Fifth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Hondarribia, Spain 1994

Friday afternoon

Arratsalde on eta ongi etorri Hondarribira. Good afternoon and welcome to Hondarribia. At this moment we are opening the Vth International Conference of War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns. This Conference will have a break tomorrow afternoon in order to do the Foundational Assembly of Conscience and Peace Tax International.

We had the idea of preparing a nice speech for this opening session, but we have not had enough time these last days. Specially, we did not have time this morning because all the problems we have had coming from Urnieta to Hondarribia and preparing all the things we need just in one morning. As you now, the hostel has been closed by holidays until today so it has been absolutely impossible to arrange anything before today. Even the rooms are not prepared yet, but we hope that will be solved by the end of this opening session. Thank you for your understanding and for the help you are giving to us.

We have had a problem with the lecture we should have in this opening session. The teacher of the University of Madrid that should come hasn't arrived. A friend of us from Madrid took in charge the relation with him but it seems, today another friend has told us that he has had some problems and that's why this friend, the speaker and a representative of a group on conscientious objection from Paraguay, who should come with them, aren't here with us.

It's a pity, we really think that this lecture and these people would give us good ideas, but the important thing is that we have met here and that the principal purpose of our meeting is to talk to each other, sharing our experiences and points of view and we are sure these three days we have in front of us will give us the opportunity to do so.

So let's go. We shall ask Elias Rishmawi to come here and tell us about the work they do in Palestine resisting paying taxes to the Israel government and the military authority. Their experience should be very different from these that we have in Western and North Europe and North America, where most of us come from, and we are sure that his explanation will lead us to an interesting discussion. After it, we will have a break and later we shall start with the first set of workshops.

Before finishing, we have to repeat the shame that we feel for the impossibility of having here in Hondarribia the representatives of the Nigerian Peace Committee that we expected among us. Believe us: for the last four weeks we have given to this problem more time than to any other problem, perhaps more than to all the other problems together. We have been talking several times to the Spanish Embassy in Nigeria, with Foreign Affairs in Madrid, Mr. Petrizan, Senator for Navarra in Madrid, and Mr. Bandrés, former MP in Madrid and Strasbourg have been doing their best in the Ministry. We sent a long report on the purposes of our Conference to the Minister,... It has been useless: the embassy didn't give them the visa. I'm really ashamed when We have to confess that we are ashamed that the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been afraid of the representatives of a Peace Committee from another country and that it has not allowed to them to came here to Hondarribia, to our country.

Once again, thank you for your being here and now it's time to hear Elias.

War Tax Resistance in Palestine

Elias: I would like to thank Pedro in person and the people in the US who have organised this trip for me to the Basque country to make it possible that we all share the experiences of resisting the tax systems. I would suggest first of all if I'm allowed if we can have as a group a kind of an anthem to start with our meeting. The meeting start with an anthem.

I came from Beit Sahour, a small town which is 6 miles away from Jerusalem. Is the last Christian town in Palestine, with Christian population of 80 %. Myself was born as a Christian.

I think I have to give some briefing about the legal structure in the occupied territories before going in the details of the tax resistance that we have adopted in the last 7 or 8 years.

Very unique tax system is enforced in the occupied territories. Where as bits the Ottoman law, bits of the British mandate law, bits of the Jordanian law, others from the Israeli law, besides from the international law both Hague regulations and fourth Geneva convention have been used. And beside this wide scope of laws the Israeli military occupation had introduced an additional set of laws over 16 hundred by now and this huge number of laws they were able to manipulate or control every single detail of our daily life.

In November 1987 the Palestinian Intifada Uprising or shaking had started. It started from despair and oppression and one of the earlier requests that were made by the Palestinian public in general and tax payers in particular is to have a general consensus of boycotting taxes. This message was conveyed in a democratic way to the leadership of the Intifada inside the occupied territory and soon in February 1988 we were instructed in the monthly leaflet to stop paying taxes and stop submitting the monthly reports. And so we did.

Before in going into that point we were preparing the society in Beit Sahour for that resistance in different levels and structures. From one side we had created a self support system to cover different aspects. We had to create a self support system in food agriculture supply, medical supply, and port structure who were expected to have one of its members to be harassed or imprisoned by the occupation. It was good in our society to have what was called then family committees. This were already existing before 67. It was part of the social structure. After the intifada we adapted the family committees to fit in to what we then neighbourhood committees. It was highly expected that curfews would be applied and that neighbourhoods to take care of themselves. That's how we initiated the first support system in our resistance to the military tax system.

