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Law Is Not for Everyone. But for Whom?

On January 10, the Knesset hosted a meeting of the commission discussing the circumstances of the liquidators of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant living in Israel. This meeting was attended by the general director of the NGO «Magen Mishpacha» Keren Fishzon.

After Chernobyl accident in 1986, about 4,000 liquidators had repatriated to Israel under the Law of Return. Now there are about 1200 of them. In 2001, the law on the status of the liquidators was adopted in Israel.

How do they enforce that law?


What the law says

Under the law, a commission formed at the Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption must confirms the status of a liquidator. To get the status a liquidator should submit a papers saying that he worked in Chernobyl immediately after the accident, and is an Israeli citizen. The papers obtained by the liquidators in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are valid. The commission should confirm the status within 120 days after a liquidator applied.

How it works in reality

The members of the commission do not know what the paper confirming a liquidator’s in Chernobyl, issued in the country of origin, looks like. Therefore, they may require the liquidator to submit other papers including a record of a business trip to Chernobyl or a liquidator’s photo from the scene of the accident.

It seems that the commission has never met deadlines set in the law while processing of the applications. Liquidator Efraim Melamed says that he was invited to the commission in March 2014, and there he met some people who had been waiting for such an invitation for more than two years.



What the law says

The commission consists of five people including a person elected by the entity representing the majority of the liquidators in Israel.

How it works in reality

Alexander Kalantryksky, the head of the Association of Chernobyl Liquidators in Israel, had worked in the commission for many years. His firmness in defending the interests of the Chernobyl liquidators and demands regarding the timing of the commission’s work were the reasons for the grudge of Sara Cohen, the director of the  Ministry of Absorption welfare department in charge for the work of the commission. At the meeting in the Knesset, Ms. Cohen revealed another reason for her unhappiness with Kalantyrsky: he spoke Russian with the liquidators, and she could not  understand him. Why she did not ask for help of an interpreter who is always available at the commission's meetings, is anybody’s guess.

Anyway, since 2011, they have not invited Kalantyrsky to the meetings. No liquidators’ representative to replace him was appointed. For that reason, all the commission’s decisions made without Kalantyrsky are illegal.

In the Knesset, Ms. Cohen insisted that she acted in accordance with the recommendations of the Ministry's legal adviser. She just ignored the remarks that those recommendations cannot be above the law. Meanwhile, back in June 2016, the State Comptroller called illegal the removal of Kalantyrsky from the commission.


What the law says

The commission should consider an application for recognition of the status of liquidator within 120 days from the moment of submission, invite the applicant to the meeting and inform him about its decision.

How it works in reality

They examine a liquidator’s papers at the commission meeting and ask him questions in an unkindly manner, to put it mildly. As Efraim Melamed describes it, “interrogate like criminals”. The commission never announces its decision at the meeting informing a person concerned with a special letter. And waiting for that letter takes a long time.

Personal experience

Efraim Melamed obtained papers confirming his participation in works in Chernobyl and submitted them to the commission in October 2013. They invited him to the commission meeting in March 2014. The commission refused to confirm his liquidator status, and Melamed appealed in the court. In October 2015, the court, on the proposal of the Ministry of Absorption, approved an agreement cancelled the commission's decision and returned the papers for reconsideration. The new meeting was held in May 2016, but the commission made no decision. The next meeting considering Melamed’s case was held in April 2017. Since then, Melamed has been waiting for the letter to notify him of what decision was made.


What the law says

Under the law, the Health Minister should appoint a hospital that will serve as a medical center regularly checking the health of the liquidators and their children. The law allows the Minister to establish more medical centers if necessary.

How it works in reality

Although the law was passed in 2001, the medical center for liquidators not been created until now. Meanwhile, in October 2001, the Knesset received a document confirming that the liquidators are at risk of developing thyroid, breast and lung cancer, as well as leukemia. It is obvious that a specialized medical center is vital for them.

An interesting fact was revealed at the Knesset on January 10. Since the adoption of the law, half a million shekels have been allocated annually to medical checks of the liquidators’ health. The funding goes to a research institute that has nothing to do with the medical treatment. However, it has regularly issued expert opinions, which invariably state the same thing — the liquidators are no more ill than all the other Israelis.

A strange twist. Despite the statements of medical scientists insisting that liquidators are absolutely healthy people, Israeli insurance companies flatly refuse to insure their lives. Back in 1997, MK Yury Shtern, wrote numerous letters to insurance companies, their supervisors in the Ministry Finance and many lawyers, but the answer was always the same: Chernobyl liquidators members are at risk, so the companies do not have to insure them. One cannot help to wonder who is telling the truth — insurers or medical experts? After all, if we believe medical scientists, the liquidators cannot be in a risk group.

Questions without answers

In Israel, a liquidator receives financial assistance of 5,700 shekels a year, and that is virtually all. Other parts of the law just has not been enforced. The main question to the Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption is — why? Do the bureaucrats simply wait for the “nature to say its word”? After all, the liquidators are neither young and nor in good health.

How many people have passed away while the commission was deciding on their status?

How many liquidators who were denied recognition of the status did not appeal the court? It is not easy for pensioners to do this.

Why are liquidators «interrogated like criminals» at the meetings of the commission? 

Why do insurance companies talk to them, according to A. Kalantyrsky «as with scum»? It's no secret that, in insurers’ view, risk groups are drug addicts, alcoholics and prostitutes. At the same time, it should be mentioned that the lives of employees at the Dimona reactor are insured by the state insurance company. Why cannot the situation be the same in the case of liquidators?

Why do the officials treat the liquidators in a boorish way? Efraim Melamed says: «In April 2017, they invited me to another meeting of the commission on the liquidators’ status. The meeting was held on the ground floor at the Ministry of Absorption. Ten people were waiting in a narrow room in front of the office. There were four or five chairs the people were waiting on their feet while two were sitting on the floor. There was no water to drink. I was outraged, and called a guard and then the security chief. He accepted that I was right, immediately brought chairs from nearby offices, and later — a device for drinking water. The guards helped, while the members of the commission did not even want to discuss that  shameful things.”

This incident covers everything said above. The NGO “Magen Mishpacha” is waiting for an answer from the Ministry of Absorption.

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