Opinion |

What Israel Does to the Palestinian Authority Is Daylight Robbery

Israeli media is a vital partner in the crimes of the occupation, encouraging Israelis' ignorance. Recent 'activity' to arrest former militant in the heart of Ramallah, right next to a school and a kindergarten, proves just that

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Palestinians take part in a rally in support of President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, February 25, 2019.
Palestinians take part in a rally in support of President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, February 25, 2019. Credit: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The reduced salaries that Palestinian Authority employees in the West Bank will receive this week is yet another opportunity to point out how our journalistic terminology is heavily contaminated by terms that distort reality, and how vital a collaborator the Israeli press is in the mechanism of control over the Palestinians and in promoting the ignorance of Israelis.

Those whose salary is 2,000 shekels ($550) or less will probably continue to receive their paltry wages in full. Others will that only about half of what they should be getting has been deposited in their bank account. And then, after their regular payments to the bank for various loans, many public sector workers will be left with just a few hundred shekels in their accounts at best, to feed their kids, drive to work and school, pay for electricity and cover other bills. It should be noted that the prices of water, fuel and electricity in the West Bank are comparable to those in Israel, while the Palestinian minimum wage is a little more than a third of that in Israel.

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These Palestinian civil servants will join in financial hardship the hundreds of people who worked on projects funded by American aid agency USAID, which were halted after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered an end to funding. Several dozen of the newly unemployed are now competing for every new job opening, in both the public and private sector.

Public sector wages are trimmed because of the PA's worsening budget deficit, which is the result of what the Israeli media reports as "a cutback," "deduction" or simply "cut" in the money Israel transfers to the PA, equivalent to Palestinians prisoners' stipends paid by the PA.

Well, this shouldn't be called a deduction. It's robbery; theft in broad daylight committed by Israel with money that doesn't belong to it, money that Palestinian importers pay for products destined for Palestinian enclaves. Because Israel controls all borders and ports, it is the one to collect taxes from the merchants. These account for at least half of the Palestinian Finance Ministry's revenue.

The cutback amounts to theft. Those who decided on it – the Israeli prime minister, defense minister and finance minister – are thieves. Finance Ministry officials carrying out the order are accomplices, and the press is co-conspirator in deception by calling it a cutback.

In an act of civil disobedience, or costly pride, or false expectations that it would lead the world to pressure Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas decided to refuse to accept the entire sum that Israel was supposed to deposit with the Palestinian treasury this month. Abbas decides everything, believe me, a senior Palestinian official told me. This isn't news, of course, but he implies that there were others in government who felt that this show of rebellious pride was not the right move.

For the zillionth time: The main reason that such a high proportion of the PA's revenue comes from customs fees and not from production is Israeli control of the West Bank's Area C, coupled with restrictions on construction, agriculture and movement. So it is Israel that is robbing the Palestinian treasury, because it prevents Palestinians from developing other sources of income.

Last week's popular deceptive term was "escalation," to refer to potentially violent protests by Palestinians. The one who controls the amount of water that the Palestinians get naturally controls language, too. Still, it's maddening to see how readily Israeli media refers to the bureaucratic violence of demolition orders as "law and order" and not "escalation."

Now, as for the distorted language concerning the "activity" of the Israel Defense Forces or the Police Special Anti-Terror Unit: Spokespeople use this term, and mass media automatically adopts it, as usual. In joint "activity" by the IDF, police and Shin Bet, former militant Zakariya Zubeidi was arrested in the heart of Ramallah. "Activity" doesn’t begin to describe what actually happened: Invasion by armed forces, assault and intimidation.

Zubeidi needs no introduction to the Israeli public. This son of refugees, whose mother was killed by an IDF sniper in the Jenin refugee camp, knew just how Israeli journalists to interview armed Palestinians, because it gives them a professional boost. It's always sexier than searching for soldiers who beat a blind disabled man in his bed.

Does the number of interviews Zubeidi gave have anything to do with his skills as a fighter against the Israeli occupation? This isn't the issue right now, nor is the influence of the interviews of Zubeidi's public profile, or the way the Israeli media has already convicted him and lawyer Tarek Barghout of everything the Shin Bet accuses them of; the issue here are the positive, graceful euphemisms used to describe frightening raids by armed military forces in urban centers.

Where Zubeidi was arrested in Ramallah, there is the Aziz Shaheen Secondary School for Girls and a kindergarten. The children won't forget the tear gas and explosions, the armed troops that wouldn't let their worried parents come take them home. And then we'll see Israeli diplomats in suits and ties, complaining in a South African or Oxfordian accent that the Palestinian school system teaches children to hate.

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