27 August 2009 On 27 August 2009, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza and Adalah submitted a petition to the Supreme Court of Israel against the freeze of “national insurance” disability payments to around 700 beneficiaries living in the Gaza Strip from the beginning of 2009.
The halt of the payments followed a decision made by the Bank of Israel to stop all business with all banks in Gaza.
The petition was filed on behalf of six individuals who have stopped receiving their disability payments, together with organizations Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Sawt el-Amel (The Laborer’s Voice), and Kav LaOved (Worker’s Hotline).
In the petition, Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher relied on six affidavits from workers affected by the decision gathered by Al Mezan.
The petition followed lengthy correspondence between Adalah and the Bank of Israel, the National Insurance Institute (NII), the Prime Minister and various other government ministers, who have all attempted to shirk from responsibility for the problem.
The various addresses claimed that the NII was searching for alternative ways of transferring the payments to beneficiaries in consultation with the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Defense and the Palestinian National Authority.
However, in the eight months since the problem began, the NII has not found a solution.
The petitioners emphasized that these workers were injured during the course of their work inside Israel and they paid all national insurance fees and taxes prior to their injuries.
Following their injuries, the workers submitted requests to the NII for the receipt of disability payments.
Under the National Insurance Act of 1995, the file of each worker was transferred to an internal medical committee, which certified his disability and entitlement to the allowance.
NII payments have been made by Israel to these workers for many years.
In cases in which the NII confirms the eligibility of a person to receive disability allowances, it becomes obliged under law to transfer the payments on a monthly basis; failure to do so constitutes a breach of the law.
Attorney Zaher argued that in previous decisions, the Israeli Supreme Court has affirmed that National Insurance payments are the property of the beneficiaries and therefore any detriment to them affects the constitutional right to ownership of property and contradicts the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom – 1992.
Attorney Zaher added that the transfer of disability payments to Israeli beneficiaries living in Israel and not to Palestinians, merely because they live in the Gaza Strip, constitutes discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and nationality.
It also contradicts the right of Palestinian workers to equal treatment before the law and previous Supreme Court rulings.
Furthermore, depriving individuals of disability payments when they constitute their sole source of income prevents them from purchasing the medicine they need for their injuries and disabilities.
Thus the non-transfer of the payments is a violation of their natural and constitutional right to health.
Attorney Mirvat al-Nakhal from Al Mezan stated that the affidavits collected from affected workers demonstrate that they and their families were living in extreme poverty which was having an adverse effect on all of their lives and violating their human rights, particularly since economic and humanitarian conditions in Gaza are in a continual state of decline as a result of the Israeli blockade and closure.
One of the petitioners is 58-year-old Mr.
Sharif Qarmout, who is married and has three children.
In 1979, while working in construction in the area of Rishon Letzion, he fell six storeys from a building.
He sustained serious injuries to his back and was completely paralyzed.
After being injured, Mr.
Qarmout approached a special committee within the NII.
After undergoing numerous tests he was diagnosed as 100% disabled and awarded disability payments.
Qarmout, who was insured with the Clalit Health Services Fund, is also entitled to a wheel chair every three years, along with several types of medicine.
However, the health fund stopped providing these benefits at the beginning of 2009.
Since then, Mr.
Qarmout has been unable to support himself and his family, since the payments were their only source of income.
He has further been unable to purchase the medicines he needs, which cost over 1,000 shekels per month.
Case citation: H.
6820/09, Fadl Abu al-Qumsan et al.
The Bank of Israel, et al.