Beit Sahour was well known in the occupied territories the Japan of the West Bank since the town people are highly entrepreneurs, hard workers and it represents the upper-middle class society in the occupied territory it represents also one of the highest standards of education in the occupied territory.

Other committees that were initiated also are commercial committees. Commercial committees were entitled to keep an eye and control any possible liquidation of any commercial sector and keep hold on it. And that's how it started. We stopped paying taxes, we stopped submitting the monthly reports and you could say that the confrontation had just begun.

In June the same year 1988 the military started an attack against the town were, as tax personnel supported by the army started to move in the streets checking the people, transferring them to the head quarters that was newly created in Beit Sahour were as people had their cars confiscated and given tickets of penalty for not paying taxes. The next morning, most of the people of Beit Sahour gathered at the municipality building, this was organised by the neighbourhood committees who spread the instructions by night and at nine o'clock in the morning we were all in front of the municipality and we started our first move of civil disobedience in the non violent struggle that had a long way to go. In that day we gave back to the deputy major of Beit Sahour the Identity Cards as to give them back to the military government of Bethlehem. You might ask what is the symbol of giving the Identity cards. When any Palestinian is confronted or faced with a soldier or a tax collector or a check point the first thing he is requested to show is the Identity Card. So giving back the identity card tells them that you don't recognize their measures. That issue could cause a lot of harassment to the person caught without the identity card. He might be beaten, he might be sent to prison and harassed of course. That day ended up with imposing the first curfew around Beit Sahour and we had to spend the whole month of 24 hours curfew, but we also where prepared for that. The agricultural committee had taken care that every piece of land around every house was cultivated to have all the vegetables we need as well as all the meat we need from rabbits, chickens. So while we were under curfew the Israeli soldiers where getting crazy of smelling barbecues all around Beit Sahour while people under curfew, and in order to tease them more drinking our national drink Arab, similar kind of uzu and exposing this to them. We are drinking and eating and you can go to hell.

This act of civil disobedience had reflected deep concern on two levels. On the Palestinian level we had gained the momentum that this can be a very protective tool of acting against occupation and on the other side it was a clear message that the Beit Sahourians are a different type of resisters and it really proofs that it could keep the tax collectors and the military for almost a year until they decided again to try their luck with Beit Sahour.

In June they imprisoned a group of old age people and it was clear to the local leadership of Beit Sahour that they are trying to make a break through. A meeting was held in the church hall of the Arab orthodox Greek church of Beit Sahour were as the wide sector of the business body of Beit Sahour had met in order to discuss the matter. The local leadership of Beit Sahour couldn't follow up that meeting and it was so necessary that someone had to take care and that that people who are meeting should receive a signal that the leadership is aware of what's going on. Somebody has to take care of printing a leaflet expressing the concern of the local leadership and giving the instruction of the leadership in a way to show that the leadership is controlling every thing. That was very important for not allowing at any moment a negative link to play impact in the society. Never the less I must admit that there were at that time some political functions the Communist party were against the idea of tax resistance but in view of the huge public support of the idea, they couldn't hold on to their positions and they were obliged to join the public movement.

In September 1989 the longest and the hardest military tax raid started against the small little town of Beit Sahour where as the town was completely besieged. All entrances were blocked, telephone lines were disconnected and the town was denied access to food supply and medical supply. The major confrontation had just begun. It was the time when neighbourhood committees, together with popular committees and the professional committees to put in to alert and start functioning day and night 24 hours a day. Of course, side by side where the young people throwing stones against soldiers and tax collectors. The military government of Bethlehem took imprisoning about 30 of the Beit Sahourians whom he thought were the public leaders in this resistance. And they start to enforce certain actions through hesitant bodies to make a penetration in Beit Sahour. And again it was so necessary that personal initiations to intervene in one of those meetings that were made in order to break down the situation in Beit Sahour that young man must disperse in two minutes otherwise... and he left it like that an people left. And the military government failed to create any craig down in the well built structure in Beit Sahour.

