Andoni, a Birzeit University professor of physics, and architect Jamal Hilal returned home after 18 days, the minimum period for administrative detention. The others were transferred to the Ketsiot prison camp and many are still there. None of the detainee were tried, let alone able to hear the charges against them. Administrative detention in fact means that the authorities are unable to bring conventional criminal charges. After his release,

44


Andoni, who has been instrumental in bringing hundreds of Palestinians and Jews together in a dialogue group, was issued the dreaded green identity card which prevents its bearer access to Israel. It was later exchanged for the usual one. On Sep.23 Andoni was re-arrested, along with Rishmawi and four other Beit Sahour residents, the authorities have given no explanation for the arrests. Some 70 residents of Beit sahour are. now in jail. Recently release was another member of the dialogue group, Jalal Qumsiyeh, Where political consciousness is high, every homegrown tomato is a political statement. Son of the highly respected first mayor of Beit Sahour. Jalal is described by Hillel Bardin, an Israeli Jew who helped to found the dialogue group, as a "missionary for peace". A strong advocate of Palestinian economic growth", Jalal was active in a dairy cooperative which purchased 18 cows to provide milk for the children of Beit Sahour to avoid dependence on Israeli products. Therein, no doubt, lay his crime. Despite his interest in economic cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis, despite serious health problems and his four fatherless children, despite the willingness of Jewish Israelis to sign affidavits at testing to his commitment to nonviolence, Jalal was nevertheless sentenced to three sweltering summer months of desert imprisonment, and he served a major portion of this sentence. No one would have blamed him, had he no longer been willing to risk involvement in the dialogue again.

High Personal Cost Jalal Qumsiyeh, Ghassan Andoni, Elias Rishmawi, Kamal Abu Sa'ada are just a few of many Palestinians who have suffered a high personal cost for engaging in a struggle for independence that demonstrates an alternative to molotov cocktails. By targeting such courageous individuals the authorities call into question the seriousness of Israel's peace plan -- which must ultimately rely on the existence of a moderate and respected leadership. Meanwhile, Israelis who know these men are getting an unexpected glimpse into the emotions of countless Palestinian families: the torments of helplessness at seeing a loved one swallowed up in a military justice machine that is overwhelmed by the impossible task of policing a national revolution; the grief, worry and uncertainty of prolonged absence; the bitterness of discovering that the government apparently prefers the intifada of stones.

For many of us who have gotten to know the people of Beit Sahour, it is impossible not to admire their brand of intifada - even though we are on the "other side". Those of us who are immigrants from the West recognize in their spirit and determination an echo of Western as well as Israeli history. As we struggle here to preserve our democratic institutions and processes, which are consistently violated in the territories (and sometimes even in Israel proper), friends, not statistics, languish in prison. The question is not only how we, as Israeli citizens, can countenance this. The responsibility is shared by the U.S. government, which taught many of us the credo "No Taxation Without Representation", yet which says nothing fundamental principle. It is also shared by concerned U.S. citizens, wherever they may live.

45


The responsibility does not end here, the plea of the people of Beit Sahour -nationalists seeking their independence next door to Israel - is clear: "Let all peaceloving people express their solidarity with us and make every effort to alleviate our suffering". * Cheryl Beckerman is a writer, editor, and co-founder of the immigrant peace group "Israelis by Choice/Olim Opposing occupation." This article is an expanded version of a statement prepared in conjunction with Sidra Ezrahi for a rally on behalf of Beit Sahour. ** The spilling of tea off ships in Boston Harbor under the siogan "No taxation without representation" - known as the Boston Tea Party - marked the beginning of the American Revolution against the British.

