The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee held a special meeting on Monday with the participation of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) and his deputy Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) following Kahlon`s announcement that Israeli Jews from Iraq, Morocco and Algeria who suffered persecution during the period of the Holocaust will receive an annual monetary grant.
According to Kahlon`s initiative, the benefits are to be given to Jews from Algeria and Morocco who suffered from anti-Semitism between 1940 and 1942, and to Jews from Iraq who were targeted in the “Farhud” pogroms in Baghdad in June 1941. These survivors are entitled to an additional annual payment of NIS 3,600 and they will also be exempt from payment for prescription drugs that are included in the Health Ministry`s so-called ”basket of services.” In addition, Jews who were victims of forced labor will now be entitled to the rights of immigrants who fled Nazi persecution.
The Jews of North Africa were subjected to discriminatory practices instituted by the Vichy government in France, which by extension also ruled over French colonial possessions following Paris` surrender to the Nazis.
(From left: Elalouf, Kahlon and Cohen)
While Iraq did not fall under direct Nazi occupation, the Finance Ministry extended the grant to Jews who suffered as a result of the ”Farhud riots” which followed the British victory over the pro-Nazi regime in Baghdad.
”An historical injustice has been erased,” Committee Chairman MK Elie Elalouf said. ”Up until a few days ago, when the finance minister decided on this blessed correction, entire communities had been forgotten and were not included in the chapters of history and the consciousness of the Israeli people. As someone who grew up in Morocco, I can testify that we have always felt that the suffering of our parents was excluded.”
Meir Bnaya, chief historian at the Authority for the Rights of Holocaust Survivors, said during the meeting that ”those who suffered from anti-Jewish legislation by the Vichy regime and the victims of the `Farhud` pogroms in Baghdad were not harmed by the Germans or due to orders from them, and therefore they cannot be considered victims of the Nazis.”
MK Elalouf called Bnaya`s reasoning ”nonsense” and said ”the time has come to correct the historians. My parents were returned to the ghetto in Fez under Hitler`s influence and following his demand.”
Minister Kahlon said ”recognition, not money, is the main issue here. We are in a race against time, because we are talking about people who are not young, and we want them to receive the compensation immediately. I apologize to the families of those who died [before receiving the compensation].”