Identity, Israel

Israelis Make Power Play for Control of Holocaust Restitution Funds

The JTA reports,

An Israeli coalition including the Jewish Agency for Israel, Israeli Holocaust survivor organizations and the Knesset’s pensioner affairs minister is calling on the Claims Conference to give Israel a larger share of Holocaust restitution funds and more control over distribution decisions.
Leaders of the coalition announced Sunday that they were launching a unified effort to get the Claims Conference to recognize the centrality of Israel in its distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in unclaimed Holocaust-era assets.

So just what does Israel get from the Claims Conference? These figures are estimates I have compiled from the current index of Claims Conference allocations.

  • Adult Care/Old Age Homes: $2,500,000*
  • Hospitals/Medical Care: $6,500,000*
  • Assisted Living: $1,100,000*
  • Soup Kitchens: $16,000
  • Amcha: $2,100,000
  • Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel: $24,300,000**
  • Archives: $180,000
  • Holocaust Education: $5,440,000***
  • Research/Publications: $332,000
  • Budget Subsidies: $245,000

*In all cases, less than 50% of the grantees’ clientèle are Holocaust survivors, and in some cases, that number is as low as 10%.
**The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel receives an additional $25,000,000 in direct restitution for Germany and Switzerland, disbursed through the Claims Conference.
***Includes $1,440,000 for the Jewish Agency to educate Jews in Eastern Europe and the FSU about the Shoah, $400,000 for the inclusion of a Holocaust education track in Birthright Israel’s programing, and $800,000 for a Mi Bereishit sponsored hike from Yad Vashem to Masaada.
Estimated total of disbursements made by the Claims Conference to Israel for 2007-2008: $42,713,000
Compare that to the total amount of allocations in the 2007 Israeli federal budget for direct aid to Holocaust survivors in Israel which is, roughly, um, NOTHING.
There are 250,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel, one-third of whom live below the poverty line. Since establishing ties with Germany in the 1950s (a move hotly contested in its day; see Segev’s The Seventh Million), Israel has received close to $80 billion in direct restitution — roughly $1.4 billion for each year of the State’s existence, or over $300,000 per survivor. The Finance Ministry claims to distribute $326 million to survivors every year (23% of annual restitution), however that amounts to mere $1,304 per survivor, which is about one-tenth of the average Israeli income.
A bill introduced in the Knesset this year would have increased that paltry sum by offering an additional $11 million in direct support to survivors. The bill, however, was killed in committee by the Finance Ministry, which instead, as part of Benjamin Netanyahu’s economic growth plan, opted to freeze aid to survivors, eroding their benefits by 1.65%.
So, tell me, who’s not giving enough?
The Claims Conference itself is, of course, by no means innocent. Its allocations process is abhorrently undemocratic, neglectful of needy survivors, and many of the disbursements it makes — particularly in terms of Holocaust education, which comprises 20% of total allocations — are impossible to justify and reek of political nepotism.
However, if you think things will get better for survivors with Israeli authorities in control of the coffers, you are sorely mistaken. That money will wind up anywhere but in the hands of needy Israeli survivors.

4 thoughts on “Israelis Make Power Play for Control of Holocaust Restitution Funds

  1. Eerie coincidence to see this excellent post, the day after speaking with a friend who is a ‘child of the holocaust,’ who is still trying to reclaim some of the money that the Nazis and Swiss stole from her mom’s side of the family (her mother was an aryan – looking Jew musician who was one of Mengele’s ‘pets,’ and who was supposed to have worked with Spielberg on his ‘Schindler’s List,’ until they had a creative falling out, and she told him to shtup himself). The dad’s side of the family managed to take their assets with them, when they immgrated to Palestine (pre 48). Somehow, Israel managed to freeze these accounts, when the father died.
    Israel seems to have become a dopplegangger of the worst of the US (whose current regime, especially, has no knowledge that the most significant aspect of the Constitution is located in the preamble, that we were founded to promote the general welfare, not the financier oligarchy corporate welfare), and until it divorces itself from its own thieving privatizers, the poor will continue to exist, and also become increasingly hungry.
    Perhaps a double impeachment of the pathetic twins (psychopath, and sociopath) in the WH, would greatly assist in Israel ‘getting its house in proper order.’
    Many of us here, are working on it.

  2. Just shows that the whole “financial restitution” thing is some sort of sad joke. Does this money make up for the holocaust? no. Does it help survivors? not really. So why are we still taking it, what with a two billion shekel windfall in the budget and all?

  3. Not to be that guy but the grammar is wrong: There are 250,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel, one-third of which live below the poverty line. Should read “There are 250,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel, one-third of whom live below the poverty line.”
    But otherwise this is really well done and we should be REALLY pissed at the wonderful job the Jewish governement of Israel is doing to protect old Jewish folks.

  4. Israel should be offering restitution from it’s own coffers to the victims is victimized. Why was Yiddish, and other linguistic heritage erased? What happened to preserving Polish, German and other distinct Jewish cultures?
    For many survivors, arriving in Israel was the follow up trauma to the holocaust. It was easier for those who made it to New York. I’m shocked to discover just how many children of holocaust survivors in this city have parents who lived in Israel but didn’t stay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.