State Seeks to End Yemenite Children Affair With Compensation But No Apology

YERUSHALAYIM -
 Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu receiving material from the state archive on the “Yemenite Children Affair,” at the Prime Minister’s Office in Yerushalayim, December 28, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The state of Israel sought on Monday to bring to an end years of accusations and anguish over the disappearance of small children from the Yemenite and other communities during the 1950s.

The government has approved compensation plan for over 1,000 families of immigrants mostly from Yemen, but also from the Balkans, North Africa, and other Middle Eastern countries. Charges that their children were kidnapped in Israeli hospitals and put up for adoption, sometimes abroad, have persisted and forced the government to conduct a series of investigations, including the opening of files that had previously been classified.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday: “I have submitted for Cabinet approval a decision on financial compensation for the families that were hurt in the Yemenite, Mizrachi and Balkan children affair. This is among the most painful affairs in the history of the State of Israel. The time has come for the families whose infants were taken from them to receive recognition by the State and Government of Israel, and financial compensation as well.

The compensation will not atone for the terrible suffering that the families went through and are going through. This is unbearable suffering. The families, whose suffering is too great to bear, must receive a little of the consolation that they are due. I would like to ask the Education Minister to include the Yemenite children affair in the textbooks of Israeli schoolchildren; this affair must be recognized. I thank the ministers and MKs, and former MK Nurit Koren, who were active on this issue, and Prime Minister’s Office Director General Tzachi Braverman who successfully led this issue.”

A statement issued by the PMO added that “In the framework of the decision that has been approved, the Government of Israel expresses regret over the events that occurred in the early days of the state and recognizes the suffering of the families whose children were part of this painful affair.”

“The absence of an official apology drew criticism from those who have assisted the affected families as they’ve sought answers to what happened to their children, as well as criticism because the terms of the plan exclude many of those who were part of the saga,” The Times of Israel said.

The statement did not assign blame for the disappearances.

The Cabinet approved the outline for 162 million shekels in financial compensation for the families that were hurt, which will be allocated as follows: 150,000 for the family members of a child that died for whom notification – including cause of death – was not delivered to the family in real time, or of a child who died and whose place of burial has not been located, or whose place of burial was located after long delay.

Compensation of up to 200,000 shekels was approved for members of the family that was hurt, in the event that the most recent commission concluded that the fate of the child was unknown.

It was also decided that family members, that were determined by one of the three commissions that dealt with the affair (the committee of inquiry on revealing the Yemenite children, the committee on clarifying the fate of the missing Yemenite children and the state commission of inquiry on the disappearance of Yemenite immigrant children from 1948-1954) that their child died or whose fate is unknown, will be able to file an application for financial compensation during June-November 2021. The decision was formulated by the Finance and Justice ministries.

Although government officials would like to close the file now, it seemed unlikely that they will be able to for some time to come.

The nonprofit Amram Association, one of the organizations lobbying on behalf of the families, said in a statement that the plan “is a sought-for step toward the families; however, it is only partial and does not provide a proper and comprehensive response to the case.”

The decision “is missing the most significant component in the process of taking responsibility — an official apology from the state,” Amram said.

“It should be noted that the current decision was made without dialogue with the families and associations active on the issue, and without this component, a process of correction and healing is not possible.”