'Tax authority ignores court order to stop checking Arab drivers at checkpoints'

Collectors either get partial payment or impound vehicle.

checkpoint 88 (photo credit: )
checkpoint 88
(photo credit: )
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said late last week that the Israel Tax Authority had violated an instruction from the High Court of Justice to stop posting tax collectors at police roadblocks while the justices considered a petition against the practice. During a hearing on Wednesday, a panel of three High Court justices blasted the practice in which tax collectors checks cars driven by Palestinian motorists stopped by the police for security checks to see if they owe taxes. If they do, the collector demands partial payment immediately, and impounds the vehicle if the money is not forthcoming. The petition was filed in August by ACRI on behalf of four east Jerusalem residents and three east Jerusalem organizations, the Community Center at Al-Quds University, the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights and Al-Quds Center for Social and Economic Rights. At the end of the hearing, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and acting Justice Uzi Fogelman told the state they expected the Tax Authority to stop investigating Palestinian motorists at police roadblocks until the court ruled on the legality of the practice. The following day, however, an ACRI fieldworker in east Jerusalem reported that an income tax detail had been examining cars at a junction in the Wadi Joz neighborhood of east Jerusalem and had impounded one car that they later towed away. In response to a query by The Jerusalem Post, the Tax Authority did not state explicitly whether the report was true, but said, "Lately, in the wake of High Court deliberations, the Tax Authority has accepted the High Court position and will act accordingly." It also told the Post that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz had approved the use of police roadblocks to inspect and collect tax debts. In its response to the High Court of Justice, the state acknowledged that in addition to tax collectors waiting at official police roadblocks, off duty policemen had been hired by the Tax Authority and the National Insurance Institute to set up roadblocks and collect debts on its behalf. "This practice, for which no authorization from the attorney-general had been requested, was stopped," the state told the court. During the hearing, Beinisch told the state, "What kind of procedure is this? The motorist doesn't even have time to go through his papers and check for himself whether or not he owes money? This is a violation of civil rights and it is obvious that the authorization to violate human rights in such a way must be more concrete. This is a misuse of authority and an unworthy practice." The court gave the state 60 days to reconsider its policy.