‘State siphoned off Palestinian workers’ insurance money’

Report: For over 20 years, Israel withheld over NIS 1b. from laborers for national insurance.

By BY BEN HARTMAN
January 29, 2010 04:09
1 minute read.
workers building

workers building 88.298. (photo credit: )

 
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The government of Israel has siphoned over a billion shekels in money taken from Palestinian laborers for national insurance between 1970-1994, a report released on Wednesday states.

According to the report, compiled by the workers’ rights organization Kav LaOved, between the years 1970-1994 over NIS 1 billion was withheld from Palestinian workers’ salaries in order to pay their national insurance, but in practice, the report states, the money was instead funneled to the Finance Ministry and used to pay National Labor Union fees, even while the workers were not given membership in the union.

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Kav LaOved said that during those years, Palestinian workers would receive an invoice with their paycheck that detailed a sum withdrawn for national insurance. According to the report’s findings, only 7.63 percent of the withheld funds went to pay for the workers’ insurance, with the remainder being funneled to the Finance Ministry.

In the report, entitled “State Robbery,” Kav LaOved cites a letter received in 1993 from the Finance Ministry saying that the money withheld went to pay the civilian authorities in the West Bank in order to fund infrastructure programs.

Hannah Zohar, the author of the report and director of Kav LaOved, said she presumes that the infrastructure programs in question had to do with the construction of settlements.

The Finance Ministry has denied the allegations.

The report describes the 1991 legal case in which the Flower Growers Union petitioned the High Court demanding the return of funds that were not used for the national insurance payments as intended. The court ruled in their favor and forced the government to return approximately NIS 4.7 million to employers and their workers.

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Zohar told the Post on Thursday that the court case should have set a legal precedent leading to the return of all the money siphoned away from national insurance payments, but instead has been largely forgotten.

The Finance Ministry issued a statement Thursday denying the allegations, adding that the report is based on “confusion over the different roles carried out by separate branches of the government.”

The Histadrut labor federation called the report “full of lies” and “baseless” and accused Kav LaOved of coming to their conclusions before conducting their research, with the findings having “no connection to reality.”

The Government Payments Branch did not respond to the report.

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