Israeli Welfare Ministry, Foster Agencies, Traffic in Palestinian Children
NOTE: Please read my latest article on the Duma murders published at Mint Press News, State Department’s Silence Deafening After U.S. Citizens Engage In Israeli Settler Violence.
A few months ago, I wrote about a shocking Israeli Supreme Court decision which ratified the officially-sanctioned theft of children from a mixed Jewish-Palestinian couple and their adoption by an Orthodox Jewish couple who planned to raise the children with no access to their birth identity. The decision was flagrantly racist and defied many Israeli child welfare regulations. But it was the decision of the highest court in the land. One which foreign observers continue to mistakenly credit with being a beacon of western democratic values. No longer.
Tonight brings a new saga of judicially-sanctioned racism and woe perpetrated again by the Israeli Welfare Ministry (run by Minister Haim Katz) and its child services agency.
Over a decade ago, Daniella Vaknin was a troubled teenager living in an Orthodox home in the settlement of Avney Heifetz. Daniella was labelled as rebellious, violent, aggressive, and sent to an institution for troubled youth. She was abused at this facility and ran away. She stayed away till she became an adult and could make her own decisions. At that time, she met a Palestinian man, Ala’a Suliman, whose family lived in the West Bank village of Zetta. They fell in love. Against her parents wishes, she moved to his village, married him, and became pregnant. They had a daughter they named Adel.
Daniella’s mother continued to pressure her to abandon her marriage and return to live with her parents among Jews. She warned her daughter that the Israeli social welfare system would frown on her decision and might take her child away. Even then, despite living among Palestinians in the West Bank, child welfare officials summoned her to a meeting where they pummeled her with questions about her baby, the care she was providing, etc. Among the first questions they asked was why she wore a hijab to meet with them. Daniella responded that she did this out of respect to her husband’s family. The social workers clearly disapproved of this and saw it as a rejection of her Jewish roots.
Eventually, Daniella understood the immense pain she was causing her mother and decided to return home. But that is when the trouble really began. A neighbor of her parents reported falsely that Ala’a had threatened Daniela. That permitted them to further question her. She denied that her husband had ever threatened her. But it didn’t help matters.
Her parents and the child welfare officials persuaded her to place Adel in a pre-school program. This enabled Daniella to work. She got two jobs and commuted many hours to work each day. Luckily, her mother’s best friend agreed to provide care to the child and the arrangement seemed to suit everyone. Except child welfare. They argued that her long hours of work meant she had abandoned her baby, another false claim.
One day, the authorities came to Adel’s pre-school and took her into custody. Daniella had not been provided any warning of their intent. And they had obtained no judicial order approving the removal as is required by child welfare regulations (they obtained an order ex post facto). They justified taking Adel away from Daniela by dredging up her wayward childhood. They claimed she was an unfit mother because she had not changed her ways. That she abandoned her daughter. That her biological father was a threat to mother and daughter.
Adel was not taken into emergency protective services as would be normal in such cases. She was given directly into the hands of her foster parents, Yehuda and Shoshana Damri. This raises serious questions of a conspiracy between the Damris and child services. In effect, this is child trafficking. How can a government agency assign a child to another family before it even has legal custody of the child? It’s the worst violation of the rights of the mother.
Ala’a also tried to intervene in the legal process to assert his paternal rights. But when the case came before an Israeli Palestinian judge in Nazareth, he astonishingly ruled that no Palestinian father could have any parental rights when the adopted child was to raised by as a Jew. The ruling had little or no basis in law. But that hardly mattered. If you ask why a Palestinian judge would rule against a Palestinian father remember, just as with security cases, judges are tightly bound to those who appear before them regularly: government officials. They tend to rule in favor of authority and against individual citizens who have little or no power. People just like Daniella and Ala’a. This a perfect example of a Palestinian Muslim judge ruling against a Palestinian father in order to curry favor with the Jewish judicial power structure. Divide and conquer.
