Legal forum urges more gov't support for Palestinians who have moved to Israel.
By RUTH EGLASH
Thousands of Palestinian collaborators who have moved to Israel in search of protection live here without basic human rights, financial assistance or adequate social benefits, according to a first-of-its kind report on the living conditions of those who have risked their lives for the Jewish state.Published last month by the Legal Forum for Eretz Israel, the report highlights the plight of more than 6000 individuals and their families who are either not officially recognized, or only partially recognized, as being collaborators with Israel, and who are basically left to fend for themselves after being deemed traitors by the Palestinian authorities.“One of the problems is how collaborators are defined,” Michael Teplow, a Tel Aviv-based corporate lawyer who authored the report and who has been representing collaborators since 1993, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview Wednesday. “There is no formal definition in Israel of a collaborator and there is nothing published by the government that states exactly who these people are.”“Obviously someone who has passed on secrets to the security services or has been involved in active military duty for Israel is clearly a collaborator, but when it comes to a person who has sold land to a Jew; someone who, in my opinion, has helped achieve the Zionist dream, the definition is left unclear,” he said.However, added Teplow, “If you look at what is happening in the Palestinian Authority, many land dealers that have sold to Jews have been killed. Under Jordanian law there is still a death penalty for selling land to a Jew and it is the same under the PA.”“The Arab population has suffered terribly,” he said, adding that the only ray of hope was the recent appointment of Minister Yossi Peled to monitor the situation for Palestinian collaborators.“It is the role of our government to act responsibly and help the people who have helped us to maintain our state,” he said.AdvertisementIn the report, Teplow, who has met with hundreds of Palestinian collaborators over the past 16 years and helped them to understand their rights under Israeli law, makes several recommendations for assisting what could be as many as 10,000 Palestinian individuals and their families that have contributed to the state.Among the suggestions is the need to immediately change the status of those collaborators that are labeled as “the threatened,” people whose lives are considered at risk after helping the Jewish state in one way or another.“There are literally thousands of threatened people who have been living in Israel for more than ten years with a special [temporary] permit but who are not allowed to work and do not receive health benefits,” said Teplow, explaining that many are employed on the black market for very low pay and under terrible conditions. “These people go through serious mental anguish every three months when their permit has to be renewed. They never know if they might be suddenly arrested [by the Israeli authorities] and returned across the border.”According to Teplow, these permits need to be changed so that those who fall into this category are allowed to work and receive essential state benefits such as the standard health insurance package.“It’s only a matter of changing the regulation slightly and this is simple, it can be done even by the Minister of Industry, Labor and Trade and does not need additional legislation,” he said, adding that the problem was solely down to bureaucracy.In the report, Teplow also recommends the creation of a special Knesset committee to track the conditions of Palestinian collaborators and to ensure that legislators are kept informed on this ultra-sensitive topic.“Many of the country’s key decision makers are not getting the information that is needed on this topic,” he said, adding, “The Defense Ministry has monopolized the flow of information on this matter and will only give out information they deem appropriate.”In addition to the terrible conditions facing collaborators who live under the shadow of constant threats, or the even lower status of those labeled traitors by their own people but not recognized at all by Israel, Teplow also points out the struggle faced by those who are fully recognized collaborators.Cared for the Defense Ministry’s specially created RehabilitationAgency, Teplow, in his report, points out that even though many of themreceive a blue identity card – in essence full citizenship – they stillstruggle to fit into their new lives in Israel, unable to livecomfortably in either a Jewish or Arab Israeli communities. Althoughfigures are not officially published by the Defense Ministry, Teplowestimates that there are roughly 2000 families in this situation.Inthe report’s conclusion, Teplow describes how other countries,including Britain and the US, treat their collaborators and calls thosethat help Israel “the paupers of the security establishment.”“Ifmore efforts are not made to care for the collaborators who havecompleted their assignments, then it will be harder in the future forus to recruit these people,” he writes in the report’s conclusion.
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