Palestinian Jews Declare Tax Strike, Bomb Tax Office

From the Canadian Jewish Chronicle (excerpt):

Jerusalem Jewish Council says Jews will not Pay Taxes Unless Money will be Used For Jewish Projects

The Jewish community council here declared this week that Jews would not pay taxes to the municipal government until they were satisfied that the money would be used for Jewish projects while Daniel Auster, former Jewish mayor of the city, said that the Jews would take care of their section of separate municipal councils were formed and each body was permitted to spend its funds on improvements for its own people.…

That was shortly before Israeli independence, but tax resistance in British-occupied Palestine went on for decades before then. Here’s an example from the Montreal Gazette:

Jews in Palestine Decree Tax Strike

Decision Is Taken in Protest Against New U.K. White Paper

By Joseph M. Levy.

(Wireless to The New York Times and The Gazette.)

Lieut. Gen. Robert H. Haining, commander of the British forces in Palestine, invited the heads of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the National Council of Palestine Jewry and the Jewish Communal Council to his headquarters here this morning and warned them that he intended to enforce order and would make no exceptions. General Haining added that, while he appreciated the three years of restraint on the part of Jews, he would suppress violence unflinchingly.

The first move in the Jewish non-co-operation movement against the Government in protest at the new British policy was a decision of the Landlords Association, composed of rural and urban property owners, to refuse to pay taxes, beginning , until the White Paper had been repealed.

Despite all stringent measures taken to prevent illegal immigration into Palestine, 300 Jews succeeded in landing clandestinely near Ashkalon, Southern Palestine, but were apprehended by British troops and taken to Tel Aviv for detention.

In contrast with ’s turbulence in this Holy City, there was quiet , although considerable tension still exists. As a result of the violence , when a mob of Jews attempted to raid the district commissioner’s office, smashed windows of an English shop and a German restaurant and engaged in fighting in which a British constable was killed and more than 100 Jews were wounded, the military took far greater precautions to prevent further bloodshed.

All Government offices were heavily guarded, various parts of the city were barricaded, and soldiers manned machine guns for action. Only incident was when several Jewish youths penetrated a branch post office in the Jewish quarter of Mahne Yehuda here and broke window panes and furniture.

Three British police sergeants and two constables, who annoyed the Tel Aviv public, it is charged, by wearing helmets marked with swastikas and by shouting “Heil Hitler,” were relieved of duty today pending disciplinary proceedings.

The “White Paper” policy, which, among other things, prevented Jewish evacuation into Palestine during the Holocaust, was not repealed until Israel won its independence in .

Tax resistance was practiced both by Jews and by others in Palestine against the British occupation. In at least one case, in , there was a sympathy tax strike in England itself:

…a London Jew declined to pay his income tax as a form of protest.

In , Josiah Wedgewood counseled Jews to maintain a civil disobedience campaign in order to win Palestine: “Jews must find it respectable to go to prison; men and women must be prepared to die; to refuse to pay the property tax, see their goods sold; to occupy land and resist eviction…”

A report says that some Jews in Palestine were looking for inspiration to Gandhi’s campaign against British rule:

In the all-Jewish coastal city of Tel Aviv a high Jewish source who declined to be quoted by name said meetings were called throughout Palestine Sunday to consider a “passive resistance movement” similar to those undertaken by nationalists in India.

A decision would be taken “as to the best method by which Palestine’s Jewish community can demonstrate to the British they will have to arrest tens of thousands of us if the government thinks we are accepting quietly everything it wants to put on us,” he said.

Passive resistance would include nonpayment of taxes, a strike by Jews in government service and “in all ways complete non-cooperation with the British,” this source said.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Palestine Tax Office Bombed

Building Leveled By Terrific Blast

The Palestine Income Tax Building was leveled this afternoon by a terrific explosion from a bomb-laden cart which Palestine police said was placed by Jews.