In a separate ruling, the authorities found that Ala’a had “abandoned” Adel because he had not visited her. In truth, no Palestinian may enter Israel legally without a permit. Permits are given exceedingly sparingly and Ala’a could not get one to visit his daughter. To official Israel, this didn’t matter. The fact that he did not visit his daughter, regardless of the reason, permitted them to steal his parental rights from him.
System Rigged Against Kids, Parents
None of the accusations against either parent is true. But it hardly matters in the Israeli welfare system. Social workers have absolute power. Their actions are unchecked. Parents have no recourse. And judges always go along with the child welfare authorities. They rarely side with parents, even biological parents. They often make decisions that directly contravene official regulations. But no one takes notice.
The entire process of foster care is hugely rewarding for the many agencies involved in it. One of the largest is Orr Shalom. It supervised Adel’s own foster care arrangement with the family which fostered her after she was removed from her mother’s care. In fact, child welfare authorities would have consulted with Orr Shalom even before taking Adel away from Daniella. The agency also would’ve identified prospective foster parents.
Orr Shalom and other such agencies receive more than $4,000 per month from the Welfare Ministry for every child who enters their custody. If you multiply this by the hundreds of children in foster care, it becomes a lucrative business. Nor is it beneficial for them to return foster children to the biological parents care. As such, you’ve created a system which works diametrically opposite to what should be the societal interest in having children raised by their natural parents.
This may explain why they targeted Adel. Not to mention that foster parents as well earn up to $500 per month for their role. So social workers working for these child welfare agencies are always on the look-out for vulnerable young mothers from whom they may wrest a child. In short, it’s a racket and the children trafficked and their biological parents are often the victims.
Of course, there are myriad justifications authorities and social workers offer for separating children from their mothers. Think about the Christian missionaries who forcibly removed Native American and Aboriginal children from their parents in order to “civilize” the children and introduce them to “modern ways.” Israeli social workers believe they are doing a social good by removing children from ‘troubled homes’ and finding more stable homes for them. There are, of course, hundreds of Jewish couples who cannot conceive and desperately seek to adopt a baby. They are often willing to pay handsomely for the privilege.
Orthodox Settlers Foster Palestinian Child
Such a couple were Yehuda and Shoshana Demry (his Facebook page). They were Orthodox Jews who lived in the West Bank settlement of Elkanah. Once Adel was taken from her mother, she was placed in foster care with the Damris. Daniella of course objected strenuously to all of this, but to no avail. She created a Facebook page vowing to fight for her rights to Adel. She plastered hundreds of flyers seeking information about where her baby had been taken.
The Demrys wanted to adopt because Yehuda was sterile and could not produce a child. This is particularly traumatic for an Orthodox family because one of the most important Biblical commandments is: “Be fruitful and multiply.” Under halacha, infertility of either spouse is grounds for divorce. The couple would’ve been highly motivated, since they couldn’t have their own child, to find one to adopt.
Adel was a beautiful child with black hair and piercing dark eyes. Their prayers seemed to be answered when the social workers gave her to them. But later, Shoshana decided she wanted her own child and not to raise the child of a stranger. She and her husband could not work out their fundamental differences. Eventually, they divorced.
That raised problems with the adoption agency. By regulation, single parents may not be foster parents nor may they adopt. By rights, they should have returned Adel to her mother for that reason alone. But naturally that didn’t happen. Officials winked and nodded at regulations and Adel remained in Yehuda’s care. To return Adel to her mother would’ve ended Orr Shalom’s gravy train. So he had to find a wife to marry as quickly as possible in order to retain custody of Adel. It took him nearly two years. But he finally did marry his second wife, Yifat Demry, and now he is ‘kosher l’mehadrin.’
In the meantime, Daniella had no idea where her daughter lived. Though regulations permitted short twice monthly meetings with Adel, they never happened. So she did some detective work and discovered where her daughter lived and which pre-school she attended. She brought along her smart phone and took a few blurry pictures of Adel in her classroom. For her troubles, the teachers swarmed all over her and sent her packing. She left the premises without raising a fuss.