In November 1988 I was taken by force from my pharmacy with three other pharmacists to the military head quarter in Bethlehem and then to the military court in Ramallah Another town. We were denied access to lawyer and the judge ordered that we would be imprisoned or had to pay a fine. We refused to pay a fine and we were imprisoned. I was imprisoned together with another pharmacist in a police detention facility in Israel, which is against the international law together with Israeli cocaine and heroine addicts who were threatening our lives when they recognised that we were Palestinians. It was clear to us that the military and the tax system were trying to make a penetration in the system through us. Through those pharmacist who are upper middle class who might not be able to with stand pressures. And in order to go on with their idea they chose a female pharmacist with us thinking that the Arabic tradition will not allow us the idea of a female pharmacist to be in prison and they were trying to convince us that, well guys there is a lady with you, how do you accept her to be imprisoned you are Arabs, where is your Arabic dignity, how do you accept that she is there? You know, with the, sorry for the word the prostitutes and the ... but I must admit also that she was so courageous and she stood very hard in front of him, the tax man, shouting at him until he shut up.

I would like to mention different steps that we had taken in our tax resistance. If I had to consider that the first step was that we responded positively to the instructions of the leadership a year later we were in a situation that we had placed our slogan for the tax boycott. Our slogan then was fitting with in certain strategies we believed they would help international understanding as well as public understanding and Palestinian understanding so we were trying to fit our slogans in a non violent resistance. One major slogan was considered and that was No Taxation Without Representation. We gain the lot by raising that slogan since we had the support of the international community the Israeli public opinion and during the tax raid in 1989 the U N security council was discussing a resolution calling on Israel to stop its tax raid against Beit Sahour and give back all the confiscated material. That resolution was vetoed by the U S . All church leaders in Beit Sahour and prominent figures wrote a letter to president Bush asking him Why Mr. President? What wrong have we done by raising the American Slogan No Taxation Without Representation? Mr. president never answered that letter. I have a copy of that letter written in the book published by Rapprochement.

During the major Tax raid. The economic infrastructure of Beit Sahour was completely destroyed. And it was necessary then to initiate a new strategy to keep going on resisting against the military tax system, from one side and from the other side to make it possible for the people to join the movement against the military tax system. Because then it was Madrid, 1991, and people were talking about the possible reconciliation while under ground, the Israeli occupation authority were continuing with their ideologically based policy in confining Palestinians in their towns and confiscating all the areas around so it was necessary to start a new campaign with a new strategy that would bring people again to the resistance movement.

During the years of resistance we could develop a legal opinion which when the time came it was ready to submit an appeal, a legal appeal to the Israeli supreme court against the illegal military tax system. It took me over one year of advocating for the appeal all over the West Bank area talking to people in lectures, Universities, associations until I finally managed in 1992 February, to have a group of Palestinians, over a hundred and fifteen, representing the whole diverse sector of the society in the west bank to sign the appeal with me and the appeal was accepted by the supreme court. The appeal is still in the supreme court. It was never then discussed. From other side, I had never had an illusion that the Israeli supreme court would give any justice to Palestinians. The idea behind the appeal was to create a self support system for the continuous avocation to advocate continuously against the military taxation. And the appeal formed the legal coverage by which I and others were able to continue resisting from one side not paying taxes, since there is a case in court and they cannot force me pay until the case is solved they cannot take any actions against us since we have this case, and we kept challenging the system through different means. Through the media by written articles, by responding to declarations made by the head of the civil administration. Explaining the wrong things that they are doing. And educating the Palestinian public about their right of resistance. This was impossible to achieve without the legal coverage of the supreme court. Because then, I and the others, would have been considered as inciters and then might be imprisoned for ten years. That's why we needed that coverage. This coverage was also needed to explain the illegal procedures under taken by the Israeli occupation authority and to show the great discrimination in the tax policy applied in the occupied territories.

One of the major achievements we made was to force the government of Israel, and Rabin in particular, why am I saying Rabin in particular, because he was the defence minister who ordered the visage of Beit Sahour and the economic craig down of the economic infrastructure. He was the defence minister then. So last year we forced Isaac Rabin as a defence minister and Prime Minister to order the exposing of the budget of the occupied territory for the first time in 27 years. Why was that important? It was so important also to show the figures of how much the Israeli occupation had been benefiting from us and robbing us. The benefit of Israel as an occupying power raises up to one billion dollar every year from the taxes and other things in the occupied territory. These were the heading figures that were not declared in the budget, but Palestinian economist could read these figures after the budget was exposed.

