Comptroller flags neglect of Holocaust survivors

State Comptroller publishes annual report on public complaints; focus on mistreatment of survivors, special education students.

State Comptroller presents the  Ombudsman's Report  370 (photo credit: Knesset Speaker's Office)
State Comptroller presents the Ombudsman's Report 370
(photo credit: Knesset Speaker's Office)
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira on Wednesday published a report on public complaints, highlighting the mistreatment of Holocaust survivors and the mishandling of special education students.
Shapira presented the report to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at 8:30 a.m.
“The Ombudsman’s Office is an important tool for cleaning house and repairing injustices,” Edelstein said. “I call on citizens to continue using this tool.”
Edelstein added that people should not see complaining as a nuisance or petty. Rather, they should remember that one complaint from a Holocaust survivor, for example, can help thousands of others, and a complaint of one parent can change the entire education system.
Regarding Holocaust survivors, Shapira said that complaints focused on defects in the process of addressing requests to be recognized and receive benefits as a survivor.
He also noted complaints regarding the delay and process for increasing payments to survivors once they had become sicker and entitled to increased payments, and regarding the failure to grant discounts to survivors entitled to discounts for pharmaceuticals.
Shapira said that “recognizing the suffering that Holocaust survivors have endured, their advanced age and the commitments made to them by Israeli society,” he would “do all he could in order to aid them to realize their rights promptly.”
Regarding special education students, the report showed that in 2012, parents of children with intellectual disabilities in the southern city of Netivot complained to the municipality for failing to fund long school days for their children, a failure that created significant obstacles in their daily lives.
The municipality at first dismissed the request on the grounds of an insufficient budget, but ended up addressing the matter after parents pointed out that local authorities are legally required to fund at least a quarter of the expenses for long school days of children with intellectual disabilities.
The report noted that 2012 was a record in many statistical areas, with 15,123 complaints submitted – an increase of 1.63 percent from 2011.
Approximately 27% of the total complaints that were fully reviewed were found to be justified.
The leading offender – with complaints filed against it found to be valid – was the Television Authority, with over 50% of the complaints filed being declared valid, while the Defense Ministry finished close behind, with 42% of the complaints filed against it being found to be valid.
But Shapira viewed the increase in complaints as a positive sign.
“One of the reasons for the increasing trend [of complaints] in recent years is the actions of the regional bureaus” in increasing accessibility to the general public, Shapira said.
He said that in recent years, the State Comptroller’s Office had opened regional locations “across the nation, in Beersheba, Nazareth, Upper Nazareth, Lod,” and in December even opened its newest office in Kiryat Shmona.
Shapira appeared to be highlighting one of his key goals of reaching out to the weaker socioeconomic sectors of society, emphasizing that he could better defend the interests of these sectors, especially in the periphery, if they had easier access to submit complaints.
Next, Shapira highlighted the success of arbitration in resolving a variety of societal disputes.
“Experience had taught that this was one of the most efficient ways of resolving disputes between the individual and the authorities, and had yielded solutions which satisfied the positions of both sides” of disputes, he said.
Shapira expressed an interest in widening the arbitration trend as well as employing more social workers to deal with disputes.
The report also addresses discrimination against women and reviews the activities of every government ministry and of several major municipalities.
It treats failures by the police to honor suspects’ rights and failures related to immigration and border issues.
Danielle Ziri and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.