Hirchson cancels conditions for Holocaust survivor payments

(Israel Business Arena Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) During a session of the Knesset Finance Committee yesterday, Minister of Finance Abraham Hirchson announced that after holding a special discussion in his office, he had ordered the cancellation of the new policy regarding compensation to Holocaust survivors who were deported from their homes but not a gunpoint. Hirchson’s ruling will mean that 5,000 survivors who applied for compensation, will not have to appear before a medical tribunal and will not be required to submit their medical records in order to prove a clear circumstantial connection between the persecution they suffered 62 years ago and the syndrome which would entitle them to compensation.

Immediately following Hirchson’s announcement, MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said, Hirchson should be admired for the way he imposed his beliefs on the Ministry of Finance, and did not give in to budgetary and system pressures. When it comes to Holocaust survivors, no economic grounds can stand in the way of the ultimate moral duty to offer a helping hand to the best our ability to those survivors who still live among us today.

Rivlin initiated the special session of the committee after last month’s hearing at which MKs heard a grim report about the drastic tightening by Ministry of Finance officials of the policy regarding survivors in the wake of a High Court of Justice ruling in October 2005. The court allowed the application by Jews who were deported from Bulgaria and Romania but not at gunpoint, and ruled that they also qualified for compensation.

However, Ministry of Finance officials changed the criteria following the court ruling, to require survivors to appear before a tribunal of experts that would confirm their mental disability. Prior to appearing before the tribunal, survivors were required to produce their medical records from their health service dating back to the date of immigration to Israel.

Ministry of Finance officials attending last month’s session of the Finance Committee came under withering attack from MKs over their conduct. After learning of the affair, Hirchson intervened and announced at yesterday’s session of the committee that the new policy would be scrapped.