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Discrimination Against Palestinian Laborers Injured in Work Accidents

© Emanuilov Shabtay |

On February 2, 2021, we at ACRI petitioned the Supreme Court of Justice against the National Insurance Institute (NII), along with Kav LaOved – Worker's Hotline. We demanded that the NII compensate Palestinian laborers injured in work-related accidents for the full cost of their medical expenses from the moment of the incident, as is provided for Israeli laborers, and will not condition compensation on recognition of the injury as a work accident.

Palestinian laborers in Israel are the only group of workers required to cover the costs of their own medical and rehabilitation treatments throughout the period between their injury while working in Israel, and its formal recognition as a work-related injury. Israeli laborers, unlike Palestinian workers, are legally insured by health maintenance organizations in Israel, which ensure ongoing treatment. Migrant workers (foreign workers) have private insurance, which effectively covers the treatments they require in the event of an injury.

Palestinian workers are not eligible for health insurance in Israel, and set aside portions of their salaries for health insurance under the Palestinian Authority. This insurance excludes coverage for work-related injuries in Israel. The customary arrangement is for them to receive retroactive reimbursement for their medical expenses, once the accident is recognized as a work-related injury, months after taking place. Thus, throughout the most critical period of treating the injury, precisely when the individual cannot work, the employee is required to spend large sums of money out of pocket for medical treatment, or to forgo treatment and rehabilitation due to insufficient funds.

The petition argued that the current situation violates the rights of Palestinian laborers who were injured in work-related accidents in Israel and the settlements. Namely their rights to health, dignity, equality, property, and privacy, along with discrimination relative to other laborers in Israel, whether Israelis or foreign workers.

In the hearing conducted on the petition, the court maintained that it is the responsibility of the government to finance expenses from the moment of the incident, rather than the NII. We thus waived the demand, with the intention of pursuing the matter before the relevant government ministries. The NII declared that significant efforts have been made, and are being made, to establish an online system that will make the payment system accessible to Palestinian workers in the Arabic language, in view of which the petition was exhausted and rejected by the court on December 27, 2021.

Following the petition’s rejection, we appealed to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Regional Cooperation, and the Deputy Finance Minister, as well as the Knesset’s Subcommittee on Foreign Workers, in order for them to reach a resolution and offer ongoing insurance coverage to treat Palestinian laborers injured while working in Israel and in the settlements.

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