Annie Robbins 24 February 2015 Mondoweiss
Ramallah in the snow 20 February 2015 Photo by Ghorbieh
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are cashed strapped this winter because Israel is withholding $240 million in tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority as punishment for joining the ICC. This is radical, though it’s not unusual and something we’ve come to expect. But turning off the electricity in the middle of winter as blizzards sweep across the Middle East is nothing short of sadistic. The Los Angeles Times reports Israel cut the power to more than 700,000 Palestinians in two of Palestine’s largest urban areas, Nablus and Jenin, for more than 45 minutes “and warned that more outages are coming if Palestinian officials don’t pay millions of dollars in outstanding debt.”
Citing Yiftah Ron-Tal, the director of Israel Electric Corp. (IEC), the Times reports:
“Customers who do not pay electric bills are disconnected; yet here we have an entire population that doesn’t pay while we continue to supply electricity,” he said. “The Palestinian Authority owes the IEC — meaning the paying consumers — nearly 2 billion Israeli shekels [about $500 million]. A year has passed since I said this last and nothing has changed. Starting today, we will begin restricting electricity.”
The irony here, of withholding the months of tax revenue while demanding payment of a debt, on top of occupation policy preventing Palestinians from being self sufficient, is not lost on anyone. More from the Times:
“This is clearly collective punishment against the Palestinian people,” [Ghassan Shakaa, the mayor of Nablus and chairman of the board of the North Electricity Company, which supplies Nablus, Jenin] said. According to Shakaa, the IEC cut power shortly after notifying his company that it owed more than $10 million, and did not wait for an answer or for payment……
Rashid Fadda, who lives in Nablus and works as a technician for the local electric company, said the power cuts came as a surprise.
“We heard the Israeli company threatening to cut power supply to the West Bank but no one really thought it will happen,” he said. “My work depends on electricity and so when the power was cut off, we had to stop work.
In more winter news, IMEMC reports settlers from the Gilo settlement have “opened its barrages, throwing all excess rain and melted snow water” flooding Aida Refugee camp near Bethlehem.
Plus, Israel opened dams near the border of Gaza on Sunday morning, flooding the valley causing hundreds of Palestinians to evacuate their homes. That happened last year too. Are these kinds of punitive measures something Palestinians have come to expect from Israel every winter like clockwork?
Remember last year when Israel caged Palestinian children in outdoor holding pens during freezing winter storms?
The Gaza Valley (Wadi Gaza) is a wetland located in the central Gaza Strip between al-Nuseirat refugee camp and al-Moghraqa. It is called HaBesor in Hebrew, and it flows from two streams -- one whose source runs from near Beersheba, and the other from near Hebron.
Israeli dams on the river to collect rainwater have dried up the wetlands inside Gaza, and destroyed the only source of surface water in the area.
Locals have continued to use it to dispose of their waste for lack of other ways to do so, however, creating an environmental hazard.
This is not the first time Israeli authorities have opened the Gaza Valley dams.
In Dec. 2013, Israeli authorities also opened the dams amid heavy flooding in the Gaza Strip. The resulting floods damaged dozens of homes and forces many families in the area from their homes.
In 2010, the dams were opened as well, forcing 100 families from their homes. At the time civil defense services said that they had managed to save seven people who had been at risk of drowning.