Thursday, June 23, 2016

Netanyahu wants closure on vanished Yemenite children

Yemenite immigrants in Israel [Archive]

Documents about the so-called "Yemenite Children Affair" may finally be unsealed after Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as many cabinet ministers and MKs, voiced support this week for the release of the minutes from the special state commission set up to investigate the matter two decades ago. Israel Hayom reports: (With thanks: Michelle)

The affair involves the disappearance and alleged kidnapping of hundreds of babies and toddlers of mostly Yemenite immigrants from hospitals in the early years of Israel's statehood. The parents were told their children had died, but never saw a body or received a death certificate. 

"This is an open wound that continues to bleed for those families who were left in the dark, not knowing what happened to their children," Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

He made the comments in a pre-recorded video message to the Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee, which held a special hearing on the matter. Netanyahu said that "those families [whose children were unaccounted for] seek the truth and want to know what happened. I believe it is time to find out what happened and to right this wrong. It is beyond me why those documents are sealed, but we will look into this matter and take care of it, with your help."
Netanyahu asked Minister Without Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) to spearhead the government's efforts on the matter. 

Likud MK Nurit Koren, who called the hearing, said: "I am of Yemenite descent and this affair tops my list of concerns. The stories of disappearance have been part and parcel of my childhood. As a mother and a grandmother, I can't even imagine what it feels like when a baby is taken from his mother's arms. It is our moral obligation to put an end to this injustice. I will not rest until the truth comes out." 

Habayit Hayehudi MK and committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky said it was "surreal that in a democratic state we have those documents lie in some locked safe as if they were Israel's nuclear secrets." He said he planned to ask the cabinet to unseal all the documents and transcripts involved, and said he believed most of the MKs would join him. 

"If my request is not met, I will introduce legislation that will compel the government to do so," he said. 

Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen said, "I would like to open the archives so that not even a single document is kept under wraps. As MKs, we are duty bound to find the truth." 

Zionist Union MK Yossi Yonah said a cousin of his had been hospitalized for hepatitis and had disappeared. 

"The doctors said she died, but when her father asked for a death certificate, he was told, 'Do you think you're in Iraq? Here in Israel we don't issue death certificates for babies,'" Yonah said.

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