Thursday, August 2, 2007

Comptroller to probe gov't mistreatment of Holocaust survivors

Well, Well, Israel's sacred and most honored holocaust survivors are being treated like whale manure by, you'll never guess - Israel! - That's right. Museums are built around the world so that "we will never forget" but it seems that the good people of Israel have themselves forgot. I hope Germany is listening - but then, it wouldn't matter. Germany is on such a guilt trip, I don't think anything can save them.

By Yossi Melman and Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondents - August 2, 2007

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is set to release within the next few days a fiercely critical report calling on the government to improve the way it treats Holocaust survivors in Israel.

The report, which focuses on the Finance Ministry and National Insurance Institute and examines relevant government decisions over the past few years, will mark the first time in Israel's history that the state comptroller is paying attention to this issue. The comptroller's office examined what the government has done and has not done for the estimated quarter of a million Holocaust survivors in Israel, many of whom are in poor health and live in poverty.

News of the report's release comes amid anger over the government's decision early this week to grant Holocaust survivors a monthly stipend of a mere NIS 83. Survivors groups decided on Wednesday to reject the decision, which allocated the stipend for some 120,000 survivors aged 70 and older, on top of the regular allowances paid out by the NII. The survivors are demanding that the government adhere to an inter-ministerial committee recommendation concluding that the survivors should receive a monthly payment of NIS 1,040.

In a tempestuous and emotional meeting, several of the group representatives raised suggestions for extreme forms of protest, including self-immolation in front of the Knesset. The representatives are considering asking the German government to pressure Israel to change its position and are also weighing the possibility of asking large Jewish organizations to sever ties with Olmert.

The chairman of a group representing Romanian survivors proposed that the money allotted to aiding Holocaust survivors in the 2008 budget be used to send treasury officials to visit Auschwitz. The groups decided to hold a "March of the Living" protest march on Sunday, from the Knesset to the Prime Minister's Office.

"The prime minister has tightened the noose around the survivors' necks," said Zeev Factor, chairman of Holocaust Survivors' Welfare. "These are our last breaths and we don't have any other choice."

A meeting planned for last night between representatives of the survivors groups and government officials, in an effort to resolve the stipend issue, was postponed due to the survivors' demand that a meeting with Olmert be arranged first.

The comptroller's office, meanwhile, decided to investigate the Holocaust survivors issue in January, at the request of organizations representing Holocaust survivors in Israel, which were fed up with empty promises of government assistance.

The actions of Bank Leumi, which dragged its feet and offered excuses when asked to return survivors' property, also appear to have pushed the comptroller's office toward deciding on the probe. The comptroller's office sees the report as a moral imperative and as one of the most important reports it has released in years.

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