'Gov't postponing payment to survivors'

Movement for Quality Government asks court to force gov't to speed up benefits to Holocaust survivors.

holocaust survivor 244.8 (photo credit: AP [file])
holocaust survivor 244.8
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel petitioned the High Court of Justice on Thursday to order the state to immediately fund the programs recommended by the Dorner Commission of Inquiry into Assistance to Holocaust Survivors in June. The Movement for Quality Government is also asking the court to compel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On to explain the decision to postpone the report's implementation beyond 2008. "Any additional delay in the implementation of the recommendations... will bring about a situation in which many survivors, who are naturally mostly elderly, will not live to see the rectification of the egregious legal wrong described by the Dorner Commission," the petition states. According to the commission's report, Israeli governments have long discriminated against Holocaust survivors living in the Jewish state, underpaying each survivor by an average of NIS 2 million over the years. The panel found that Holocaust survivors living here were receiving approximately 50 percent less than those living in Germany. The commission recommended that the state grant survivors not entitled to German reparations stipends amounting to at least 75% of those paid out by Germany. Former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, who headed the state commission of inquiry, lambasted the government's decision to delay implementation of the panel's recommendations. "This is a moral and legal injustice," Dorner said. "If they push this off any longer there will be no more survivors alive." The panel's proposal, which was presented on June 21, calls for a monthly increase of between NIS 1,000 and NIS 2,000 for a large segment of survivors. The cost to the state would run between NIS 260 million and NIS 440m in 2009. "The government apparently thinks that these survivors are not poor enough," Dorner said. "Our whole attitude toward survivors is injurious to their honor." About 250,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel, nearly one-third in poverty. According to Kadima MK Zeev Elkin, many survivor benefits are not reaching their intended recipients because of "rampant mismanagement" in government agencies. Elkin cited a Knesset Absorption Committee meeting this week in which a representative of the Construction and Housing Ministry told MKs that approved rent subsidies were not being handed out to poor octogenarian survivors because the ministry had not received Finance Ministry funding for the additional manpower required to manage the subsidy allocations. "That amounts to the Housing Ministry holding the poor survivors ransom to get more staff slots from the Finance Ministry," Elkin fumed.