Flashback 2009: Gaza and War Tax Resistance

Note: This piece by NWTRCC coordinator Ruth Benn was originally published in the February/March 2009 edition of NWTRCC’s newsletter, More Than a Paycheck. We still operate the War Tax Boycott site and you can sign on to the boycott here. The flyer, using an older image by artist Doug Minkler, developed for Northern California War Tax Resistance, was created this year in response to Israeli attacks on Gaza.

[Parent holding injured child] Who Pays for War? US taxpayers to Israel: $3.1 billion/yr military aid. Over 10 years: 670 million weapons. Don't let it be you. Refuse to pay.

Printable flyer for distribution at protests.

Reflections on Gaza: Renewing the War Tax Boycott
By Ruth Benn

Today I got out the notebooks and photos from my first trip to Palestine and Israel in 1988 at the time of the first intifada. I was on a human rights tour with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The goal was to show U.S. activists the view from occupation and for us to bring that information back home.

With Gaza under attack, that trip has been on my mind. In particular I wanted to look up my notes from a meeting with a lawyer (a young man then, but is he still alive?) at the Gaza Lawyers Association whose words led me to increase my war tax resistance.

“Watch your taxes. Don’t kill the kids. Don’t participate in this.”

His three simple phrases ring all too true today. U.S. aid to Israel, along with all kinds of loans and weapons deals, allows the occupation to continue. I was truly horrified at seeing firsthand a military occupation and to get a taste of the daily humiliations that are an aspect of controlling a population. On a few occasions our group was also the target of stones thrown by Palestinian young people who saw us as the enemy.

Sometimes it seems that the cycle of violence has cycled around so many times that it might be impossible to find the way out. I just want to shout at all the soldiers and fighters, “STOP IT.”

But there is always more to the story, and the U.S. desperation for a toe-hold in the Middle East is a powerful factor behind the intractable appearance of this conflict. When I came home after that trip in ’88 I changed my W-4 in order to stop paying 100% of my federal income taxes. Up to that point I had been refusing a percentage of whatever was due, but I could no longer stomach supporting militarism by writing a check of any size to the U.S. government.

At the same time, I became more diligent at redirecting refused tax dollars to help victims of war, people working for peace, and other programs that serve humanity. Mine is such a small contribution given all the desperate needs around the world, but it is my way of shouting for change.

Does the government hear me? I think so, but they don’t like to talk about tax resistance because they don’t want more people to realize they can choose how their money is spent. And, it takes more than our separate voices to really force a change in priorities at the highest levels.

Whether your resistance, or consideration of war tax resistance, has been motivated by violence in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, or the lack of services here at home while the government builds more weapons, I hope that we can amplify our shouts through the 2009 War Tax Boycott and redirection. The longer the list of public signers to the Boycott, the louder that shout becomes.

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Podcast #1: War Tax Resistance for a Better World

war tax talk podcast logoIn March we conducted our first ever Google Hangout, called “War Tax Resistance for a Better World”, with three panelists talking about how and why they do war tax resistance and how their actions contribute to creating the world they want to live in. Now we have a complete podcast version for your listening pleasure, to start off our occasional podcast series, also called War Tax Talk.

Listen to the podcast.

Subscribe to the podcast feed by adding http://feeds.feedburner.com/WarTaxTalkPodcast to your RSS reader. We hope to get onto iTunes and/or other podcast syndication sites soon. Send suggestions for podcast/Google Hangout topics or promotion ideas to wartaxresister at nwtrcc dot org.

Listen to other audio interviews with war tax resisters.

 Post by Erica

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Henry David Thoreau: A War Tax Resistance Inspiration

photo of Henry David ThoreauBy July 1846, the naturalist, slavery abolitionist, and writer Henry David Thoreau had been resisting the payment of poll taxes that helped fund the Mexican-American War for six years. He was arrested for refusing to pay and spent a night in jail. Though someone, likely his aunt, paid his back taxes and got him out the next day, his brief time in jail had a profound influence on him. A few years later Thoreau published the essay Civil Disobedience, containing his famous line, “If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.”

Also in that essay, he wrote, “Prac­ti­cally speak­ing, the op­pon­ents to a re­form in Mas­sa­chu­setts [to abolish slavery] are not a hun­dred thou­sand pol­i­ti­cians at the South, but a hun­dred thou­sand mer­chants and farm­ers here, who are more in­ter­ested in com­merce and ag­ri­cul­ture than they are in hu­man­ity, and are not pre­pared to do jus­tice to the slave and to Mex­ico, cost what it may. I quar­rel not with far-off foes, but with those who, near at home, co-op­er­ate with, and do the bid­ding of those far away, and with­out whom the lat­ter would be harm­less.” As war tax resisters, we refuse to “do the bidding of those far away” who want to spend our taxes on endless war. Despite our distance from the conflicts the US government funds, we still recognize how taxation compels our participation in war, and how refusing to pay brings attention to this reality.

Throughout the month of July, the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee is celebrating the contributions of Thoreau to our modern movement. Join us by:

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