The Nationalist Insurance Institute

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Palestinian protestors clash with police in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

The police, the Shin Bet security service and the Defense Ministry recently embarked on an unprecedented campaign of collective environmental punishment in East Jerusalem following the clashes during the month of Ramadan. Over the past few days at least 11 people in the city have been placed in so-called  administrative detention – taken from their homes to spend weeks in custody without being brought before a judge.

In addition, police have launched a crackdown, arresting large numbers of people for trivial offenses that would not be considered grounds for arresting a Jewish resident. The most salient case was the arrest of a man who gave police officers the finger. On Thursday, police also began enforcing every jot and tittle of the vehicle laws in every Palestinian neighborhood of the city. But the worst of all these illegal punitive measures is the use the security services have made of the National Insurance Institute.

At least 11 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem discovered over the past few days that both the NII’s computer system and those of the health maintenance organizations have been updated to state that they and their families are no longer eligible for health insurance or NII allowances.

What all of them have in common is that they’re well-known political activists in Jerusalem’s Palestinian areas. Some have been jailed in the past for security offenses. As of press time, no comment on this step had been received from the Shin Bet. The NII didn’t deny making the changes and said it would look into the reasons for them.

It’s impossible to describe this move as anything but the abuse of social and medical rights to oppress the Palestinian population. If there’s evidence that these people committed illegal activity, police should arrest them and put them on trial. If there’s no evidence, then the police, the Shin Bet and the other security services should leave them and their families alone.

Social rights aren’t a gift the state gives its residents, but one of its legal obligations to them. Israel doesn’t strip NII benefits from prisoners convicted of serious crimes, much less people against whom there’s no real evidence, and certainly not from members of their families.

The NII must restore these people’s rights immediately. But that isn’t enough. The attorney general must also order an investigation against whoever decided on this step, handed over the list and made the changes in practice. The people responsible for this must be put on trial.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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