It was the mid-1990s. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, working with funds provided in part by the Conference on Material Jewish Claims Against Germany, opened a Hesed Center in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. As part of the ceremony, “gifts” were handed out to some of the elderly Shoah survivors in that city.
One “gift” in particular stood out. Rabbi Israel Miller, the late president of the Claims Conference, handed a table-top refrigerator to a woman in her 80s who had never owned one in her life before then. The woman cried as she received the refrigerator; so, in fact, did everyone who watched her reaction.
She and the other Shoah survivors in Minsk were among the many thousands of Jews caught behind the Iron Curtain in the wake of World War II. They are known as “the double victims”: the victims of Nazism and the victims of communism. The Nazis sought to take their lives, and in almost every case did take the lives of their families and friends. Because they lived under the thumb of the Soviet Union, they were unable to rebuild their lives. That is because the West, the United States especially, refused to allow anyone to send money to them. Despite the intense suffering they had experienced under the Nazis, and the continuing suffering they were going through under the communists, the fact that they lived within the Soviet orbit kept desperately needed reparations and restitution funds from reaching them.
This policy was cruel, but it was also understandable and arguably even necessary. Few doubted that monies sent to survivors would remain with them. It was reasoned that the communist regimes under which they lived would take the funds and use them for their own purposes – to further oppress their own people and to continue to threaten world peace. No one in any U.S. administration enjoyed denying Shoah survivors some modicum of justice, but neither the exigencies of the Cold War nor the reality of it could be ignored.
That is what makes a particular United States policy so hypocritical and unintelligible – a policy that has been in place since the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, and has been endorsed by presidents of both parties. This policy calls for sending many millions of dollars to the PA despite the fact that some of that money is used to reward terrorists for killing Jews. If the terrorists die or are imprisoned, their families will receive stipends; “salaries” will be paid to the imprisoned terrorists for the time they served.
A Jewish survivor of the Shoah lived a life of abject poverty because the United States barred her from receiving money that was coming out of West Germany’s treasury, out of concern that at least some of that money would fall into communist hands. A terrorist stabs a Jew to death and knows that his family will be taken care of because the United States will send money out of its own treasury to the PA, and at least some of that money will help foot the bill for his family’s upkeep and perhaps his own.
Where is the justice in that?