Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ha'aretz calls on Holocaust survivors to block Yad Vashem

Most Jews (and many others) have thoroughly internalized the idea that a major
justification for the existence of a Jewish state was/is to provide a "safe haven" for diaspora
Jews, especially Jewish victims of persecution. In this category - Holocaust survivors
are most prominent, perhaps altogether in a class by themselves.
Yet, the Holocaust has been used, once and again, as a political tool by all Israeli
governments. The story below gives us a rather appalling example of that, by
providing some details on the miserable economic conditions under which the majority
of Holocaust survivors live, and the state's responsibility for that.

Racheli Gai.

Haaretz Editorial: "Survivors: Block Yad Vashem"

The cabinet decision two days ago to postpone the implementation of the Dorner Commission recommendations - which determined that an additional allowance should be paid immediately to 43,000 Holocaust survivors - causes unforgivable harm to the first group of survivors to arrive in the country immediately after the war: those who paid the highest price with their bodies and their souls, and were forced by the government to give up individual compensation from Germany as part of the reparations agreement.

The waiving of personal compensation from Germany by these survivors was supposed to transfer the burden of caring for them to the state, But surprisingly, this group actually received the worst treatment of all the survivors, while those who didn't immigrate to Israel received far higher compensation.

The Dorner Commission deliberately reduced the sum of compensation to a minimum so that it could be paid out immediately, although the cumulative monetary loss for each survivor is between NIS 1.3 million and NIS 2.2 million. The decision to postpone this NIS 800 per month payment as well, and to renew discussion of the subject only in 2009, when the average age of those in question is now 84, means that thousands of those entitled to an additional allowance will not receive it.
According to the data of the Prime Minister's Office, 87 percent of the poorest elderly living in Israel are Holocaust survivors. A law initiated by the government was passed in April to pay a monthly stipend of NIS 1,000 to elderly survivors of the camps and ghettoes who immigrated to Israel after 1953. This stipend, which will certainly help many people, primarily immigrants from the former Soviet Union, does not apply to the 43,000 survivors who immigrated to Israel before 1953 and who were the subject of the Dorner Commission discussions. These survivors have fallen between all the cracks. They were discriminated against from the start compared with other survivors, and the discriminatory treatment continues.

A few months ago, Ehud Olmert told the Holocaust survivors "we have sinned" against you, but this sin, which may have been forgivable during the early years of the state, is not forgivable now. Some NIS 260 million was needed in order to implement the recommendations of the Dorner Commission this year, and to enable a certain degree of wellbeing to survivors in their final years. Considering that their heirs will not receive these benefits, the tightfisted treatment of the survivors is especially infuriating.

The egregious waste by the government in establishing a ministry-without-portfolio for Ami Ayalon, in appointing Ruhama Avraham and Eli Aflalo as ministers at the last moment before the end of the government's term, and the ostentatious ceremonies honoring the survivors in the context of the endless 60th anniversary celebrations - all these are evidence of a lack of sensitivity toward the Holocaust survivors, most of whom are living in poverty, and whose lives could have been improved with this money.

The ministers who decided to postpone the Dorner recommendations refused to be interviewed yesterday, perhaps out of embarrassment.

It was said in their name that an addition of NIS 800 per month will not make much difference in the situation of the poorest survivors, whereas those who are less poor will manage without it too. The survivors should react to such an attitude by blocking the entrance to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in order to emphasize that Israel has lost its moral right to speak in their name, and is not permitted to ask the world for special treatment as the country of the Jewish survivors.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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