I would say one of the important tactics to be taken into consideration is taking into account your personal power. Calculate how much personal power you have in your people, in your society and don't go beyond that. You might go beyond that a little bit, but don't go to the point that they will not see the results of what will happen. One of the magic words we used was efficiency. Efficiency of controlling your internal factors. Efficiency in the confrontation with the others, and to be able to speculate what will be his reaction and you will be two steps ahead. This contributes to the success that we had until 89. The public opinion of Beit Sahour was highly geared towards tax resistance to the point that two weeks after the tax raid took place, people were jumping from their houses, confronting military vehicles, stopping them and telling them My name is so and so, I'm waiting for you, you have not come yet Other examples; they broke into the houses and took every thing from them, and of course they offered to bring back all the confiscated material in exchange of one dollar, even one shekel (one third of a dollar) and they received the usual answer: No. In one house, after they started moving, they heard the woman shouting them Wait. And the smile was on their faces, somebody finally decided to pay. They were highly furious when that lady threw the remote control telling them Well, you forgot that. In another house they went in, the six years old boy who was watching cartoons, and the tax collector looked wickedly and figured out that he might play with the emotions of the father, so he told the father: Well you can keep the TV and your son can keep watching television if you pay a hundred shekels The father said:

-No.

-OK, fifty shekels.

-NO

-Well you know something, pay one shekel and you can keep the television.

You know, the father was hesitant for a moment be cause he was looking his son watching cartoons and his emotions were moving, but before he could respond to the offer the six year old boy jumped, switched off the television and shouted No father, let them take it!. It was one of the greatest moments in our history as Palestinians, to show that, to feel that the resistance was so deep in our conscious to the point that all sectors of society, men, women, even children, were involved all in one complete harmony, in civil disobedience, in a non violent resistance in tax boycott. That was so significant and we will tell the story to generations to come.

I don't know if there is anything else to say. I will end at this point and respond to your questions.

The Discussion

Question: Was there tax resistance in other communities, and if not, why not?

Answer: In other small villages and refugee camps there was also resistance. In big towns there was a craig down, because what happened is that during 89 there were direct contacts between Palestinian business men and the Palestinian leadership outside were instructing people to pay taxes and not to respond positively to the tax resistance in Palestine. This creates a conflict where only strong societies like Beit Sahour and other small towns could hold onto the position. It wasn't easy to keep people working in harmony while some parts of the leadership is acting against tax resistance.

Q: Why did you choose non violent resistance and how did you find the models of how to go further?

A: Since the beginning of the intifada we decided onto two things in Beit Sahour. The first thing is to resist occupation, the second thing was to build bridges between the Palestinian people and the Israeli people. So what we did is actually a kind of thinking of what will be the most efficient professional way of doing this. How we could be effective. Effectiveness and efficiency can not only be measured on how you feel about that but what will be the responses from the other side and from the community around and we found that non violence will be of a major effectiveness to do and it would help at different levels. It would tell the Israelis that we are not against them but against the occupation of Palestine. And from the other side we gained the international support and we managed to introduce the Palestinian in a different way from the stereotype that was known before. So I think the idea was efficiency, professionalism, and how to be more effective.

For the sake of building bridges we started dialoguing at grassroots level with groups in Israel. We were doing that in secrecy until all of us got imprisoned, administrative detention, most of us were imprisoned several times. There were not clear reason except for doing this dialogue with the Israeli public. So afterwards we decided to go into public and stabiles a centre that we call the Rapprochement Centre for Dialogue between People the Mennonites offered us the legal umbrella for opening the centre because its impossible to get the license to open such a centre as Palestinian, of course. We are still at some point resisting occupation. We are still dialoguing with Israeli people at grass root level.

Q: The concepts, how to, your models, is only by the Mennonites, the Mennonites have a tradition of non violent action. And I think to know that non violent is effective, you must know something about this, about actions already done, so On which tradition of non violent action are you based on?

A: There wasn't any particular methodology, but there is a high percentage of intellectuals in Beit Sahour, and those were able to absorb all the ideas of non violence and to come up with a certain methodology that fits both the internal structure and capabilities of the society and also to be efficient in responding to the Israeli daily practices. Again it was a matter on how we can be efficient.

Q: Do you think that living this process of disobedience has made a change in the people in the village. Do they have a different view of life? Does it make it different to have lived this process, comparing to other cities who have not lived this disobedience process?

