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Discrimination Against Palestinian Workers Injured in Workplace Accidents


© Diego Vito Cervo | Dreamstime.com

On February 2, 2021, we petitioned the High Court of Justice—ACRI and Kav LaOved - Workers Hotline—against Israel’s National Insurance Institute. We demanded that the National Insurance Institute compensate Palestinian laborers who were injured in a workplace accident for the full cost of medical expenses from the moment of the incident, as is provided for Israeli workers, without conditioning compensation on recognition of the occurrence as a workplace injury.


Palestinian laborers in Israel are the only group of workers required to finance their own medical and rehabilitation treatments in the period between the date of their work injury in Israel, and its recognition as a workplace accident. Israeli laborers, unlike Palestinian workers, are legally insured by Health Maintenance Organizations in Israel, which ensure ongoing treatment. Migrant workers (foreign workers) are insured by private insurance, which effectively covers treatment required in the event of an injury.


Palestinian workers are not eligible for health insurance in Israel, and set aside a portion of their salaries for health insurance via the Palestinian Authority. This insurance excludes funding for workplace injuries within Israel. The customary arrangement following such incidents is to receive retroactive reimbursement for medical expenses, following the incident’s recognition as a workplace accident, months after the occurrence. Consequently, during the most critical period for treatment of the injury, while one cannot work, the worker is required to spend large sums of money out of pocket for medical treatment, or to forgo treatment and rehabilitation if unable to cover costs.


The petition claims that the current situation violates the rights of Palestinian laborers injured in workplace accidents in Israel and the settlements to health, dignity, equality, property, and privacy, and discriminates against them as opposed to other workers in Israel—namely, Israelis and migrants.


In a hearing conducted on the petition, the court expressed that, from the moment of the accident, responsibility for covering costs related to the incident lies with the government and not with the National Insurance Institute. We thus retracted our demand, with the intention of pursuing the matter before the relevant government ministries. The National Insurance Institute 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. Thus, the petition ran its course, and the court rejected it on December 27, 2021.


Following the petition’s rejection, we appealed to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Regional Cooperation, the Deputy Minister of Economy, and the Special Committee on Foreign Workers, calling upon them to work toward the ongoing provision of insurance coverage for the treatment of Palestinian laborers injured at their place of work in Israel and the settlements.

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