Ministry admits its role in disappearance of Yemenite children

The Health Ministry has been preventing the publication of a draft report that details how medical professionals working for the Israeli health system were involved in the disappearance of Yemenite children in the 1950s, including helping give some of them up for adoption. It seems that the reason for withholding the report is that the government does not want to have to pay more compensation than a one-off payment. Tamar Kaplansky reports in Haaretz (with thanks: Lily):

Yemenite mothers and children in an Israeli ma’abara, 1950s

Although the report doesn’t present new testimonies or details, and contains no data regarding the scope of the phenomenon, it is the first official reference by a ministry to its involvement in a scandal that has haunted Israel for many decades.

The affair has been the subject of several state inquests over the years, but Israeli governments have never admitted wrongdoing or accepted that hundreds of babies of parents from Yemen, other Middle Eastern states and the Balkans were allegedly handed over to wealthier Israelis in the early years of the state.

The draft report, obtained by Haaretz, reveals the involvement of doctors, nurses and caregivers in taking the children and acting as middlemen in their adoptions, sometimes in exchange for money. The report chronicles racist perceptions at the time of “backward immigrants” from Middle Eastern and North African countries, using the pretext of it being in the “best interests of the children” to justify their being taken away from their biological parents.

The report was prepared by Prof. Itamar Grotto, the ministry’s outgoing deputy director general; Dr. Shlomit Avni, who was the ministry’s racism prevention official, and her assistant, Yuval Sarel. Avni and Grotto recommend that the ministry “take action to promote an apology on behalf of the health system for the involvement of medical professionals in this affair.” They also called on other government ministries to “strive to discover the truth” and establish their own involvement in the matter.

The report was submitted to the ministry’s director general last March, although work on it was completed over a year ago. However, the ministry is now refusing to publish the report. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who is also head of the left-wing Meretz party, is ignoring questions on the matter in the Knesset and elsewhere.

Grotto has said in interviews that it was decided to submit the report to the Justice Ministry for review, since “it may raise questions related to compensation” and these could “affect the state.”

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