The magic circle: How income-security benefits are denied to the Palestinians of East Jerusalem

Separate bureaus and procedures; refusal by clerks to receive documents and allow submission of claims; refusal by the Employment Bureau to receive and handle job seekers; referrals to fictitious jobs;...

Separate bureaus and procedures; refusal by clerks to receive documents and allow submission of claims; refusal by the Employment Bureau to receive and handle job seekers; referrals to fictitious jobs; humiliating procedures at government offices; failure to respond to claimants’ representatives – by these methods the National Insurance Institute and the Employment Bureau withhold the socioeconomic safety net from Israel’s poorest. 

A queu at the National Insurance Institue, March 2015

A queu at the National Insurance Institue, March 2015

 Preface:

After 48 years of occupation, Palestinians in East Jerusalem (EJ) face a humanitarian disaster – 229,300 of 307,600 residents live in extreme poverty, unknown anywhere in Israel.[1]

In order to fulfill their duties in the face of poverty, the National Insurance Institute (NII) and the Employment Bureau (EB) are supposed to make living stipends available, in particular an income-security benefit (ISB), which is a stipend based on an income test. The purpose is to provide opportunities for a dignified existence alongside vocational rehabilitation and job placement, thereby rescuing people from poverty.

However, the number of ISBs approved for EJ residents is proportionally very low, making it clear that these institutions are not fulfilling their duties. As indicated by this report, their methods are tainted with blatant discrimination. Adding grievance to injury are statements by government ministers (in the present government and the one before it), which hold that the ISBs in East Jerusalem are not a right, as they are for all other residents of Israel, but that they serve as “carrots and sticks” to control the Palestinian population.

According to data provided to WAC-MAAN by the NII, the percentage of claims for ISBs received and approved in East Jerusalem is unusually low relative to the percentage living below the poverty line. Of the claims submitted, the great majority are rejected on the argument that “appropriate documents were not submitted.” Many others are rejected because of noncompliance with the employment test (namely, reporting to the Employment Bureau and accepting any appropriate job).

Every year, the EJ WAC-MAAN office handles some 200 cases facing the EB and the NII, as well as advising hundreds more. The many complaints show a magic circle of claims-obstruction, which works as follows:

On the one hand, the NII often does not allow claimants to submit an application for an ISB if they do not attach all required documents at the time of submission. However, according to its guidelines (which take into account the despair of people who have reached this extremity) it is supposed to begin processing a claim regardless, informing the claimant in writing which documents are lacking. (See examples of individual cases in Part II.) Furthermore, in cases where a claim is indeed submitted, the NII consistently and systematically fails to provide written confirmation that it received the claim and the accompanying documents. The EB, for its part, refuses to register the claimant’s visit if he/she does not have an official signed receipt confirming submission of a claim to the NII. This is the case despite a guideline dictating that every job seeker must be received at the first visit to the EB and that this cannot be conditioned on the NII receipt. In addition, women encounter special obstacles, leading to physically unsuitable or even fictitious[2]  job referrals that result in denial of claims. The consequence of these factors is that most claims fail.

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About Erez Wagner