Zio-Watch News Round-up

Dr. Patrick Slattery’s News Roundup, January 4, 2015



From the Jewish Daily Forward

In the Shmitta Year, Lifting the Burden of Pay Day Loans

Enslaved by an Insurmountable Debt

Cornered: Activists are trying to put a cap on interest rates for pay day loans.

The beginning of 2015 is also the halfway point in the year of shmitta, the once in seven years when the Bible commands that land be left fallow — a tradition that is followed today in a number of symbolic ways.

One of the powerful practices of the shmitta year is society coming together to erase oppressive debt, in a practice called shmittat kessafim — the release of money.

In biblical times, those trapped in debt would eventually wind up in chains as slaves. A year of release from debt stops that cycle. Today, 12 million Americans are trapped each year in a cycle of payday loans. These are small loans marketed as a quick, easy way to tide borrowers over until the next payday. However, the typical payday loan borrower is indebted for more than half the year with an average of nine payday loan transactions at annual interest rates of more than 400%.

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From PressTV

Israeli settlers backed by army soldiers attack Palestinians. (File photo)

Israeli settlers backed by army soldiers attack Palestinians. (File photo)

At least three Palestinians have been wounded during an attack by Israeli settlers on a village north of the occupied West Bank.

Israeli soldiers were at the scene of the raid in Aqraba on Saturday, but did nothing when Palestinian shepherds and farmers were assaulted, Palestinian sources said.

The armed settlers set a car ablaze and opened live fire at the villagers.

The Palestinian shepherds had gathered in the village, saying their herds had been stolen.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said later that the herds were found, without saying whether the herds had been found inside the Israeli settlements or not.
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From PressTV

Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat

A senior Palestinian official has condemned Israel’s freeze on Palestinian tax revenues as a “new war crime.”  

“This decision is a new Israeli war crime, but we won’t back off in the face of those pressures,” Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said on Saturday.

He added, “Israel is once again responding to our legal steps with further illegal collective punishments.”

An Israeli official confirmed that Tel Aviv has blocked the transfer of taxes it collects on behalf of Palestinians in retaliation for their application to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) and file war crimes charges against Israel.

“The funds for the month of December were due to pass on Friday, but it was decided to halt the transfer as part of the response to the Palestinian move,” the Israeli daily Haaretz quoted an unidentified Israeli official as saying.

The official went on to say the halting involves 127 million dollars worth of value-added tax (VAT) and customs duties on Palestinian goods that pass through Israel.
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From PressTV

This file photo shows Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza City.

This file photo shows Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza City.

Israeli naval forces have opened fire on a Palestinian fishing boat off the southern coast of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the forces fired machine gun rounds before lobbing a shell at the boat off the coast of the city of Rafah, located 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Gaza City, early on Saturday.

The fisherman, identified as Jamal Numan, was critically injured in the incident and was taken to Youssef al-Najjar hospital in Rafah.

Palestinian fishermen in Gaza experienced their toughest year on record in 2014 because of Israeli crimes.

The fishermen suffered recurring attacks before, during and after Israel’s summer military aggression against Gaza.
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From PressTV

A Palestinian security officer patrols the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on October 26, 2014.

Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has condemned a fatal shooting attack by Egyptian border guards which led to the death of a Gazan teenager in the border town of Rafah.

In a Saturday statement, Hamas condemned “the killing of the child Zaki Hopi by Egyptian army gunfire on the borders,” adding, “We consider what happened as a dangerous development and excessive use of force.”

“What happened is not appropriate to neighborly relations between brothers,” the statement added.

According to Gaza emergency services spokesman, Hopi, 17, was shot in the back on Friday, with the bullet hitting his heart and killing him on the spot. The motive behind the attack is not clear yet.

The incident comes as Egypt announced on Tuesday that it wants to double the width of a buffer zone along the border with the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli blockade for the past seven years.

The Egyptian military has also stepped up destruction of tunnels into Gaza since it ousted Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, in July 2013.

More than 1,600 tunnels have been destroyed since the military-backed government came to power in Cairo last year.
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From the Jewish Daily Forward

Israel Freezes $125M in Palestinian Cash To Retaliate for ICC Move

Ramallah Relies on Tax Revenues To Pay Salaries

Israel has decided to freeze a monthly revenue transfer to the Palestinians in response to President Mahmoud Abbas’s approach to the International Criminal Court and other international agencies, an Israeli official said on Saturday.

The official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu had decided, in consultation with cabinet ministers, to freeze a planned monthly transfer of 500 million Israeli shekels (about $125 million), which Palestinians rely on to run their government and pay civil servants’ salaries.

Israel had condemned Abbas’s move last Wednesday as a unilateral step that undermined prospects for a negotiated peace settlement.