But the next day, Damri sicced the police on Daniella. They accused her of attempting to kidnap her daughter. Though this never happened, it’s precisely the sort of accusation that officials can use to bolster a fabricated case against a mother to justify stealing her daughter.
Daniella is further concerned about her daughter’s well-being when she discovered the medication record for Adel at her local medical clinic. You can see from the prescription form that she’s being pumped full of Ritalin (20mg per day), a commonly over-prescribed drug for young children. Adel’s emotional state is terrible and the instability of her circumstances weighs heavily on her. She was uprooted from her biological mother and grandmother; inserted into a family she didn’t know with a foster-mother who rejected her and decided to divorce her foster-father. Then, after he remarried she was forced to come to know yet another maternal figure, the third in only a few year’s time. Adel has endured far more than her share of emotional upheaval. All thanks to a system designed to benefit the bureaucracy and the foster agencies, rather than her.
The Demry family is quite well-connected among the settler movement. A relative, Yochai Damri, was recently elected the official leader of the Mt. Hebron settler community council. He had the support of Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi Party. Though I don’t know the political or ideological leanings of the Demrys, it’s almost goes without saying that, given their Orthodox religious beliefs and living in Elkanah, that they are ultra-nationalists.
This raises another problem under child welfare regulations. When children are adopted, officials must respect the religious and ethnic traditions of the child’s biological parents. The idea of having a child with a Palestinian Muslim father adopted by an Orthodox Jewish couple living in a West Bank settlement is a serious violation of adoption regulations.
There can be only one explanation for the adoption agency’s decision to place Adel with the Demrys. They object to miscegenation. They further object to a child of a Jewish parent who might be raised as a Palestinian; or even by a mother who was once married to a Palestinian. When offered a choice between having Adel raised by a single mother who had rejected her own Orthodox upbringing; or an Orthodox Jewish couple living in a settlement, there was no question which was preferable.
Just as the Supreme Court decision I referred to above displayed Israeli racism resplendent, Adel’s theft from Daniela confirms that Israel is a State in which religious identity trumps individual or democratic rights. It further confirms that Israel is not a democracy, but a theocracy in which Jews reign supreme.
The trampling of the rights of parents in the social welfare system is but one symptom of a disease ravaging the Israeli body politic. That the system can kidnap children and wrench them from the arms of loving parents merely because it disapproves of a lifestyle or marital choice, is part of the sickness afflicting Israel. In a society respecting the rule of law such grave violations of human rights would never be tolerated. In Israel, they are de rigueur.
I called the Welfare Ministry press office, the government child welfare agency (Sherut LaYeled), and several social workers assigned to Adel’s case for comment. I reached one of the social workers twice and each time she hung up on me without uttering a word. I also sent them an e mail requesting comment. No one has yet responded.
Banning Books and Miscegenation, Israel-Style
On a related note, an Israeli novelist published a young adult book recently called Borderline. It deals with an Israeli Jewish woman who meets a Palestinian man and falls in love with him. The book was recommended for inclusion in the national high school reading curriculum. However, the education ministry under the ‘able’ direction of Naftali Bennett, decided that it must protect the tender, confused identities of Israeli teenagers. The pedagogic specialists determined that reading such literature would confuse them about their own Jewish identity and give them the mistaken impression that miscegenation was a desirable phenomenon.
This is only a slightly more elegant approach than that of the thugs of Lehava, who prefer to beat Palestinian men who dare to dream they may soil the purity of Jewish maidens. So you see that the evils of this system permeate all: from child adoptions to the public schools. It is riddled with the concept of Jewish racialism and superiority. These are values derived directly from the ideology of Meir Kahane, who is, to my chagrin, the patron saint of the contemporary Israeli State.
29 thoughts on “Israeli Welfare Ministry, Foster Agencies, Traffic in Palestinian Children – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Child welfare cases are nearly always convoluted, and the true facts, hard to discern.
But Richard, seems to have all the answers.
Sorry. I’m not buying this facile rendering.
