IDF soldiers at the Chamber of the Holocaust, Mount Zion, Jerusalem for a Yom HaShoah ceremony, April 11, 2018.
(photo credit: BEN BRESKY)
The current coalition negotiations are a golden opportunity to resolve on the transfer of Holocaust restitution from the Social Equality Ministry to the administrator-general of the Justice Ministry. Holocaust restitution has remained an open-ended national issue since the Holocaust, and is estimated at $700 billion. It is already apparent by the ruling of the state comptroller that the administrator-general has powers in the law to deal with property of Israeli citizens located abroad. The administrator-general, who is acting now to recover the remainder of property of Holocaust victims in Israel, must also deal with Holocaust-era Jewish property left behind in Europe.
The Social Equality Ministry not only did not advance the issue during the term of the outgoing government, but regressed it when it liquidated its own department dealing with Holocaust restitution and caused damage by allowing the closure of the European Shoah Remembrance Institute (ESLI) in Prague. The institute was founded by the resolution of an international conference in Prague in 2009, in which 43 countries participated. An international comparative study on Holocaust restitution legislation published recently by Oxford University stated that the Israeli government had damaged the Holocaust restitution process by the closure of ESLI. The state comptroller is examining my complaint on the whole matter, and the Knesset Control Committee to which I have referred my complaint is waiting for the results of the state comptroller’s examination.
This saga must be put to an end now by moving Holocaust restitution from an esoteric office to a central one. There is a moral imperative here, and needy Holocaust survivors deserve a measure of justice at the end of their lives.
The writer is a researcher, former senior adviser on restitution of Jewish property in the Prime Minister’s Office, and senior department director for restitution of Jewish property at the Senior Citizens Ministry (now the Social Equality Ministry).
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