Israel Strips East Jerusalem Cancer Patient of Insurance, Claiming He Lives in the West Bank

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Farouk Jubran with his son at his East Jerusalem home, October 2020.
Farouk Jubran with his son at his East Jerusalem home, October 2020. Credit: Emil Salman
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Israel has denied a 74-year-old cancer patient from East Jerusalem his health insurance, claiming he actually lives in the West Bank.

A year ago, the National Insurance Institute informed Farouk Jubran, a resident of Jerusalem’s Old City, that it concluded he no longer lives in the city. It therefore stripped him of his benefits, including his coverage under the national health insurance program. It also demanded that he repay 50,000 shekels ($14,700) of the old-age pension payments he had received. Consequently, Jubran is now being forced to finance his treatment on his own.

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The institute also demanded that he refund tens of thousands of shekels in social security payments.

Even though Israel annexed East Jerusalem, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living there aren’t Israeli citizens but only permanent residents. And unlike citizens who can live anywhere without losing their citizenship, residents can lose their residency rights if they leave Israel, including by moving to the West Bank.

Unlike in the past, the Interior Ministry has rescinded the residency of relatively few East Jerusalem Palestinians in recent years, even when it suspects them of having moved to the West Bank. But the institute has stepped up its investigations of East Jerusalem Palestinians and revokes their benefits if it concludes they have moved to the West Bank. These investigations include making home visits to their registered Jerusalem address, tracking their water and electricity bills and getting reports on their movement through checkpoints between Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Jubran, who was diagnosed with liver cancer, was stripped of his health insurance and forced to pay for his treatment. Credit: Emil Salman

The institute said that when investigators visited Jubran’s Jerusalem address, he wasn’t there. Moreover, it said, his water and electricity bills are suspiciously low.

Jubran’s lawyer, Adel Hlailai of the Justice Ministry’s legal aid department, petitioned the labor courts against the institute’s decision, but the case is slated to be heard only in January. In the interim, Hlailai asked the court to at least restore his client’s health insurance, since he is contending with a variety of serious medical problems, including lung disease, heart disease and diabetes. But both the Jerusalem Labor Court and the National Labor Court rejected this request.

About six weeks ago, Jubran was also diagnosed with cancer of the liver. Since then, Hlailai has repeatedly asked the institute’s lawyers to reinstate his medical insurance, but has so far received no answer.

Meanwhile, Jubran’s family has had to pay 45,000 shekels for him to get an operation – a sum they can ill afford. This week, he also began chemotherapy, which means the family will have to come up with additional tens of thousands of shekels.

“Even illegal migrants to Israel get medical treatment,” said Jubran’s son, Omar Jubran. “Here we have a person who has lived here all his life and paid his debts to the institute, and they aren’t giving him treatment.”

Jubran's son noted that the veterinary service, where he works, is legally required to treat a wounded dog or cat within two hours of being called. “But here we have a human being, and for a month and a half now, they haven’t gotten back to us.”

“If there were a drop of compassion or a drop of humanity, I wouldn’t have to go to court again,” Hlailai added, noting that by the time the court rules, “It may well be too late.”

The institute said in response that Jubran is neither an Israeli citizen nor an Israeli resident, and therefore isn’t entitled to state-funded health insurance. Two different courts have upheld the institute’s conclusion that Jubran is not currently entitled to health insurance, it added.

However, his case is still pending, and should the courts ultimately rule in his favor, his residency rights and health insurance will be restored, the institute said.

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