(JTA) – Following a protest by a Holocaust survivors’ group in Israel, the Dutch government reversed its decision to cut pension payments to a 90-year-old woman because she moved to a West Bank settlement.
The reversal was announced Monday in a letter sent by Caspar Veldkamp, the Netherlands’ ambassador to the Israel, responding to a letter sent earlier in the day by Colette Avital, head of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel. Avital protested the Dutch government stripping some entitlements from an unnamed Holocaust survivor, who had received a letter from Dutch officials explaining that the measure was taken because she resides beyond the Green Line, Israel’s pre-1967 borders.
“My government considers her receiving this letter a very unfortunate event, which should have been avoided,” Veldkamp wrote in the letter, which was obtained by JTA. “Since the person involved could not have been aware of the consequences of moving to occupied territories for her entitlement, her pension will not be reduced.”
Dutch citizens residing in Israel are entitled to full old-age pensions from the Netherlands under the countries’ social security agreement. However, the Dutch government does not recognize the agreement as applying to territory beyond the Green Line. The woman in question received a monthly pension payment of approximately $1,000 after moving to Israel in recent months, but the amount was to be cut by 35 per cent when the Dutch government found that she was living in the West Bank.
“We find it unacceptable to target a population of elderly people who have suffered enough in your country and beyond its borders in the dark days of World War II,” Avital wrote to Veldkamp.
In addition to the basic pension payments known in Dutch as AOW, the Dutch government also pays special income supplements to Holocaust survivors. The woman’s supplements were not affected by her residence in the West Bank, though those may have been increased to make up for the intended cut in her AOW payments, according to Henoch Wajsberg, former chair of Irgun Olei Holland, the group representing Dutch immigrants living in Israel.
“We have been fighting for years to extend the pension rights to people residing beyond the Green Line because this is essentially a non-political issue that has been politicized,” he said.