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January 25, 2023 11:41 am

Palestinians in Uproar Over Abbas ‘Shekel Tax’ on Phones ‘to Support Jerusalem’

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia November 23, 2021. Sputnik/Evgeny Biyatov/Kremlin via REUTERS

Earlier this week, Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas announced that every Palestinian with a mobile or landline phone will have to pay an extra shekel every month “to support Jerusalem.”

Palestinians received a message on their mobile phones saying, “In compliance with President Abbas’ decision, one shekel will be added to your bill every month for a period of 12 months as part of an initiative to support the steadfastness of our people in Jerusalem.”

The tax would raise about 60 million shekels ($18 million) annually.

The reaction was immediate and fierce. No one believes that the money would go to Jerusalem Arabs, and nearly everyone assumes it would enrich Abbas and his Fatah friends.

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Palestinians ridiculed the decision on social media, many saying that they refuse to pay or that they would rather cancel their phones. Some called it “theft in broad daylight.”

Others noted that the earmarking of funds to “Jerusalem” was incredibly vague and could be used for anything.

Some Jerusalem Arabs said that they don’t need any money, but rather an army to “liberate” them.

Still others pointed out that imposing such a tax without official approval from the Legislative Council is illegal under Palestinian law.

Many Palestinians recalled a previous fundraising initiative by Abbas. In 2016, he announced a project to build the “Khaled Al-Hassan” cancer hospital on 20 dunams of land in Ramallah, at an approximate cost of $140 million, not including medical equipment costs. Tens of millions of dollars were raised, but the hospital was never built, while the government claims that the money raised was put in a “special fund.”

This prompted many to jokingly say that the phone tax will pay for the Jerusalem branch of the Khaled al-Hassan hospital.

This episode proves that there is absolutely no trust in Mahmoud Abbas’ government. A majority of Palestinians consider both the PA and Hamas to be corrupt.

Beyond that, it shows how out of touch Abbas is from the people. The reaction was predictable, even as he probably thought that no one would care about such a small increase in their phone bill.

The story shows just how precarious and corrupt the PA is.

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