A: It could be yes. We found out this is a very effective tool. Effective tool in introducing yourself and in resistance. It's true that nobody is speaking about that nowadays because people are having the illusion of the so called peace process, but I would say that the roots of non violent resistance had already been seeded in the community to the point that I believe anytime that there would be injustice, it can be regenerated again. The experience we had did have a tremendous effect not only on the old generation, but also on the young boys who where highly affected by what happened and could see the achievements triumphant faces when the Israeli forces pulled out of Beit Sahour on the Second of November by the way our response to the tax raid was that the rapprochement centre called for a prayer for peace on 5th of November, three days after the tax raid was over. We invited all the nominations, Christians, Muslims, Jews, to pray with us in Beit Sahour at the roman catholic church for peace and justice. This was our response to the tax raid. Again, a non violent tactic.

Q: Could you comment in Beit Sahour and perhaps in compared with some of the other communities how young people may have felt in regard to rock throwing. What do you know about young people actions and feelings in that regard?

A: I have to one fact about the intifada. The abuse of the media is that it reflects what interests it. It does not reflect the realities on the ground some time. A martyr or somebody throwing stones is more exciting to the media than non violence. I would say according to all studies that were made in the occupied territories that non violent resistance in all the occupied territories, not only in Beit Sahour, were contributing to 75 % of the activities of the intifada. Only 25% contributed to stone throwing and you know what response we had from the Israeli occupation authority You have to stop throwing stones or we will not stop escalating the measures against you. In a very strange way and it looked exactly as if we were raped for 25 years silently raped and when start scratching the face of occupation, we start saying Well unless you stop scratching my face I'm not going to stop And that was exactly the situation. Again we viewed things from an efficient point of view. If it is needed to throw stones, I suppose we will throw stones because I don't think stone throwing is a violent act. And Palestinian young boys who were stone throwing, actually were committing suicide and that was a highly conscionable that you might ever think of. To commit suicide in order to convince your enemy you want peace and you want to get rid of it. By throwing stones every single young boy was sacrificing himself because the reaction to the stone was a bullet so we reached to the point of suicidal level in resistance in order to convince the other side that we don't want it so we were harming ourselves actually, not the other side. It was very unique in resistance.

Q: Your examples were very inspiring. How did you keep this community support as such and what was the reason the leadership in the exile was against the tax boycott?

A: For the first part of your question it was able to keep the support through the different committees of course there were secret committees and when for instance we had curfew, committees from around Beit Sahour or the towns around Beit Sahour gave support to the people, and people from the neighbourhood committees adjacent to the borders of Beit Sahour were carrying at night all the food stuff and other things to the Beit Sahourians. In addition to this, we adapted a system of home economy, lowered our standard of living to the minimum and every piece of land around our houses was cultivated so that we will not be in need for the basic materials for surviving. That helped us in all the difficult times we were through.

As to regard to the leadership I really don't know. It seems they had a different agenda but all I can say about that is that we had suffered a lot from the negative impact of the position that was hold by the Palestinian leadership. While we were going into a non violent resistance that manifest itself in the tax boycott and tax resistance and we gave the example in Beit Sahour that we can do it, the upper middle class can do it, that's not a miracle and we can create a new momentum for the intifada and we can generate an international support to our cause and can generate an Israeli support to our cause and in a very estrange way and unexplainable way the Palestinian leadership abandon the boat. Why they did that, I have my own concept but that's another story. We might speak about it, if you like.

Q: Elias, I'd like you to comment on this. I'm reading a quote from Isaac Rabin on the day that the Peace Accord was signed on the US:

To day we are in backing on a battle which has no dead and no wounded no blood and no anguish, this is the only battle which is pleasant to wage a battle for peace.

Could you describe the reality of this Peace accord from your perspective?

A: It's strange that he was talking about peace while his undercover squads were killing Palestinians in cold blood from a point blank range, but I can understand Rabin, who is very clever in showing up in front of the media. He achieved all that he wanted. He got all that he wanted from the Palestinian leadership, and they gave him signature on what ever he wishes and what ever he likes in a way that will endanger the Palestinian people as people, and sooner or later we are going to be confined in reservations or if you like to use their term canton surrounded by settlements from all over, disconnected from each other, the rules will be controlled by settlers and the army and we may need a permit to go from one city to another and we may face the destiny of the Indians. In my believe nothing will make Rabin happier than this.

Q: Could you talk a little bit more of these ideas of professionalism and efficiency so I can understand them better as things that guide actions?

