Israel to rethink plan to pay Holocaust survivors a stipend

Protesters label proposal to offer $20 a month a `mockery'

August 04, 2007|By New York Times News Service.

JERUSALEM -- Trying to forestall a protest march by aged survivors of the Holocaust, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed yesterday to rethink a widely criticized plan to give them a monthly stipend of about $20 each.

Olmert had announced the plan in response to concerns about poverty among some of the approximately 240,000 Holocaust survivors who live in Israel, but the size of the stipend was considered laughable by an organization of survivors.

The organization announced that it would hold a protest march tomorrow, and some planned to wear striped concentration camp uniforms.

Colette Avital, a Labor member of parliament who has been deeply involved in the issue, said the government should instead concentrate on the approximately 80,000 Israelis living at or under the poverty line and who were in camps or ghettos or in hiding during the Nazi era rather than trying to help everyone immediately.

She called the proposed stipend "a mockery" and said, "If people are already on the poverty line, what help will 83 shekels be? It would cost more to administer the 83 shekels than the 83 shekels itself."

Some of the survivors are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, many of whom suffered during the Nazi invasion.

Olmert is expected to meet with survivor representatives next week to work out a better solution. One representative, Noah Flug, told Israel Army Radio that the $20 stipend is "off the agenda" and that he is confident that Olmert "wants to solve the problem."

The survivor groups have also criticized the structure of the plan, which would provide more money in later years, when more of the survivors will have died.

Rafi Eitan, a Cabinet minister and head of the Pensioners Party, said stipends should be allocated to survivors according to their financial situation instead of providing a uniform sum to all.

Also yesterday, Israeli legislators from all parties - 63 of the 120 members - signed a petition urging the government not to expel Sudanese refugees who entered the country illegally from Egypt and proposing that they be allowed to stay until third countries can take them.

At least 1,200 Sudanese refugees are in Israel illegally, including about 300 from Darfur.

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