A human rights group in Ramallah has dubbed Israel’s seizure of nearly $400m of funds belonging to Palestinians – for acceding to the International Criminal Court – a “war crime” prosecutable by the Geneva-based tribunal.
A new report by al-Haq, the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva, outlined the devastating effects of Israel’s withholding of taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, calling the seizure “unlawful” and a form of “collective punishment”.
Between January and March, Israel seized millions of dollars of Palestinian taxes in response to Palestine’s accession to the ICC’s Rome Statute in late December 2014.
Released on the day Palestine officially becomes an ICC member, the report, titled “The Unlawful Seizure of Palestinian Taxes: Israel’s Collective Punishment of a People”, said the taxes paid by Palestinian individuals and businesses over three consecutive months amount to nearly three-quarters of the Palestinian Authority’s revenue for that period.
Last week, Israeli authorities announced that the government would release those funds. But Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) sources said deadlock persisted because Israel wanted to keep a proportion of the funds to pay for electricity and water bills it says the Palestinians owe.
Al-Haq said that “much of this ‘debt’ is entirely illegitimate, beingbased – for example – on the sale of Palestinian resources suchas water that have been unlawfully seized and sold back to thePalestinian people”.