Knesset Finance Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni is up in arms after learning of a recent decision by the Dutch government to cease paying benefits to Holocaust survivors who have immigrated to Israel.
Speaking in the Knesset on Tuesday, Gafni said that in response to the decision, which was apparently taken because such survivors receive extra benefits, he will soon hold a special committee meeting in which he will summon representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry to convince them to take the lead in dissuading The Hague from its intended course of action.
According to Gafni, the government’s Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority has been aware of the issue but has not yet taken it up on a state level.
Stating his shock, the MK demanded that, “the senior ranks government of Israel... intervene with the government of the Netherlands.”
Asked about the controversy, Colette Avital, chairwoman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post that if the Dutch had indeed taken such a step, “There is no justification, both because they cannot ask the Israeli government to replace them and because they cannot relinquish their responsibilities.”
In a related issue, the Hebrew press reported that one Holocaust survivor at the meeting testified that her benefits were cut off because as a resident of Modi’in, the Dutch mistakenly believed that she was living across the Green Line, although it was unclear why living in the West Bank would disqualify a survivor from receiving Holocaust related payments.
Gafni also took aim at the state created Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets (Hashava) for missing quarterly payments to some 11,200 impoverished survivors across the country.
In 2006, the Knesset passed the Assets of Holocaust Victims Law, which established Hashava to take charge of the disposition of assets “that are in Israel and of which it may be assumed that their owners perished in the Holocaust.”
Hashava has stated that its coffers are currently empty and that it cannot liquidate funds for transfer without incurring a significant loss, while the Jewish Colonial Trust has not been paying it dividends.
The committee resolved that if payments are not resumed within two weeks, it will take action to push for an imposed resolution.
“Every day there are fewer and fewer survivors” to receive the money, said Gafni, urging speed.