One person, a Jewish constable, was killed. Five persons — a British Army captain and lance corporal, a British police sergeant and an Arab policeman — were injured. Windows were shattered within a radius of three blocks.

All employes had been evacuated from the building following a telephone warning 10 minutes before the blast.

Police said three Jews, one dressed as an Arab, pushed a bomb-laden, Arab-type delivery cart into the building and fled, after clubbing a Jewish policeman and snatching a rifle from an Arab guard.

Police tried to drag the cart from the building, but the rope parted. They said they then detonated the bomb with rifle fire, but “miscalculated the charge.”

Only the best and brightest in the Palestine police force, I see. Another tax office was bombed in Mount Carmel in .

Another dispatch includes this report:

Tel Aviv police reported… that a young Jew and Jewish girl claiming to represent the Stern Gang, a small Jewish underground unit, had delivered an ultimatum personally to 18 Jewish officials of the Palestine Income Tax Department to resign within 96 hours or face drastic consequences. Special guards were assigned immediately to the 18 officials.

The attempt to bring about the large-scale resignations was viewed by authorities as another step in the Stern Gang’s announced policy of sponsoring non-payment of taxes by Palestine’s Jews.

Another report on the same incident clarifies that the two Jews, “described as Yemenites, visited the homes of the tax officials Thursday night to deliver the warnings.”

Another dispatch:

Jews Ask Boycott Against British

Underground Group Protests Refugee Order

Irgun Zvai Leumi, militant Jewish underground group, exhorted Jews throughout the world today to “hit Britain economically without mercy” in protest against the trans-shipment of 4,400 Jewish refugees to Germany.

In a broadcast denouncing British treatment of the refugees, who were intercepted in mid-July while trying to enter Palestine illegally aboard the Exodus of , a former Chesapeake Bay steamer, Irgun declared:

“You can stop the cruel British machine forever. Do not pay your tax money, do not obey their orders. Do not obey their laws. Boycott, boycott, boycott until the end.

“Jews of the whole world can bring great harm to our enemy. Britain is in economic trouble. They can be hit economically without mercy.”

The Irgun broadcaster also urged Jews to ignore appeals for a hunger strike today to protest treatment accorded the refugees.

“This is no time for fasting,” the broadcast said. “It is now time for war.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same. From the New York Times:

West Bank Firebomb Hurts 4 Tax Collectors

Four Israeli tax collectors were wounded when a gasoline bomb smashed through the windshield of their car as they drove through the West Bank city of Ramallah, the army said.

Two firebombs were thrown at the Israelis, who collect taxes from Palestinians for the military government in the occupied territories, as they drove to work early this morning, income tax officials said.

Palestinians have resisted paying taxes to Israel because the taxes are a potent symbol of occupation. The underground leadership of the Arab uprising has repeatedly called on Palestinians to boycott the Israeli military government by refusing to pay taxes.

The new military commander of the West Bank, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Mordechai, ordered a curfew placed on the street where the attack occurred and the nearby Kadura refugee camp. Soldiers later arrested 40 people, the army said.

In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians are required to prove they have paid their taxes before they can obtain a new military pass to go to Israel. The army has said is the deadline after which only pass holders will be allowed to travel from Gaza to Israel.

The army announced today that Gaza Arabs who still do not have a pass by will be able to apply for one, though Israel had said previously that no new passes would be issued after that day.

And another Times piece from :

West Bank Town Elated but Poorer As Israel Ends Six-Week Tax Siege

By Joel Brinkley, Special to The New York Times

Israeli soldiers cleared roadblocks , ending a six-week state of siege here, and the residents of this Palestinian town cheered.

“We won — we beat them,” said Khalil Hana Rishmawi, even though Israeli officials had seized the machinery in his sewing factory in lieu of the taxes he and most residents in this small, moderately affluent town had refused to pay.

“The campaign failed,” he said. “No one paid the taxes.”