@ Barbar: I challenge you if you don’t buy my “facile rendering” do some detective work yourself. Get the agencies who refused the chance I offered to explain their side to do so.
If you think I make stories up out of whole cloth or exaggerate, you don’t know the half of it. Try talking to women who’ve had their children stolen from them. You wouldn’t be singing the same tune, I assure you.
Mr. Barber, or Barbar, stick to the facts, not to your opinion of Richard.
Richard – you don’t mention where you got all the info from. The only link directly relatewd to the story is to the FB page which never even mention the Palestinian father.
Also, can you please share your source of the 4000$ & 500$ figures you mention. While 500$ sounds like the least foster parents will get monthly which may not even cover all the expesnses, 4000$ for the agency sound like too much money and it will be interesting to see if it is true.
The Israeli child welfare system could be improved obviously, though not everything is as bad as anti-child-welfare activists (e.g. Lori Shem-Tov) portray it to be. There will always be some families which don’t have basic fitness to raise a child and in whom a child is in danger.
Regarding Palestinian children, if we accept that life under -occupation- (or the PA) is horrible and inhumane, then placement en-masse of these children in Jewish homes could be justified as this is in child’s interest to live a better life.
@lepxii: Thanks for your appallingly racist noblesse oblige. But if indeed what you claim is true ( it isn’t) then why not remove all Palestinian children from their families? Indeed, Israel could be a Light unto the Nations by taking these poor children & offering them such wonderful opportunities for lives as Israeli Jews. And those who don’t find homes with Israeli Jewish families might be offered to familes around the world who can’t have children of their own. Israel could even reap a financial benefit by charging a “redemption fee.” Not to mention that this would substantially reduce the demographic threat posed by the exploding Palestinian birthrate.
I tell you this is a win-win for al concerned. Even Pakestinian parents will come go realize hoe much netter off their children would be raised amidst culture & civilization, as opposed to backwardness & tribalism. And you deserve all the credit because you inspired this wonderful concept!!
It is hard to imagine that lepxii is serious. Israel creates the horrible occupation then uses that to justify kidnapping children! It is the kid who murdered his parents and then defended himself claiming he is an orphan.
What lepxii describes, on a national level, would be very close to Lebensborn, Himmler’s program for absconding with “aryan like” kids from other countries. and raising them as good Germans. From their own perspective, Germany also had a demographic problem.
I do not think it is religion which dominates Israeli society, I think it is racism primarily. What thinking American could support this?
The child welfare agencies have confidentiality restrictions, so they can’t comment on cases.
The Nazareth Court, however, should have public records pertaining to the father’s suit.
The courthouse is where you should go if you wish to present a more balanced, more informed story to your readers.
I’d love to comment on the facts, but only one side of the story, the mother’s, has been told.
Do you not see that?
@That is no fault of mine. I made numerous attempts to elicit the child welfare apparatus’ perspective. They have maintained stony silence. Why don’t you encourage them to reply? I’ll happily publish their response as I told them I would.
Israel has been committing genocide on the Palestinians ever since it was born. the only reason “the civilized world” does not shout this fact is because Israel is the darling of the US which is the thousand-pound Pit Bull that no country dares to face. The only reason Israel has this protection is because US Congress lives in the pockets of the pro-Israelis such as Adelman, Koch Brothers, AIPAC, ADL etc., etc., ad nauseaum.
Were it not for these protections, Israel would probably not be the apartheid state devoted to rule for one religion (Judaism) and the destruction of others (Christianity and Islam). Here is the specific law in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html):
•(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
“Regarding Palestinian children, if we accept that life under -occupation- (or the PA) is horrible and inhumane, then placement en-masse of these children in Jewish homes could be justified as this is in child’s interest to live a better life.”
So you move a child to a dysfunctional family in an illegal settlement – in the occupied West Bank. Well that really helps – NOT.
Re: “Borderline” – it’s not a young adult book.
And it was not “banned,” either. Teachers can’t *assign* it for reading, but it’s on a list that students can choose from.
