“Their pension money is still in Israel”

Adv. Osnat Cohen Lifshitz of Kav LaOved (Workers’ Hotline) and Nomi Heger on Israeli television

Adv. Osnat Cohen Lifshitz of Kav LaOved (Workers’ Hotline) and Nomi Heger on Israeli television

December 14, 2015. Dr. Nomi Heger, director of Gisha’s legal department, spoke (Hebrew) on an Israeli daily current events television program about the fact that Gaza residents who wish to withdraw pension funds accrued to them while they worked in Israel are unable to do so. Israeli NGO Kav LaOved recently published a report about the rights of Palestinians employed in Israel. “When it comes to retirement funds, all pension plans are held by a Ministry of Interior unit and in theory, the employee can contact the ministry and demand to receive these funds without mediation by the Palestinian Authority, but employees aren’t able to this. Why? Because they just can’t meet the procedural and bureaucratic demands made of them”, said Heger in the interview.

“Let’s look at the most extreme case”, she added, “At the end of the day, until 2000, and even a little after, Palestinians from Gaza worked in Israel, and their pension money is still held by Israel. When a Gaza employee wants to access this money, and say, contacts an Israeli lawyer or the payment division and says: ‘I want the money’, he can’t get it for two reasons: Israeli banks don’t transfer money to Gaza, even if this money is the worker’s pension money and there’s no dispute that it is his money. Banks won’t transfer money to Gaza or to banks in the West Bank that would transfer the money to Gaza.  And if the employee gets a lawyer, the Ministry of Interior says: “You’re representing a Palestinian employee? Prove you’re representing him. Give me an original document he signed”, but the Israeli lawyer can’t get into Gaza and the Gaza worker can’t get into Israel – so how is he going to get those documents? Can’t do it by mail, because the worker has to sign the document in the presence of the lawyer”.

In conclusion, Heger added that “you have to contact the authority itself, and Gisha has expertise in these kinds of communications with the authorities. First they have to publish the procedure – even this basic thing, that lets people know what they need to do and what their rights are, even that isn’t published”.