A: We were preparing the society for a confrontation. and in order to win the confrontation to come you have to be sure that you are controlling your internal elements. You have to be sure that you are using all the capabilities and internal forces that are in the society while at the same time to avoid any possible decision that will cause an internal disunity or it might be to hard for the society to adapt. At the same time you have to keep the situation escalating in a well designed way that you will move together with all you structure to the point of no return where confrontation is unavoidable, but you can not point without preparing yourself or your society. When a six years old boy confronted the tax collector and responded onto him it was the clear message to the organisers that the message had reached to every body. Of course they could know that because they were living with people, they were part of people and they were trying to organise the whole thing from the act of the neighbourhood committees and more professionally through the popular committees was considered illegal also. At the same time you must be aware of what will be the reactions to your attitude, what might be the response from the authority. To speculate that and to prepare yourself and your society for the reaction, not only to prepare them for the reaction but to prepare them for reaction and action, because the most efficient way is to keep on acting and not to be in a position of reacting. I think these are the general trends. It's hard to go into detail, because I believe more or less towards each society and they might differ from one culture to another. But you have to make use of your own resources and you can not go into the confrontation all of a sudden you have to make a build up process. It took us almost two years to go into the final confrontation.

Q: I'm very impressed for all the preparations. I had read about intifada but I had not read about this preparation... We can learn from you.

A: I must say that the preparation for this conference had exited me to the point to start thinking how it will be in the next face during the autonomy. Because according to the so-called Peaceful Agreement there will be around 25.000 police army force. If you ask any Palestinian do you need that for a population of 2.000.000 he will say Of course not, What for? Those 25.000 force absorb the large portion of the Palestinian tax money. Actually the advice of the World Bank is to continue collecting taxes according to the existing system built by the occupation. If this is the case and it will be because I heard a week a go the Palestinian finance minister, Mr. Nasashibi, said that the previous tax system will continue to be enforced in the area of autonomy. I think the possibilities of investment and economic development in the autonomous part will be hardly limited if not stopped at all if that tax system is to be enforced, but the Palestinians who are running the autonomy don't have many choices. They've got a loan of 30 M dollars a week ago from the World Bank they were already out, you can imagine what will be later. So we have to start thinking about how to resist paying taxes, or war taxes that will support 25.000 military. Thanks to this Conference who incited me for that purpose.

Q: Has your group had any contact with Jean Sharp Group or the Albert Einstein Institute or the Group of Civilian Base Defence? Were you aware of the work of how Civil Disobedience has stopped confrontation for some time even long time? How do you get your message out through the media? Do you know of evidence of reporting or persons or media that would help you state your story and what lessons are there for any of us in the future as to what do you do when your message doesn't get reported adequately and gets reported wrongly and how do you seek out those who might reported correctly?

A: In regard to the first part I don't think we have had any contact with this group that you have mentioned. We would be very glad to get a contact with these groups.

As for the media we were able to maintain certain level of information from Beit Sahour to the rest of the world through direct contacts. There were many who came to Beit Sahour to do their Ph.D. Degrees on non violent resistance in the tax boycott. I have been invited lately to the US for 45 days in June and July, with my family as a Christian Palestinian family to tell about our story in Beit Sahour.

Our Rapprochement Centre in Beit Sahour is distributing a monthly News letter and there is a group of Palestinians undermaking now in Beit Sahour, who will form what we call the alternative tourism by which we will be telling our version of the story and we will be informing the other side of the story while tourists are visiting the West Bank Area.

I have little of the literature that has been spread about Beit Sahour including some books written by the Rapprochement centre and other books made by famous writers, Anthony Lewis for instance who wrote about the Tax Raid in Beit Sahour that you might see.

I think we were able to bring the awareness to what had been happening. We have a joke to tell about this. Commercial, one minute.

Do you know why the Angels who came to bring the good news of the birth of Jesus Christ told the news to shepherds of Beit Sahour? Because if they had told any body else, no one would have heard about Jesus Christ.

As I said there are hundreds and hundreds of highly graduated Beit Sahourians who had kept contact with the institutions they graduated from and many of the people are in coordination with other institutions. Actually one of the board men of the Rapprochement Centre should be by now in the US invited by the ADC to tell the story of a new settlement the built of settlements around Jerusalem. It will be cited on Saint Lucas mountain, besides completing the built of settlements is that it will accommodate 40.000 new immigrants. If we add to this another settlement that has been built on land that belongs to people in a near town named Bejala there will be 100.000 this will create a new demographic situation in the area of Bethlehem were as Mr. Rabin can think of swallowing more of Bethlehem area since there will be more Jew than Palestinians the significance of this new settlement is not only disconnecting, and closing Jerusalem, but its an immediate threat to the people of Beit Sahour, Bejala and Bethlehem who represent the last Christian community in the Holy Land, and if this settlement will be God forbids within few years, you will not see any Christian around the Holy Ground.

