02.04.09

palestinian workers

Gazan workers hurt in Israel not getting
due benefit payments

Discontinuing disability benefits to Gaza Strip residents

Thousands of Gazans handicapped in work-related accidents in Israel have not received their National Insurance Institute disability payments since January, Haaretz has learned.

The workers have approached the Workers Advice Center, saying the benefit payments were suddenly and inexplicably stopped.

WAC said that about 5,000 Gazans became disabled following work-related incidents in Israel, and were receiving disability benefits from Israel. They were legally employed within Israel and were recognized as disabled by the NII, which allocated them a monthly stipend of
NIS 1,600.

The NII reported about 700 payment checks that were returned to their offices without reaching their destination. Prior to December 2008 the benefits were transmitted to the beneficiaries' accounts in the Bank of Palestine, via Israeli banks. Since January 2009 Israeli banks no longer operate such transactions, and no alternative has yet been
found.

"We are not guilty of the political situation, we are not guilty of the bureaucracy or of what's been happening in Gaza, we are disabled and hungry," said Zachi Masri, a resident of Gaza entitled to disability benefits. "Before the war there were some Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) people connecting us to the Insurance Institute but since the war it all stopped and there's no one to talk to anymore. We have a right to live with dignity after working loyally until the very end."

Masri was employed in Israel and injured his shoulder after falling off a ladder in 1996. He said that he tried to call the NII when the monthly payments failed to arrive, but there was no one to speak to.

"It's been three months now and we haven't gotten a single shekel. People are complaining they can't buy groceries. We have children, they need to go to school, we need food and we have nothing. Someone has to find a solution, even if we have to get the checks at the checkpoint."

WAC director Assaf Adiv said, "the workers are in a state of uncertainty. They include a severely injured person with 75% disability. These people were entirely dependent on even the smallest benefits, and without them they may reach the point of starvation."

The NII said in a statement, "Until December, the residents of Gaza entitled to a disability benefit received it through Palestinian banks represented in Israel by Israeli banks. In January we received a notice from the Bank of Israel telling us that this situation no longer applied, and we have been trying to find alternative ways to transfer the payments to the beneficiaries. Active discussions are being held in these very days to resolve this situation, and the beneficiaries will naturally receive retroactive payments from January on."


Keywords

construction workers, Gaza, palestinian workers, workers' rights

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