Don't torture the survivors
By Haaretz Editorial
Tags: Israel News, Holocaust
July 29, 2009
The annoying bureaucracy that piles up difficulties for a handful of Holocaust survivors who are eligible for an allowance, according to a 2007 law, has recently sunk to a level of callousness that borders on maliciousness. From a report by Orly Vilnai in yesterday's Haaretz, it appears the state is forcing the survivors who are entitled to these benefits to sign a form that gives the treasury irrevocable rights to have access to their bank accounts and even to withdraw funds. If they do not sign, they will not receive the benefits.
This is a shameful exploitation of a small population that for 60 years made do with little, asked nothing for itself, and eventually lapsed into poverty.
It seems the current government is trying to compete with that of Ehud Olmert, which was less than enthusiastic about the new law, and then tried to ignore the dire straits of the survivors and sidestep the law. Benjamin Netanyahu's government is also proving that it does not know how - or worse still, has no interest - to distinguish between the wheat and the chaff, between the rich and the poor, and between those whom the state is obliged to supervise and those whom the state is obliged to protect.
We are not talking about a large group, nor about an expenditure that places a heavy burden on the public purse. The number of people who have the right to the benefit, according to the new law, stands at a mere 8,000; they are people who are not capable of supporting themselves and who have no other allowance. The majority of them do not get the benefit at all (because they were not identified, or they turned it down), and so only some 3,000 elderly, sick and disabled people get an allowance of NIS 1,000 per month. It is out of the question for the state to reach into their bank accounts, and it is not reasonable that it should bother them with official written statements, instead of employing the assistance of the hundreds of volunteers, social workers and family members of the survivors who are available to make contact with them.
It is difficult to understand how a government that distributes hundreds of millions of shekels of the public's money to ensure the stability of the coalition and secure its rule permits abuse of this kind of its citizens. And not just any citizens, but in fact the last remaining memorial candles of the worst disaster that ever befell the Jewish people.
The least that the government can do for them is to make it possible for them to live with dignity and peace with the assistance of this meager benefit that is due them from the public coffers.