46


47


Israeli Violence: Beit Sahour Gets the Treatment By Anthony Lewis BOSTON - Suppose the people of some small American town decided to protest federal government policy by withholding their taxes. The government responded by sending in the army. Soldiers cut all telephone lines to the town. They stopped food from coming in and barred all visitors. They imposed a curfew from 6:30 every evening to 4:30 in the morning. They went into homes and took furniture and other belongings worth many times a family's unpaid taxes. They broke into shops and dumped goods in the streets. They arrested people and held them for days without charge. Unthinkable? Of course, in America. But it in happening in another country, right now. And the government responsible is not some remote totalitarian regime. It is the government of an Americanally, one that Americans have admired as an out post of democracy and law Israel. Israeli soldiers have sealed off the town of Beit Sahour, in the occupied West Bank, since Sept,22. Telephone lines have been cut. the town has been declared a "closed military zone" and everyone from the outside world has been kept out -sympathetic Israelis, journalists, Western diplomats. Christian bishops who tired to bring three truck-loads of food in the other day were turned back. Beit Sahour is a town of 15,000, almost all Christians, near Bethlehem. It is a middleclass place. During the summer its business and other leaders decided, as their part in the Palestinian protest against occupation, to withhold payment of Israeli taxes. Taxation without representation is a grievance in any case. Despite the blockade, quite a lot has been reported about events in Beit Sahour since Sept.22. The army has seized property worth many times the tax claims It has ransacked shops. And, according to the residents, it has systematically harassed and humiliated the people. I telephoned an Israeli who knows the town well, Hillel Bardin, a computer programmer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. For the last 18 months he has been part of a group of Israelis carrying on a dialogue with a group from Beit Sahour, exchanging visits and talking about Israeli-palestinian Peace. Mr. Bardin began by saying that, apart from the tax protest, those in Beit Sahour who have spoken out for peace with Israel have been punished. He mentioned two men in his dialogue group, Jamal Hilal and Ghassan Andoni, "Both have been arrested repeatedly since July", he said. "They are never questioned or charged with anything, just held for 18 days, as Israel's law allows".

48


Last Wednesday "they were beaten so badly by soldiers on the way to headquarters that Jamal still cannot walk properly. They are in prison again." As to the tax protest, Mr. Bardin said reports of harassment and force in the government's response were true. He said he had seen one man who was bloodied when soldiers came and took his furniture. And at Elias Rishmawi's pharmacy, "they put all the medicines in a large shipping container and left it in the sun until the drugs spoiled". Any government will act against a concerted refusal to pay taxes. But the normal course is to act by law - by attaching property, and selling enough to pay the tax due. Israel has those legal remedies available. It is using military repression to show the Palestinians, as Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin has candidly said, that they cannot resist the occupation. The irony is that Israel campaigns, rightly, when Palestinians use violence. Beit Sahour has chosen a totally nonviolent means of protest, and Israel is using force to crush it. Beit Sahour's latest idea is to hold prayers for peace in its roman Catholic church next Sunday, it is asking President George Bush and other world leaders to send representatives. If they did, would the Israeli army keep them out ? Some American supporters of Israel campaign that the press pays too much attention to Israel's faults. The example of Beit Sahour shows that the oppressive reality of the occupation is in fact insufficiently known - to outsiders or to Israelis.

If they knew it was happening, if they knew that Palestinians who want a peaceful solution are being punished, I think more Israelis would be ready to end the occupation. " I am an Israeli who cares about the security of his country ", Mr. Bardin said. " I Believe that if Israelis could see what is really going on, we would have peace ". The New York Times

49


FRIENDS OF NEW OUTLOOK INC. 150 Fifth Avenue, Suite 911 New York, New York 10011 (212)929-0612 By Fax: 011-972-2-637-932 11/1/89

Dear Hillel Bardin, There are a number of significant factors here in the U.S. who are considering the idea of financing the purchase of the goods confiscated from the Beit Sahour people at the auction. They would like to know if the Israelis who have been in contact with the Beit Sahour people think this is a good idea, and whether the Palestinians themselves would be receptive to this action. The point, of course, would be that the funds would come from American Jews, and would be a very dramatic way of expressing support for the non-violent protest of the Palestinians at Beit Sahour, and dissent with the official Israeli policy. The People concerned would also like to know the approximate value of the goods that were confiscated. Please fax your response to these questions to Fax: (212) 929-5186, attention Hillel Schenker, New Outlook.

