National Insurance Institute admitted arbitrary revocation of health insurance and other social rights from East Jerusalem residents was based on Israel Security Agency information המוקד להגנת הפרט
27.03.2022
National Insurance Institute admitted arbitrary revocation of health insurance and other social rights from East Jerusalem residents was based on Israel Security Agency information
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In early June 2021, HaMoked started receiving requests for assistance from Jerusalemite Palestinians who discovered that the National Insurance Institute (NII) had suddenly revoked their families’ entitlement to health insurance and other social security rights (i.e., revoking their residency status for the purpose of national insurance). This, so it seems, was done for no legitimate reason but simply as collective punishment against the city’s indigenous population in response to the protests and rioting that took place in East Jerusalem and elsewhere the previous month. By February 2022, the NII had retracted its decision in all eight cases handled by HaMoked, (three of them following written objections to the NII and five following urgent appeals to the Labor Court), but without providing any explanation for its conduct in these cases. In the judgment issued in one of these cases, Judge Rachel Barag-Hirshberg harshly criticized the NII for failing to clarify why, in a series of cases, “it acted in the same manner – revoking residency not for reasons relating to center of life and restoring it immediately following an appeal to the Court”.

On February 22, 2022, HaMoked, represented by Atty. Tamir Blank, filed a freedom-of-information petition to the Jerusalem Court for Administrative Affairs to compel the NII to disclose “fully and immediately all the information, including investigation reports, letters, records, documents and any other information relating to determining the residency of the petitioners“ whose NII status was revoked and then restored without any explanation. In the petition, HaMoked clarified that all of the petitioners were permanent residents of East Jerusalem who had lived in the city most, if not all, of their lives, regarding whom there had been no apparent reason to revoke their residency, other than security allegations regarding one of their relatives, allegations which have no legal bearing on the matter of their NII status. The petition was filed after the NII failed for five months to respond to HaMoked’s requests for information regarding the reasons underlying the revocations.

In its response to the petition of March 21, 2022, the NII claimed that some documents had not yet been transferred “due to human error”, and that others were classified under the Freedom of Information Law, some for being information collated as part of “internal enquiry and investigation processes conducted” by the NII itself, and others for being documents “received from the ISA [Israel Security Agency]”, which “are not in the [NII’s] possession”. The NII explained its cooperation with the ISA on its need to receive information in order to determine every insured person’s fees and benefits under law, and clarified that it gathered information from various governmental bodies “some of them security bodies (including the ISA)”, in order to reach “its decisions as accurately as possible”.  The NII added that this was especially necessary in the case of East Jerusalem residents, as “determining residency in East Jerusalem is very complicated because of the fact that the [NII] does not have information and/or documentation on the exits to and entries from the territory of Israel to the territory of the Palestinian Authority… and for that it needed both external investigations and information from other sources such as security entities…”.

The NII asserted that in the petitioners’ cases, the revocations were based on “information created and collated exclusively by the ISA and is in any event in its exclusive possession” (emphasis in the original). At the same time, the NII claimed that based on this information – which it allegedly does not hold – it had conducted a thorough examination in each and every case “as evidenced by the fact that residency was revoked only in a very limited number” of cases – without bothering to address the fact that it had reversed the revocation decisions in question following HaMoked’s intervention. 

Despite all of the above, the NII claimed in its response that the petition grossly misrepresented the facts, “as if the [NII] acted as the long arm of the security forces or was motivated by some kind of security considerations”. The NII also tried to intimidate the Court by asserting that “accepting the petition could result in a cessation of the cooperation and information flow from the security bodies, with all the public consequences entailed in this” (emphasis in original).  

In its response of March 23, 2022, HaMoked asserted that the NII’s response was effectively an admission that in the petitioners’ cases, the NII had relied on ISA information without conducting any independent check before the residency revocations. HaMoked added that the NII also failed to uphold its undertaking endorsed in the judgment in NIIA 18693-07-13, whereby before revoking residency, it must ensure the person in question is given the opportunity to plead their case. HaMoked stressed that the NII, as a legal entity entrusted with ensuring the social security of Israeli residents, had betrayed its role regarding all of the petitioners by issuing a wrongful and unsubstantiated decision in their matter. HaMoked added that if indeed, as the NII inexplicably claimed, accepting the petition could bring about a termination of the cooperation between the NII and the ISA, then all involved would be better off.  

In the judgment of March 24, 2022, it was ruled that “Upon the parties’ consent, detailed responses will be provided to the information requests of each and every petitioner by May 1, 2022. Insofar as the Respondent decides not to present information or part of it, he is to give the Petitioners a detailed explanation for this in a reasoned decision”. The Court also ordered the NII to pay HaMoked court costs in the sum of NIS 7,000.   

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