The state last December opened secret state protocols on cases of missing Yemenite children, with testimonies before various Knesset committees on hundreds of children who went missing in the early days of the state. Some of those testimonies contain lurid descriptions of medical experiments and forced kidnappings – and on Wednesday, evidence to back some of those claims was presented at the Knesset committee that revealed the protocols.
First published in Yisrael Hayom, the photos present visual evidence for some of the testimony that was unveiled in the protocols. According to various conspiracy theories over the years, the missing Yemenite children – an exact number has never been determined, but previous investigations have uncovered at least 1060 cases, with as many as 3,430 files said to exist – the children were either farmed out to Ashkenazi families who could not have their own children, experimented on at hospitals, or even shipped to the United States for use as subjects in tests that measured the effects of radiation.
While none of these theories have been proven – and according to the hospitals where most of the children disappeared, they died of various illnesses – the evidence presented Wednesday lends at least some credence to the medical test theory. Photos showed children on operating tables, some with bandages and others with markings on their bodies indicating where specific organs were; in one photo, for example, a shirtless child is shown with the world “spleen” written on his stomach, with an arrow pointing to the appropriate place. Photos were unveiled that corroborated specific testimonies given by doctors to previous Knesset inquiries. For example, the Yisrael Hayom article quotes testimony from a doctor who spoke to the Kedmi Commission in 1995, who discussed experiments to determine whether the children were prone to a blood disease, with photos matching the procedure he described.
MKs who viewed the photos were up in arms. MK Amir Ohana said that hospitals reported that 80 percent of the Yemenite children died while in their custody. “That’s not a medical error or disease, that’s murder,” he said. MK Anat Berko said that “it was time to let the truth emerge, and the more truth that emerges, the more catastrophic the truth becomes. The way that parents and families were treated is unforgiveable.”
“This is a terrible crime whose details have still not completely emerged,” said Koren. “I get angry every time I think about this, and every page of testimony I read shocks me more and more.”
The scandal of the missing Yemenite children goes back to the early days of the state. In hundreds and even thousands of documented cases, Yemenite women who had given birth in state hospitals were told that their children had died in childbirth. The bodies were never recovered, however, leading many people to suspect that their babies had not died, but had been kidnapped. Some parents claimed that they attempted to disinter the remains of their children to have them reburied at family plots, but were either told that the location of the graves had been “lost,” or that their child had been buried in mass graves and that it would be impossible to track down their child’s remains.
Governments throughout the years have either ignored or denied the allegations, claiming that the children died because of polio and other childhood diseases rife during the 1950s. At least four investigative committees have discussed the matter, but all ended their work without drawing specific conclusions.