'Gov’t must help kids harmed in Migron demolitions'

Knesset Public Petitions Committee chairman Azulay says he will work to get gov't help for traumatized Migron children's "mental welfare."

January 23, 2012 19:32
4 minute read.
Migron settlement demolition [illustrative]

Migron Demolition 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

The government must take responsibility for children whose homes were demolished in the Migron outpost in September, Knesset Public Petitions Committee chairman David Azoulay (Shas) said on Monday.

According to Migron residents, children living in the three homes that were demolished are displaying symptoms of post-traumatic stress, such as wetting the bed, stopping breast-feeding prematurely, and refusing to go to school, because they lost their sense of security.

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“The state threw my children out of our house and destroyed it in front of us,” Migron resident Tami Gutman told the committee, sobbing. “The next day, my children didn’t have anywhere to go. They didn’t have books or bags for school.”

According to Gutman, IDF officers visited her home weeks before the demolition, and said she and her husband would be warned in advance and allowed to pack their belongings. However, she was never warned, nor was she presented with a demolition order when her home was razed, she said.

The High Court of Justice ruled this summer that the Migron outpost should be destroyed by the end of the March because it was built without the proper government permits on private Palestinian property. Settlers note that it was constructed with funding from the Ministry of Construction and Housing and that the status of their land has never been properly adjudicated.

The three houses demolished in September have a separate status from the rest of the outpost, because they were built after the government asked Migron residents to move their homes to the nearby Adam settlement, in 2008. Migron residents had argued that the fate of the three homes should not be separated from that of the outpost.

Gutman also told the committee that her home was movable, and could have been transferred elsewhere, rather than demolished, if the land was an issue.

“All of our furniture, our kitchen, minimal things every house needs were destroyed for no reason,” Migron resident Avital Gefen told the committee.

Although she brought her children to neighbors’ homes that night, Gefen said that since the demolition, her baby, who was two weeks old at the time, no longer breast-feeds, and her six-year-old refused to return to school for weeks.

“No one took responsibility; no one came to talk to us. Where are the social workers, the psychologists?” Gefen asked.

Binyamin Regional Council Secretary- General Moshie Asher said he sent psychologists and social workers to work with individuals and the Migron community as a whole. He said he did not receive extra funds from the government for the psychological aid or for rebuilding infrastructure that was damaged during the demolition.

Later in the meeting, Gal Cohen, an attorney in the Defense Ministry, said that due to its illegal status, Migron was not officially a part of Binyamin or any other regional council, which is why no extra funding was received.

Azoulay said he would contact the Prime Minister’s Office, the Education Ministry and the Welfare and Social Services Ministry and ask that they help with Migron children’s “mental welfare.”

“Something is missing here,” he told Asher and Migron residents. “At the end of the day, someone has to help you and you shouldn’t have to take an initiative on your own.”

Another topic discussed by the committee was possible monetary compensation for property that was destroyed.

However, representatives from the Justice and Finance ministries said that such a move would be impossible without a cabinet decision or new legislation.

Keren Dahari of the Justice Ministry said that the government had tried in the past, and was still trying, to come to an agreement with residents of illegal outposts. The problem was “there are no takers,” she said.

She added that government compensation for homes built on private Palestinian land would set a complicated precedent.

The committee chairman said he would tell the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry that the families whose homes were demolished should receive compensation, because the state could not “harm them and then act like nothing happened.”

Only National Union lawmakers spoke during the meeting, although others, such as MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) and MK Yulia Shamolov Berkovich (Kadima), were in attendance.

MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union) took offense that “minority groups,” a politically correct term for Arabs, were hired to pack and move the contents of the homes being demolished.

MK Arye Eldad (National Union) asked for explanations as to why the homes were demolished late at night, and said anyone who harmed the welfare of children “should face criminal consequences.”

“I never saw someone destroy an illegal Arab village at night – or at all,” Eldad said. “Even if an Arab home was ordered to be demolished, their property wasn’t destroyed.”

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