$1.5 Million in Goods Seized

But the Israeli authorities were declaring victory too. Tax collectors have seized cars, refrigerators, clothing, washing machines and other belongings valued at $1.5 million. And this afternoon, Brig. Gen. Sheikhe Erez said, “We decided to end the operation since we did what we wanted to do.”

In truth, the Beit Sahur tax revolt was fought to a draw, and it came to be a symbol for the Palestinian uprising as a whole. Almost to a person, Beit Sahur’s residents refused to pay their taxes. But many of them had to stand by and watch as their belongings were seized instead.

And when Israel auctions off the goods next week, it will finally collect some of the back taxes that Beit Sahur owes, but at a price. The Beit Sahur seige brought a new array of international criticism. And the town’s tax debtors, most of them middle-aged businessmen who had no involvement in the uprising, are anything but chastened.

Earlier this month Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin vowed, “We will teach them a lesson.” But tonight Tawfik Abu Aita, a 51-year-old clothing manufacturer, said: “They used a cannon against a bird and blew away the whole tree. That’s why they failed.”

And several liberal Israeli legislators said this afternoon that if the army was willing to deal with a nonviolent civil protest so harshly, it would only encourage Palestinians to use violence instead. The army and the residents of Beit Sahur are likely to find themselves in a similar position a year from now, both sides stubbornly refusing to move, but neither side is saying what it will do.

In mid-, the army singled out Beit Sahur, a largely Christian town of 10,000 near Bethlehem. Military officials found that 320 businessmen had not paid taxes, even though most of them were regular taxpayers before the uprising began 23 months ago.

“I paid the taxes before, but now all of us go by the rules of our leadership,” Mr. Rishmawi said, referring to the underground leaders of the uprising. In leaflets for many months, they have urged Palestinians not to pay taxes. “The taxes should be spent on services, health, roads and other things we need here,” said his son-in-law, Majed Rishmawi. “But do you see any services being offered here? No.”

After sending tax collectors door to door and getting unanimous refusal, the army sealed off Beit Sahur. No visitors or journalists were allowed in, and only people who paid taxes were let out. Still, hardly anyone paid. Then 40 debtors were arrested and 35 were indicted. Some have been given stiff fines or sentenced to time in jail.

Still almost no one paid. So tax collectors escorted by troops showed up with trucks and started confiscating belongings left and right. “They took 1,500 blouses, 700 kilograms of wool and a 1986 Opel Cadet,” Mr. Abu Aita said. They didn’t get the 1989 Audi 80 parked in front of his house. “I had that registered under a different name,” he said. And when the soldiers tried to seize the knitting machines in his factory, “they found it very difficult to dismantle them and put them in the car,” he added with a chuckle. The soldiers gave up and left the machines behind.

Mr. Rishmawi said each man was given a Hebrew-language inventory of items seized — “9 umbrellas, 20 small cartons of socks, 4 baby suits” — and told that the goods would be sold at auction if the back taxes were not paid.

Auctions a Few Days Away

Now that the tax siege is over and the auctions are only five days away, Mr. Rishmawi and Mr. Abu Aita, like most everyone in town, say they will stand by and watch as their belongings are sold. They still have no intention of paying their taxes, even though without the sewing machines Mr. Rishmawi’s factory has had to close down.

“We will just have to help each other now,” he said. “This is not tax collection. It’s Mafia work. And I think the Israeli learned. We will not pay.”

But in a statement released , the army said, “Some of the taxpayers paid their debts willingly.” And as a result of the Beit Sahur siege, the army added, dozens of reluctant taxpayers in other parts of the West Bank came forward to pay their taxes, too.

The military government “places great importance on this,” the statement said, “because the taxes collected finance government services for Arab inhabitants in the territories, such as health, education and welfare.”

But Mr. Abu Aita said that what “they’ve really done with this kind of collective punishment of an entire city is draw people into the intifada who have never been in it before.”