Aug 20, 2007
On August 5, several hundred survivors of Nazi death camps, along with younger demonstrators, marched to the office of the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. These survivors, most in their eighties, protested indignantly against the government’s latest vote on their pensions. The level of financial support was so low that the poorest among them could not survive.
The Israeli press has been reporting the difficulties faced by a number of these survivors. A third of them, about 80,000, live at the poverty level. They must choose between eating properly and paying for their medicine. An Israeli journalist wrote that Israel is, “the country in the world where Holocaust survivors are the least well treated.”
The supplementary aid bill just passed by the Israeli parliament amounts to 27 million dollars for 120,000 beneficiaries, or less than $20 a month each. Some organizations called it an “insulting handout;” others saw it as a scandalous provocation.
Cynically, Olmert announced that benefits would rise to 75 million dollars in 2011 – when most of these survivors will probably be dead.
The protests of the survivors led the prime minister to announce the aid would be recalculated. But that doesn’t change the scorn and indifference of dozens of successive Israeli administrations toward the survivors of the Nazi death camps. These same Israeli administrations were always ready to claim that the memory of Nazi genocide is a pillar of its national identity.
The Israeli leaders remind the population of the martyrdom of the millions of Jews during World War II, as a way to attract national and international opinion behind their policies. So long as it doesn’t cost too much for the Israeli ruling class.
Scornful, insulting, violent toward the Palestinians, the Israeli rulers have the same attitude toward the most impoverished, even when they are Jews, and survivors of the Holocaust.