Sincerely, Hillel Schenker Senior Editor U.S. Representative

50


The town of Beit Sahour has adopted the principle of "no taxation without representation" Elias Rishmawi's "tea party" Michal Sela Friday, September 29, 1989

(The Jerusalem Post)

On a December night in 1773, in order to protest against the British policy of "taxation without representation", a band of Boston Patriots staged an event that is remembered as the Boston Tea Party, Dressed as Red Indians, they boarded three ships at Boston port and dumped their cargoes of tea overboard. Elias Rishmawi's "tea party" has been going on for over a year. Yesterday he attended his first court session at the Ramallah military court, where the West bank military authorities are suing him for not paying his taxes. He was arrested a week ago, and an official at the office of the legal adviser to the Civil Administration told his attorney, Muna Rishmawi, that she could not find any valid reason for his arrest. Three months ago, representatives of the tax authorities, accompanied by troops, loaded all the stock in his pharmacy, worth $150,000, onto a truck. However, Rishmawi doesn't intend to give up. It is a matter of principle for him and for the Beit Sahour community, which has adopted the 224-year-old concept : no taxation without representation. Beit Sahour, on the way from Bethlehem to Herodion, is a town of 12,000 with a Christian majority and a Moslem minority. A town of pastoral tranquillity, of small houses surrounded by gardens, it is a site for Christian pilgrims who wish to visit the Shepherd's Fields. This is a community with a rare solidarity and internal coherence, composed of people who believe they can beat the Israeli occupation using peaceful means. When the intifada started, almost two years ago, the people of Beit Sahour chose a unique path. When the first leaflets were distributed by the Unified Leadership of the Uprising, Beit Sahour absorbed them down to the last detail and adopted the recommendation that most appealed to them: civil disobedience. They threw stones at troops and at settlers' cars going through the town on their way to Tekoa and erected stone barricades across the streets. On one occasion, an Israeli truck was touched. Palestinian flags and nationalistic graffiti were, and still are, seen about. These were minor instances of violence, compared to other towns in the West Bank. In Beit Sahour, the soldiers' response has been somewhat different from other place: here, people haven't been killed by bullets; the first local intifada death, that of Edmond Ghanem, was caused by a stone dropped on him by a soldier from the top of a building used as a military lookout post.

51


Civil disobedience began with the idea of "home economy". Well- off families adopted a regime of self-imposed austerity, while a group of agronomists, professors at Bethlehem University, introduced the concept of applied science. Based on their own knowledge and experiments, they opened a nursery and gave their neighbor professional guidance on how to grow their own salad vegetables. The garden around the house of agronomist Jad Is'hak, a leading figure in the homeeconomy education effort, looked like a vegetable paradise, food dehydration and preserving technology, which Is'hak had studied for years, was being put into practice. The security forces, however, didn't like the idea. To them, dispersing violent demonstrations is child's play compared to fighting "the battle of the vegetables". Jad Is'hak and his friends were harassed, and the nursery was closed down by military order. Is'hak was put under administrative detention for six months, but the tomatoes went on growing in the small gardens, and the chickens went on laying fresh eggs. The closure of the schools was the least damaging factor in Beit Sahour. While youths in nearby Bethlehem were busy throwing stones at troops and tourists, children in Beit Sahour were busy reading and being taught at home. "It's easy", a Beit Sahour mother said at the time. "Most of the teachers in the surrounding villages come from here , including many women". Then, in May last year, the tax disobedience started and Beit Sahour experienced its first tax raid. The authorities believed that a series of curfews and a heavy troop presence could bring the people to heel, as they had in other towns and villages. Instead, hundreds of Beit Sahour people submitted their ID cards to the municipality and held a sit-down strike which went on for hours. This reaction was unfamiliar to the military authorities, also reacted with force, mass arrests and a curfew. About three months ago, the military and tax authorities renewed their tax collection campaign — and this time, they got really tough. Systematically, day after day, they seized property from shopkeepers and craftsman, either during the day or at night. "They came at midnight, took my son and forced open my workshop", relates a carpenter whose work premises are now totally bare. "They took the machines, despite the fact that the law forbids confiscating production equipment", the carpenter has not paid any taxes "because the intifada people will burn my home". What is the solution? "You are the solution. Under occupation, you're not allowed to collect taxes", the man's son, who was taken at night by the troops to watch the confiscation, says that in such circumstances, it's no surprise that incidents like the one involving bus No. 405 happen. "You drive us all crazy", he says. Emili Rishmawi, Elias' mother, supports her son's disobedience. "When I pay taxes, I want to have old age pension and schools for my grandchildren. I don't get that here".

