Cutting through the bullshit.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

The sole address

It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned this embarrassing little matter, but it’s come up again, so I just thought I’d rub it in.

When people talk about Israel and Zionism, it’s as inevitable as night follows day that the issue of the Holocaust will arise. It’s almost as if everyone has forgotten that the Zionist movement goes back to the 1880s, long before anyone had thought of the Final Solution. But there is some truth to the assertion that the fact of the Holocaust, or Holocaust guilt, anyway, smoothed Israel’s path to independence and recognition. According to Ilan Pappé’s Ethnic cleansing of Palestine, throughout the period of the Plan Dalet ethnic cleansing operation, there were Red Cross reports and the expulsions got frequent coverage in the press. And nobody said squat. Obviously, we can’t know for sure what would have transpired if everyone wasn’t feeling so bad about the six million.

Anyway, it’s as if Israel was at one and the same time compensation for the Holocaust and some kind of guarantee against another. Of course we know it’s not the latter, because one speaker after another got up at the Herzliya conference not long ago and explained how Ahmedinejad was on the verge of committing another Holocaust, wiping out precisely the Jews in Israel itself.

Anyway, as everybody knows, the Final Solution didn’t turn out quite as final as the Nazis had intended and a significant proportion of the survivors immigrated to the safe haven of Israel. Well, according to a 12 April report in Ynet, more than six decades down the track,

A third of Holocaust survivors living in Israel are poor, the Holocaust Survivors' Welfare Fund reported this week. According to the fund, some 80,000 of the 260,000 survivors in the country live under the poverty line.

In addition to their grim financial situation, the survivors are also more prone to suffer from unique physical and medical problems related to the malnutrition and severe hardships they had experienced during the war years. Dental, hearing and eyesight problems are more common among survivors as well.

Many of the survivors suffer from mental distress and loneliness, and lack proper social and family support networks. Some 50,000 to 60,000 survivors are in need of some level of nursing, as 73 percent of this population is over the age of 76, and about a fifth is over 86.

Then just yesterday, Ynet reported that Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog has finally had the grace to admit, while commemorating the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah, ‘I felt deeply ashamed, the situation we're faced with in terms of the conditions Holocaust survivors are living in is completely absurd’.

Herzog was addressing the data presented to him at an emergency meeting summoned earlier that morning with representatives from the National Insurance Institute, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Jewish Agency and officials from the prime minister's office to discuss the difficult situation faced by thousands of Holocaust survivors forced to make ends meet with minimal government stipends.

It’s a relief to know that they’re treating the matter urgently, actually meeting on it on the morning of a public holiday.

"I ask myself - how did we get to a situation where they are not entitled to anything?" said Herzog, himself descendant from a family of survivors.

Herzog demanded that the Ministry of Finance immediately transfer control of survivor's affairs to the welfare system. Over the course of the following month Herzog intends to pursue legislation that would allow for a complete reform of the State's treatment of survivor needs.

"Now that I'm involved and exposed to this material I'm naturally affected by it and I really lose sleep over it," said Herzog. "You cannot place all the blame on the government, because there is a very long history here, a process that evolved over years. There were too many organizations that thought that the responsibility of caring for the survivors should fall on a different organization."

Herzog said he fails to understand how so many survivors are deemed ineligible for reparations or government support and are forced to live on a pitiful $300 monthly stipend.

Herzog has sworn to rectify the shameful situation.

Not that anybody asked, but I reckon this is way beyond shameful. It’s a tragedy and it’s a scandal and it thoroughly undermines the cynical claims that Israel has always made to exist for the benefit of Jews. To leave these traumatised people who have suffered more than anyone can reasonably be expected to bear to live in poverty for sixty years and more for the sake of stupid bureaucratic fuckups!

"I don't want to make empty promises, but I intend to present a program that will deal with every necessary aspect of this problem. We need to move towards legislation that will merge all the bodies handling the needs of survivors so that the sole address with be the welfare ministry," he said.

Yes, by all means, a program must be presented, legislation needs to be moved towards, and with luck by the time it’s all sorted out, maybe one or two of them will still be alive to benefit from the Jewish State’s munificence.

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