No Taxation Without Representation
So many horrors are inflicted on Palestine that some pretty big things can just get overlooked. In a detailed article in The Nation tracing the record of civil disobedience against the Occupation we learned that: “During the first Intifada in the late 1980s … the West Bank town of Beit Sahour led efforts to refuse to pay Israeli taxes that helped finance the occupation.”
It’s astonishing both that it is indeed true that Palestinians have to pay to be robbed, beaten, bullied, imprisoned, vandalised and killed but also that in all the literature, the discussions, articles, videos, talks and books, there is hardly a mention of it.
When the day comes that the demand for civil rights and the vote is raised, we hope that foremost among the slogans will be No taxation without representation. What it lacks in originality and snappiness it makes up for in familiarity. It should make many Americans feel distinctly uncomfortable.
Since posting, an account of the Beit Sahour protest has appeared in Mondoweiss, written by Ofer Neiman. His theme is that there’s not much we can teach Palestinians about civil disobedience and non-violent resistance, so apologies from us for presuming to offer advice on slogans. The story of this epic struggle, that lasted from May 1988 to September ‘89, started with returning ID cards to the military (reminiscent of South Africans burning their Pass Books). The whole town was placed under curfew, old people were arrested in an attempt to divide and break the protest, and then the town was cordoned off and placed under siege. People were dragged from their beds in the night, their houses raided and their possessions, including children’s toys, carted away, to be auctioned off cheap in Israel.
This account appears in Palestine Family: “The Beit Sahourians were offered to get everything back for one shekel, but the soldiers couldn’t find a single person willing to give them one shekel. It was a matter of principle. At one house when they started driving away after having finished the dirty work, they heard a voice calling them to stop. A wicked smile appeared on their faces: “Finally someone will pay.” The lady who called carried something in her hand and without hesitation, with full confidence and courage, she threw the remote control at them and shouted: “You forgot this.”
The curfew lasted for forty-five days. In the last days of the raid, a resolution was introduced in the United Nations Security Council, calling upon Israel to stop the tax raids and to return all the confiscated goods. The resolution was vetoed by the United States. The institutions of Beit Sahour, including religious, social and cultural centres, sent a letter to President Bush asking him “Why Mr. President…? We were proud to raise the same slogan of the American revolution against the British, ‘No Taxation Without Representation’, the same slogan of the Boston Tea Party.”
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