52


Does he really need the suffering the whole town is going through? "We don't need the intifada, but we want our identity , we want our children to have a secure future. We sacrifice in order to save bloodshed and innocent souls". An upholsterer was one of those arrested three months ago as a means of applying pressure, and held for several days in Bethlehem's military jail. "In the Middle Ages, jails were better. Seventy people in one small room, using their shoes for pillows - you can imagine the situation. A cup of rice was thrown on the floor, that was our lunch. Each tomato was divided into five. From time to time, a detainee would be taken to the downtown tax office and told that all the others had paid their taxes, "Nobody took the trick seriously", said the man. They were released without any legal procedure, the way they had been arrested. "I'm an upholsterer, not a politician. I work and I have to pay taxes, but as long as the government can't give me protection, I don't pay. Let them put me in jail as long as they wish. When you conquered the place, I said, "Ahlan wasahalan!" I haven't turned my tools into arms. Now I can't pay the tax. If] do, my children will be beaten up". Then, after a while, as homemade lemonade is being served, he adds: "The Israelis use us as simple laborers. We don't have any services in town, no national insurance, no unemployment benefits. They don't allow us to develop a real modern industry. Why , after all, should we pay taxes ?" With all the hardship following the confiscation of hundreds of dollars' worth of property, Beit Sahour has not surrendered. The residents are making a real nuisance of themselves to the authorities, who tried their luck once more. Last week became hell for the town, with at least 40 families subjected to the confiscation of private and commercial property, This week, dozens more have suffered confiscation. The tax officials, escorted by troops, go from house to house humiliating and beating people, the residents relate. Some have complained that the troops put personal items in their pockets, including money. They took a butcher's furniture; in another house, they stopped the washing machine, pulled out the laundry and took the machine away with them. Many people were arrested, always by the army, as "security detainee", although the nature of their violation of the law is civilian. All this happened only a day after some local youths taught a suspected local collaborator a lesson in "peaceful harassment". They shouted slogans against him near his house. The man threw stones in return, erected a road-block and attacked passers-by. When mayor Hanna al-Atrash happened to drive past, the "collaborator" took him hostage and released him only after dire threats from the people who came to rescue the mayor.

53


As a punishment, youths evacuated all the women and children from the house, took out most of the furniture and torches the house, not before beating the "collaborator" and other men in the family. When the townspeople began contacting the press and Jewish friends in Jerusalem, the military authorities imposed a curfew and cut all the telephone lines. Night curfew became routine. With all this behind them, Beit Sahour is still disobedient. "Beit Sahour has eight founding fathers. Hundreds of years have passed since they came here, lived together and married among themselves, "the upholsterer says, giving a short historical background to the town's solidarity. "Today, anybody yo can name - I know his wife and children. In July, we were under curfew for 21 days, and nobody went hungry". Other people mention liberal attitudes and the large proportion of educated people as the reasons for Beit Sahour's different but much more successful intifada. "The idea behind civil disobedience," says a resident who requested anonymity, is to make the intifada a non-violent activity". Why, for the time being, has it succeeded only in Beit Sahour ? "We are the Japan of the West Bank; a community of highly educated, independent and enterprising people, "says the resident adding that Beit Sahour combines the solidarity of a village and the liberal lifestyle of a town. Out of all the West Bank communities, Beit Sahour - both as individuals and as a group -maintains continuous contacts with Israelis. Its residents play tennis at the Tennis Center in Jerusalem's San Simon neighborhood, and there is a "dialogue relationship" with a Jewish group from the capital. "There is no contradiction between the two", says Emili Rishmawi. "Taxes to the occupier are one thing; Israelis who find ways to reach us on curfew days are another. Whoever stretches out his arm in peace will meet my hand. But i can't live with those who come to me armed". The media is also used as a means of struggle, and last Wednesday, Beit Sahour distributed a press release: "Taxes are paid by people to their own legitimate political bodies to cover the cost of services. The services provided to the Palestinians are opening new jails ... building new settlements..." The people of Beit Sahour are a meeting and disobeying talking about the suffering caused by the troops and the tax people. At the same time, they announced this week in front of the television cameras:" The time has come to tell you: we shall continue employing non-violent tax resistance ".

54


55


[END]

56

Non-Violent Tax Resistance in Beit Sahour  

This booklet is a documentation of the unprecedented tax boycott organized by the People of Beit Sahour, in which the Palestinian Centre for...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you