The Netanyahu cabinet on Sunday is expected to approve the revelation of the findings of a 2001 state committee investigation of the disappearance of the children of Yemenite immigrants who arrived in Israel between 1948 and 1954. The proposal to expose the findings was initiated by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), and MK Nurit Koren (Likud), who petitioned Prime Minister Netanyahu to appoint a minister-level official to examine the issue.
In May, Netanyahu appointed Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), whose mother, former MK Geula Cohen (Likud and Tehiya), is herself Yemenite. Now, as Hanegbi has concluded his examination, with the help of the state archivist and the Government Freedom of Information Unit of the Justice Ministry, the publication of the committee’s report will be voted on by the cabinet, and followed by a vote of the Knesset Constitution Committee.
According to the proposal, the classified protocols of the 2001 Cohen-Kedmi Committee, which began its investigations in 1995. This followed bloody clashes in Passover of 1994, between the followers of Yemenite Rabbi Uzi Meshulam and police. The Meshulam followers were barricaded in the rabbi’s Yahud home for 52 days, until police raided the place, aided by snipers and helicopters. One man was killed in the clashes.
The government-appointed committee heard more than 850 testimonies in those seven years, 27 of which remain classified. The committee’s findings were issued in 2001 in a 1,828-page report. Regarding 979 missing babies, the committee concluded that they had concrete evidence that they had died, just as hospital staffs were telling their newcomer parents. But the committee said it had not been able to find evidence on 69 missing babies, and raised the possibility that they had been given to adopting parents by social workers, without consent or even knowledge of their biological parents.
At the time, the government placed a gag order on the content of the committee’s protocols until the year 2071, with the rationale of wishing to avoid additional pain to the parties involved. The proposal the cabinet is expected to approve on Sunday conditions the revelation of specific cases of illegal adoptions on the consent of the adopted person in question. Considering the fact that they are now in their sixties and even seventies, every such revelation will likely touch the lives of dozens of individuals.
Justice Minster Shaked said in a statement that “there is a major public interest in revealing this affair, and to exposing as many of the details as possible. The era of hiding information is over in this country.”