Families of missing Yemenite children want open state secret files

Several families of immigrants who claim their children and sisters were abducted in the 1950s in a Yemenite child relationship demanded Tuesday that the government reveal secret documents related to the case, and that -they bought a compensation plan that was renamed “hush money. ”

The call came from the families the day after the government approved a 162 million (nearly $ 50 million) NIS compensation program over the issue.

The case involves more than 1,000 families – mostly immigrants from Yemen, but also dozens from the Balkans, North Africa, and other countries in the Middle East – which have been said that their children were abducted from Israeli hospitals and sent up for adoption, sometimes abroad, early in Israel a year.

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The official explanation is that the children died while in medical care, but many families do not believe this, demanding that their children be removed and given to unmarried couples. children of European backgrounds. While previous investigations have dispelled claims of mass eviction, suspicions have subsided and added to a long line of flaws between a link of European origin and those from Middle Eastern backgrounds.

Israelis are protesting as they celebrate the day of remembrance and awareness of Yemenite Children ‘s Friendship in Jerusalem on July 31, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

While the state on Monday expressed remorse and understanding about the suffering caused by the families, there was no official apology for what remains one of the most controversial and sensitive issues in Israeli society.

“The children didn’t die, and if they did, where did they bury them?” Yona Iraqi Hacohen, a 77-year-old woman who says three of her sisters were raised, told Walla’s news site.

“It’s hush money, that’s what I think.” Where have they been all those years? I am angry that my parents are no longer there [with us], and I promised that I would not give up until I died, “said Hacohen.

Without an official apology he drew criticism from those who helped the affected families as they sought answers to what had happened to their children, as well as complaints that the terms of the plan are closing. out many of those who were part of the saw.

Families say the children were taken from their parents by authorities, who were never told what happened. They argue that the events were not a mixture of unrelated issues but reflected policy at the time.

Michael Sharabi, who was told his mother at the time her baby son died, criticized the retaliation, saying that was not the purpose of the protests.

“We never talked about compensation; we called for the truth to be revealed, ”said Sharabi.

“We want them to open all cases and hidden files, acknowledge the responsibility of the state, and apologize to the families for all the injustices,” Sharabi said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the COVID-19 vaccine center in Zarzir, northern Israel, February 9, 2021. (David Cohen / Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Monday that “the time has come for the families from whom their children have been identified to receive recognition from the state and the Israeli government as well as compensation.”

While acknowledging that retaliation will not “compensate for the horrific suffering that the families have suffered and are surviving,” Netanyahu said he hopes the decision will bring “modicum comfort, which they deserve. “

He also asked the Ministry of Education to include the relationship in Israel history textbooks.

Under the terms of the plan, NIS families will receive 150,000 ($ 46,000) for each child reported at the time. A sum of NIS 200,000 ($ 61,000) will be paid for each child who does not know what happened.

In total, the government will allocate NIS 162 million ($ 46.6 million) for the compensation plan.

Only families where their cases have been reviewed by one of the three state committees established over the years to investigate the case, are eligible to apply for compensation. Applications must be filed between June 1, 2021, and November 30, 2021.

A committee will be set up to oversee the distribution of compensation.

A Yemenite Jewish family travels to a refugee camp set up by the Joint Dispatch Committee near Aden. (GPO / Public domain)

There are 1,050 families eligible for compensation, according to the Ynet website. Receiving compensation will be subject to a written undertaking not to file any further litigation on the case in addition to closing and dismissing any existing lawsuit. .

The proposal included confirmation that “the Israeli government regrets the events of the early days of the state and recognizes the suffering of families whose children were part of this tragic case. “

“It is not in the power of a financial plan to remedy the suffering caused to families,” the declaration said. this relationship in Israeli society. “

The compensation plan came in the face of a number of lawsuits with families over the case.

Earlier this year the state declared the cases invalid under the border legislation, although the Supreme Court has yet to rule the case.

Coming from Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa after the founding of Israel in 1948, much of Mizrahi, or Middle East, was sent to shantytown evacuation camps and largely deported. by the leaders of the founding Labor party. This painful experience added to Mizrahi’s widespread support for Likud’s party, now led by Netanyahu.

In this July 11, 2016 file photo, Yemen-born Yemen Josef holds a photo dating back to the 1940s of herself and her father back in Yemen at her home in Raanana . Josef said she was asked to take her 4-year-old sister Saada to a health clinic and leave her there. When she returned several hours later, she was told that her sister was dead and that no further information had been given to the family or body for her burial. (AP image / Ariel Schalit, file)

Among the immigrants were more than 50,000 suspected Yemenites, often poor and with large families. In the chaos that followed their impact, some of the children died and others were separated from their parents.

But many say the truth was far more brutal – that the establishment kidnapped these children for adoption by Ashkenazi families with the belief that they could give them a better life. In later years, families reported that weapons entry notices and other documents had been posted for their “dead” children, raising suspicions. There have also been occasional cases of adoptive children who were able to confirm, through DNA tests, that they had been informed that they had died from Yemenite families.

Three high-profile commissions dismissed the claims and found that the majority of children died of disease in immigrant camps. The latter stated that, in 2001, it was possible that some children had been offered for adoption by individual social workers, but not as part of a national conspiracy. However, by referring to privacy laws, he ordered the witnesses he had gathered to seal it for 70 years.

The non-profit Amram Association, one of the main organizations helping the families, said in a statement on Monday that the government’s plan is “a sought-after step towards the families; However, it is only part of it and does not provide a fair and comprehensive answer. “

The decision “misses the most important part of the process for taking responsibility – an official apology from the state,” Amram said.

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

The group also criticized what it described as “major failures such as irregular segregation and exclusion between families who have submitted to committees and are entitled to claim compensation, and families who have not. “

He called on the government to find a more complete solution, saying “many families did not go to the committees out of trust in the premises,” or for other reasons.

Photo: Children being taken out of Yemen in Operation Magic Carpet, in front of an Alaskan Airlines plane. (Courtesy of AJM)

The families ’claims have also been linked to the neglect and marginalization with which many Jewish immigrants were welcomed into the Muslim world when they arrived in Israel under the control of the Ashkenazi Jewish elite.

AP contributed to this report.