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

Amal’s case was finally handled by the two institutions as required only after she had contacted WAC-MAAN and it had intervened: WAC-MAAN sent her claim to the NII, including a...

Amal’s case was finally handled by the two institutions as required only after she had contacted WAC-MAAN and it had intervened: WAC-MAAN sent her claim to the NII, including a copy to the director of the East Jerusalem branch, and immediately contacted the director of the Employment Services by fax and SMS, stating its obligations as laid out in the protocols. If WAC-MAAN had not intervened, Amal would have had her benefits denied.

Hibba too contacted WAC-MAAN. The EB had refused to allow her to register as a jobseeker, saying she could not register without a signed document from the NII confirming that she had submitted a claim for income support. WAC-MAAN immediately contacted the bureau director and arranged another date for Hibba to register. However, when Hibba arrived on the appointed day, again the clerk refused to register her, saying she had to have the signed and stamped document from the NII. In a conversation with WAC-MAAN, the clerk said he was acting according to specific instructions from the director himself. WAC-MAAN representatives contacted the director and demanded that Hibba be allowed to register. It also demanded that the previous procedure be canceled. His written response was surprising: while confirming the existence of the instruction, the director repeated that in order to register, the claimant had to bring the signed document from the NII. This was a public acknowledgment that the East Jerusalem branch has a special procedure which is contrary to EB protocols and the practices in other branches. Only after WAC-MAAN once again insisted on Hibba’s right to register was she finally permitted to do so. In light of his letter confirming the “special arrangement” at this branch, it is certain that without WAC-MAAN’s assistance, Hibba would not have been able to register. The fact that he finally agreed to register her shows that the demand he had presented in writing just a few hours previously had nothing to do with regular procedures, and in fact there was nothing to stop Hibba from registering.

Ibtisam encountered similar obstacles. At the beginning of 2015, Ibtisam and her husband Aiman submitted a claim for income support and immediately started presenting themselves at the EB. First Aiman went on a day reserved for men, and then Ibtisam went. But, unlike Aiman, Ibtisam encountered the same demand – that she present stamped and signed confirmation from the NII.

As noted, this demand goes against protocols; nonetheless, she returned to the NII to get the required receipt. However, the NII refused to issue her confirmation that she had submitted a claim – though it is required to do so.

For two months Aiman and Ibtisam went back and forth, until finally, after Aiman had contacted the director of the Employment Services a number of times, the director decided to find out what was going on. He discovered that the two had indeed submitted a claim, and he told Aiman that Ibtisam could present herself the following day. However, when she came with Aiman, the branch clerk Yaacov Beniashvili told them, “You can do whatever you like with the NII, but I don’t work for the NII, I don’t know Mr. Becker [who is his immediate supervisor] and I cannot register your wife unless I have a printed document of confirmation.” Beniashvili finally registered Ibtisam only after the manager had personally intervened, but it was too late: the NII had already rejected her application on the grounds that she had failed to present herself at the EB.

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