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

In West Jerusalem, which also suffers high rates of poverty, the poor make up 8.2% of all Israel’s poor, with 27% of the residents (21.5% of families) living under the...

In West Jerusalem, which also suffers high rates of poverty, the poor make up 8.2% of all Israel’s poor, with 27% of the residents (21.5% of families) living under the poverty line. Their average income is 36% lower than poverty-line income, but the rate of ISB recipients is higher: 10% of West Jerusalem’s poor receive them (compared to 7% in EJ).
The major point is this: While over a quarter (26.5%) of all Israel’s poor (excluding East Jerusalemites) were found eligible for ISBs, only 7% of East Jerusalem’s poor receive them, although their poverty is more widespread and extreme. This discriminatory treatment is one of the factors turning EJ into a humanitarian disaster zone.

After a request by WAC-MAAN to the NII’s Freedom of Information Department, we received the following data concerning those claims that it processed. From June 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015, the EJ branch of the NII received 2,989 claims for ISBs, of which 2,767 were decided: 846 claims were accepted and 1,921 (69%) were denied. The Department provided the following table.

Table 1: 120 claims denied per month on average at the East Jerusalem branch of the National Insurance Institute between June 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015 (by main reason for claim denial)

Reason of denial by monthly average East Jerusalem branch
Failure to produce documents* 69
Failure to meet employment test (claimant and/or partner) 32
Income (denial because of excessive income) 12
Maintaining multiple vehicles 5
Vehicle valuation 1
Postponement due to studies 1
Total 120

*After a reminder notice and a notice of delayed processing

An analysis of the table shows that the main reason for denial of benefits was bureaucratic: 57% of the claimants failed to produce all the necessary documents. The second reason (26%) was the failure to meet the employment test. Another 10% of claims were denied because of failure to pass the income test.

The fact that most claims were rejected for bureaucratic reasons (regardless of whether the failure lay with the claimants or the NII) should have led the NII to check the branch’s procedures and find ways to make claim submission easier. This is especially the case when the population is Arabic-speaking and has been described by the NII itself as suffering from extreme poverty.  Yet instead of lightening the burden, additional difficulties are heaped upon the EJ residents, distancing them from fulfillment of the right to a dignified income. Indeed, when WAC-MAAN helped a number of people to submit their claims in Arabic, these were rejected on the grounds that Arabic is inadmissible.

As said in the preface, in addition to the employment and income tests, the EJ residents must also undergo a stringent residency test, for which they must supply numerous documents showing that they and their family members do indeed live in the city. At times these documents are hard to obtain, and in this way too eligibility is denied to people who otherwise meet all the criteria for an ISB.

The apparatus of disqualification

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About Erez Wagner