The next fault line in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict comes from an unassuming corner, the banking system. With the Trump Administration having its back, Israel legislated to commit crimes in broad daylight. The latest effort comes in the form of a military order, one of the thousands issued throughout Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Today, as far as the Israeli books are concerned, any Israeli soldier has the right to enter any Palestinian bank and confiscate funds that are claimed to be associated with particular bank accounts.
Anywhere else in the world this would be called “bank robbery” but in Palestine it is just another day under Israeli military occupation.
Israel is demanding that Palestinian banks close the accounts of unnamed Palestinians which they have blacklisted. This flagrant infringement of the Palestinian private sector, not to mention the jurisdiction of the Palestinian government, is being undertaken in broad daylight with no legal pretext, no due diligence, and no due process. Instead, Israel, as it has done for over five decades, simply issues a military order through its Ministry of Defense, which is responsible for the occupied Palestinian territory.
As an occupying force, Israel appointed itself to be the judge and jury, as well as the jailer and torturer in this case, in total defiance of the internationally defined obligations required of it under the laws of occupation.
This latest Israeli military order, #67 (2020), is an amendment to a previous military order, #1651 (2009), and was issued on February 9, 2020. It became effective on May 1, 2020. In short, the new order adds a new definition to the original order and reads [in Hebrew, translated]:
“Giving the right or withdrawing the right to ownership of the funds or any right to the funds, in the event that they are movable or immovable, at a price or without a price, and every process that includes the recruitment, delivery, taking, possession, exchange, banking operation, investment, trade in the stock exchange, brokerage, grants, or taking credit, importing, exporting, creating credit, or mixing terrorism money with other funds even those that are not related to terrorism.”
Using this definition, the Israeli military threatens to hold anyone responsible for being involved in any of the above transactions, directly or indirectly, to be guilty and liable to face a seven-year prison sentence and/or a fine which can reach ten times the amount of the transaction.
The political motivation behind this “legal” hogwash is the Israeli desire to punish the Palestinian leadership for refusing to stop making welfare payments to those Palestinians who were, or continue to be, detained in Israeli prisons—political prisoners,—in addition to welfare payments made to families of martyrs. It is important to note that nearly one million Palestinians have gone through the Israeli prison system since the start of Israeli military occupation in 1967. These arrests are greatly arbitrary and the courts hearing the cases are military courts with a 99.74% conviction rate. Thousands of Palestinians have also been imprisoned by Israel under what is called “Administrative Detention” where they are held without any charges being brought against them.
With this latest attack on the banking sector, Israel is directly threatening all 14 Palestinian banks, which comprise a network of 370 branches and offices and nearly 7,000 bank employees, managing 14.8 Billion USD in deposits, a credit portfolio of 9 Billion USD, and total assets of 17.3 Billion USD. In a nutshell, this is an attempt to undercut the Palestinian economy from its foundations.
The institution responsible for banks in Palestine is the Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA), one of the few relative success stories of the Oslo Accords period. The PMA is the organization that will supposedly transform into the Palestine Central Bank once independence is gained and Palestine can issue its own currency. Until then, its role is limited to regulating the banks under Palestinian law.