Adalah Petitions Israeli Supreme Court to Void New Law Conditioning Child Allowance Payments on Obtaining Health Immunization Shots; Law Will Harm Thousands of Arab Bedouin Children Living in Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab
On 7 October 2010, Adalah submitted a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding the annulment of amendment No. 113 to the National Insurance Law, which passed on 14 July 2009 and which will come into effect on 15 December 2010. According to the new amendment, if a child does not receive vaccinations mandated by the Health Ministry, his/her state-funded child allowance payments will be decreased by 60 percent.
The petition was filed by Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher on behalf of ten Arab Bedouin women from the Negev (Naqab), the chairmen of local committees of three unrecognized villages, the Yasmin al-Naqab Health Organization, Ma'an - The Forum of Arab Bedouin Women's Organizations in the Naqab, and Mu'assasat Hadanat El-Nasra Association.
The petitioners' argued that the new amendment will primarily harm thousands of Arab Bedouin children, citizens of Israel, who live in unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab. According to Health Ministry data, the percentage of children who are not immunized is significantly higher in these villages in comparison with other children in Israel. One of the main reasons for this disparity is the lack of Mother and Child health clinics in these villages.
Thousands of parents have petitioned the Supreme Court demanding that the Health Ministry be obliged to open Mother and Child health clinics so that they can access the immunizations for their children. Although the state sets requirements for immunization, it refuses to open the proper health facilities to meet those demands. If the state's negligence in failing to open mother and child clinics harms Arab Bedouin children's health, then the new law will leave children who do not enjoy health rights without social security benefits as well.
The petitioners are not challenging the accuracy of the decision to immunize children; not at all. Instead Adalah demands that the state take positive measures to promote children's health and to encourage immunization. The new amendment will solely serve to increase the incidence of poverty among already poor children, who will be primarily affected by the law.
There is a direct connection between national insurance payments and decreasing levels of poverty and inequality, and in many cases the benefits are a key source of income for the children and their families.
The National Insurance Law and prior Supreme Court decisions state explicitly that child allowances belong to the children, even if their parents actually receive these payments. The law also states that child allowances will be paid without connection to where or with which parent the child is living. Distinguishing between a child who receives vaccinations and a child who does not harms the principle of equality.
The new law stems from a coalition agreement signed by the Likud and Shas political parties after the 2009 elections. In paragraphs 66-70 of the agreement entitled "Welfare", the parties wrote that children's allowances will be increased but they will be denied completely from children who do not learn in a regular educational institution and from children who do not receive immunization shots according to the Health Ministry's program. The Knesset enacted the new law on 14 July 2009, as part of the Economic Efficiency Law 2009-2010.
Thirteen years ago, Adalah petitioned the Supreme Court demanding that the Health Ministry open 12 Mother and Child clinics in the Arab Bedouin unrecognized villages. (See HCJ 7115/97, Adalah, et al v. Ministry of Health, et al.) As a result of that case, six clinics were eventually opened, while three of those six were closed down in October 2009 with the state claiming insufficient availability of health care personnel. Adalah again petitioned the Supreme Court in December 2009 to re-open the three clinics. As a result of this case, two were re-opened, while one remains closed. (See HCJ 10054/09, Wadad El-Hawashly, et al. v. Ministry of Health).
Case Citation: HCJ 7245/10, Adalah v. Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs (case pending).