On Monday morning, July 28th, a delegation of Sderot residents traveled to the Israeli Knesset to raise their concerns over the blatant misconduct of the Israel Tax Authority (ITA) in handling compensation files for property damages filed by Sderot residents.
The Israeli government has delegated the ITA to handle, in accordance with Israeli law, issues of compensation for damage in times of war. Sderot residents whose property has been damaged by rocket attacks from Gaza must file their case with the ITA in order to receive compensation from the Israeli government.
Photo: Noam Bedein
Sderot Media Center facilitated the delegation’s trip to the Knesset, after publishing an investigative report six months earlier on Israel’s leading investigative news site, www.nfc.co.il , that revealed the ITA dealt harshly and arbitrarily with cases of property damage in Sderot caused by Quassam rocket attacks by terrorists in Gaza.
The report found that there was a grave malfunction in the bureaucratic proceedings of Israel Tax Authority’s representatives. Although Israeli law dictates that victims of terror receive compensations for the damages caused by acts of terrorism, the question of how this process is applied to the residents of Sderot remains vague and unclear. In addition, the definition of what constitutes property damage is not concretely defined in the law.
Member of Knesset, Rabbi Meir Poush of the Torah Judaism party and the State Comptroller were the first who responded to the NFC report.
The report found that there was a grave malfunction in the bureaucratic proceedings of Israel Tax Authority’s representatives. The Israel Tax Authority is the agency delegated by the Israeli government to handle such issues in accordance to the Israeli law that deals with compensation for damages in times of war.
Although Israeli law provides that victims of terror receive compensations for the damages caused by terrorist acts, the question of how this process is applied to the residents of Sderot remains vague and unclear. In addition, the definition of what constitutes property damage is not concretely defined in the law.
Pinchas Amar, whose home is now being rebuilt after suffering a direct rocket hit almost eight months ago, presented his experience with the Israel Tax Authority to the MKs. “After our home was partially destroyed in the rocket attack, we moved to a motel room in Ashkelon until the motel would no longer house my family for free,” says Pinchas. “We then moved back to Sderot into a tiny three-room apartment near our destroyed home, so that I would be able to overlook the eventual reconstruction of our house. During this time, my wife, Aliza and I engaged in a long legal battle with the Israel Tax Authority, until they finally agreed to pay approximately 300, 000 NIS to rebuild our home, out of the estimated 500,000 NIS.”
The compensation will barely cover the construction of the new home and will also have to be used to purchase new furniture to replace what was destroyed in the rocket explosion. The Amars have already had to pay for their own lawyer and legal counsel in order to get the Israel Tax Authority to provide them with this financial assistance.
“From what we understand from Sderot resident whose homes have been hit in the past, ITA representatives assess the damages done to a home or business, without any previous photos or evidence of the property before it was damaged,” says Jonathan Braverman, a law student at IDC Herzliya. ” ITA representatives then assign the estimated value of the damages, which many times does not necessarily reflect the true value of the object or property that was damaged in the eyes of the resident” says Braverman.
Reactions to Report
Sderot Media Center, in conjunction with other law students at the IDC Herzliya law program, are working together to inform Sderot residents’ of their rights. The visit to the Knesset on Monday morning was crucial step to establishing political awareness of the current compensation situation in Sderot.
* Special thanks to David Bedein and Jonathan Braverman for contributing to this report