Israel Releases Draft Report on Gov’t Culpability in 1950s Yemenite Children’s Affair - The Jewish Voice
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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Israel Releases Draft Report on Gov’t Culpability in 1950s Yemenite Children’s Affair

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For decades now, Israel has been battling grotesque rumors concerning the horrifying abduction of Yemenite children from their families during the 1950s. The Yemenite Children’s Affair refers to the disappearance of babies and toddlers from Yemeni, Balkan and Mizrahi immigrant families in the 1950s, as was reported by the JPost.

Between June 1949 and September 1950 Israel brought 49,000 Yemenite Jews to the newly established Jewish state of  in what was called Operation Magic Carpet. During its course, the overwhelming majority of Yemenite Jews – some 47,000 from Yemen, 1,500 from Aden, as well as 500 from Djibouti and Eritrea and some 2,000 Jews from Saudi Arabia– were airlifted to Israel. British and American transport planes made some 380 flights from Aden.

Stories have long circulated that the government of Israel orchestrated this kidnapping plot in order for these Yemenite children to be raised by secular Ashkenazim who were loyal to Israel’s socialist parties in the early days of statehood. By having these children adopted by secular, politically liberal Jews, it would result in a new generation who would be bereft of Jewish religious tradition and who would grow up and vote for the same socialist parties that their adopted parents belonged to.

The JPost reported that more than 1000 babies were extricated from their Yemenite families and put up for adoption. The families that adopted these Yemenite babies were alleged to have said that they were in a much better position to offer these babies a better future than they would have had if their biological parents raised them.

According to a JPost report in which they quoted information in a story in the Haaretz newspaper, a report that was drafted by Israel’s Health Ministry offers details for the role that the state’s healthcare system played in the 1950s in the abduction of these Yemenite children.

Very often, the parents of these children were told that they had died of an illness. Parents were not shown the bodies of these allegedly deceased children nor were they given a death certificate or even shown the grave where the children were allegedly buried.  No further information was given to these parents about the whereabouts of their children. This set of circumstances aroused the suspicions of parents who eventually came to believe that their children were kidnapped and adopted by Ashkenazic families both in Israel and in the diaspora, as was reported by the JPost.

The JPost indicated that the Health Ministry is “preventing” the publication of the draft. The publication also said that the report was allegedly written by outgoing Health Ministry Deputy Director-General Professor Itamar Grotto. The other person who joined him in penning the report was Dr. Shlomit Avni, a racism prevention official.

Quoting Haaretz, the JPost reported that the draft report did not contain any new revelations, nor did it provide any new documentation or witness testimonies. It did, however, provide an official admission that the Health Ministry played a role in the kidnappings.  Apparently, the report contained information that had been previously published and contained material that was previously collected.

The draft report from the Health Ministry did carry with it historical significance as it represented the first time ever that a government ministry in Israel offered an admission of culpability of this magnitude in this case.  According to the Haaretz report, the Health Ministry provided an official document depicting direct involvement in this case.

For its part, the Health Ministry emphasized that the report that was leaked to the media is a draft version and not a final document, according to the JPost.

The Health Ministry added that the final and unredacted report was delayed in coming out due to the ministry’s focus on methods to battle the spread of Covid-19 as well as those who left the ministry but who were involved in composing the report, as was reported by the JPost.

The JPost reported that Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash have issued a directive for a full review and examination of the report so it can be fully published without delay.

This is not the first time that the matter of the Yemenite Children’s Affair has been addressed. The JPost reported that after state inquiries were conducted in 1967, 1988 and 1995, the Israeli government concluded that illegal adoptions did not take place and that no nefarious plot to remove these babies from their parents existed. Based on the evidence they collected, they also concluded that children actually died as was told to their parents, however, some of the children were victims of bureaucratic abuse. Others were deemed to have expired due to gross medical negligence and it was learned that children were being buried prior to their parents being informed of their demise.

In 2001 another state inquiry revealed that it was possible that social workers may have put some children up for adoption, yet there was no evidence suggesting that these adoptions were part of a national conspiracy, as was reported by the JPost.

The establishment of the Knesset Special Committee on the Affair of the Disappearance of Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan Children happened in 2016 at the behest of then-Likud MK Nurit Koren, as was reported by the JPost. The formation of this committee attracted increased public awareness.

A proposal was made in February of this year by the Israeli government to put this issue to bed by offering a compensatory one-time payment to the families of these children for the suffering they endured. The plan was dependent on the recipient families not making any further monetary claims, as was reported by the JPost.

Opposition to this financial arrangement was voiced by the Union Sefaradi Mundial, a Jerusalem-based NGO devoted to the legacy of Sephardi Jews, as was reported by the JPost.

“Compensation by itself is not enough. The government must accept responsibility,” the NGO said at the time. “The State of Israel has to own up to]these events of children who went missing.”

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