If you are eager to hear another commercial I have a good story, its also part of the resistance. It is called the cow's story.

It was decided shortly after the Intifada, that we had to boycott also the Israeli products. One major product is milk cheese, milk, and butter, so we must stop using the milk coming from the Israeli companies. A group of Beit Sahourians decided to buy 18 cows and so they did. They bought 18 cows from a Israeli kibbutz. By the way later on the Parliament pass a law not to sell cows to Palestinians, but this is not the point. We brought the cows to a small ranch next to Beit Sahour. It came to the information of the military government in Bethlehem that there are some 18 terrorists located somewhere around Beit Sahour, so he decided to visit. He came with all his troupes to the ranch, they saw the cows the soldiers started taking pictures of the cows, each cow with a serial number. And the military government threatened the man who was taking care of the cows that cows must be slaughtered and he said: I cannot slaughter 18 cows in one day, you must give me a few days. In addition to this the military government order that water must be cut off that ranch which happened. So the people took the cows in the middle of the night, by the way the cows were so cooperative, they didn't make any noise, loaded them in trucks and sent them somewhere else. Actually to a butcher who had a cave inside the mountain where they could not be located easily. A few days later the governor came back in a parade with his troops and to his surprise, he couldn't find the 18 terrorists. He decided and ordered a search campaign and it started all around and over the Beit Sahour area and you could see soldiers carrying pictures of the cows all over the streets. Have you seen this? and at some point, helicopters took place in the search. Well finally in two weeks time they located the cows. They paid a visit to the butcher. Ah, here are the cows. You must slaughter them. Of course, that's what I bought them for. responded the butcher Very well, but 18 cows might take a few days, you have one week to slaughter them. In a week time the military government came back and he could see the 18 cows were still there and he got furious. The butcher said Your excellency, they are all pregnant, you don't expect me to slaughter pregnant cows. Well he order to put the butcher in prison because he was part of the movement and didn't pay his taxes. So he was imprisoned for four days, out one day back again four days, so we decided to move the cows again and so we moved the cows into trucks and again were cooperative and did not make any noise and they are still there supplying milk for the children and recently we established a dairy factory for cheese, yogurt in Beit Sahour. It's been functioning for two weeks I think.

Q: What would your situation be if there were no holy reigns there?

A: What's the difference in Somalia or Rwanda? If it wasn't holy, if it wasn't Israel, it would have been a number killed not more. See how many people are killed in Rwanda, Yugoslavia and who cares.(....)

Change of tape

(...) And I told them, well, if we will be privileged to have salaries like other our Israeli counterparts, we don't mind to have the same level of taxes that they pay. I mean the people will not mind to pay that, because if you compare a teacher, a Palestinian teacher receiving eight hundred shekels (this is the standard of salaries for teachers), its Israeli counterpart at the time of the study was receiving something around twenty-seven, twenty eight hundred shekels, we are talking about three and a half-four times more. So there was deep discrimination and as I said according to the economic studies that were made by Palestinians, Israel is benefiting one billion dollar every year besides or except of what has been spent in the budget. So there are big discriminations.

Pedro: That's it?

Elias: Yes

Pedro: This can be the end of this first lecture. If anyone wants the copy of these papers, he or she has just to ask for it and we have a photocopier in the office, so thee won't be any problem. In the same way if someone has a paper to be distributed tell us and we'll make copies for everyone.

Palestinian:We have this monthly bulletin of the reprochment center, there's the address, and fax, and other things. Anyone who would like to receive information he can send the letter to the reprochment and he can receive the information.

Pedro: So now it is time for a break but in this case the break will be time for accommodation. So I think that Patxi and Alfy will try to do their best in the office. I will try to talk with the enterprise about the interpreters' booths. I will try to make a change I don't know if will be possible, anyway thanks to the translators; you are making a great work in very bad conditions. I'd like to have a meeting with the rest of people for the different workshops if it's possible now to get here just for a while, to join our ideas. Thanks very much.

Main Page for Hondarribia