(The reasoning behind taking it off the first list is indeed preposterous and goes against the very essence of literature. It is also, indeed, sadly reflective of the current atmosphere here.)
Your logic baffled me. If you are convinced that life under occupation is so bad that it justifies taking children from parents living there you should go all out to condemn the occupation. Have you ever done so?
I doubt it. Instead you seem to be advocating stealing those children away.
At one stage Australia did similar things with half caste aboriginal children. This is now seen as a black page in its history for which a former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has officially apologised in parliament. The day we will see a similar scene in the Knesset seems miles away, if it ever arrives.
If Israel has been performing genocide why is this conflict persisting and the “Palestinian people” increasing and multiplying? The facts do not support such a claim.
Regarding child removal, this would of course be done, if at all, on a case by case basis and in accordance with the interests of the particular children, and not as a comprehensive policy. If a specific child is living in an unsafe environment (in which he is perhaps used as a illegal combatant and sent on offensive missions (pelting stones) against an armed army) then the child’s interest would be placement in a safe environment in which he isn’t in danger of bodily harm.
“If Israel has been performing genocide why is this conflict persisting and the “Palestinian people” increasing and multiplying? The facts do not support such a claim.”
—— This is true.
“Regarding child removal, this would of course be done, if at all, on a case by case basis and in accordance with the interests of the particular children, and not as a comprehensive policy. If a specific child is living in an unsafe environment (in which he is perhaps used as a illegal combatant and sent on offensive missions (pelting stones) against an armed army) then the child’s interest would be placement in a safe environment in which he isn’t in danger of bodily harm.”
—— This is nuts. I had hoped you were kidding, but obviously not…
Arie has said it all in response to Lepxii.
Lepxii then throws in the kitchen sink by saying kids are recruited to throw stones at the gallant Israeli Army (which is then obliged to kill the of course!). You have obviously never lived under a hostile, toxic, occupation, the kids whose elders have been humiliated or killed or disappeared, do not need any encouragement to throw stones at Israeli tanks and trucks or even at soldiers.
I would be most interested to know if you have applied the same “logic” to Jewish kids who throw stones at Palestinian kids and adults while under the watchful protection of adult Jews and soldiers? Should the Jewish children who are brought up under such hostile “education” be removed to the safety of perhaps, a loving Arab family in another country where they may be brought up as good Christians or Muslims?
If it’s good for the gander…
Istead of arguing from a point of total ignorance (or denial?), you should first read the convention (it is brief)…conceived, written and helped into adoption by a Jew (Rapael Lemkin) by the way. “Genocide” is not applicable only when there is a Shoah or a complete wiping out of a people, it can be on a very small scale as well. Read the convention and then tell me you are proud of what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.
As for thr reference to the Palestinians “multiplying”, You should be ashamed of yourself. Such references were also made about Jews and other people regarded as vermin by their oppressors.
Curiously, the removal of half caste Aboriginal children, referred to by Arie, was also done “in accordance with the interests of the particular children”.
Lepxii & Yaniv – not sure what environment you two talk about. The girl was raised for awhile by her mother and nobody suggested she she threw any rocks or was used by militants.
In the Israeli system, all fathers are at a disadvantage when it comes to custody of children, even in cases of shared custody.
The Facebook group of the mother doesn’t mention the father at all, not even once. I bet they would rather Adel to stay with her current parents than go to a Palestinian village.
@Absolutely false. Daniella has immemse respect for her ex husband & regrets that she listened to her mother & abandoned him. She hates Israel for what it has done to her.
That general atmosphere of hate and Xenophobia, but mostly of sheer stupidity.
[Comment deleted: your comment is not only off topic but it repeats arguments you”ve already made here. Do not repeat arguments & do not stray from the topic of the post.]
Richard – what is absolutely false? and what is your proof to it?
Have you even spoken to either mother or grandmother? You are vague about it and don’t write how you learnt about the story. Did you hear of it from the father himself?
Are you going to tell us or use the ‘confidential source’ card again?
@ Arik: I had extensive conversations with Daniella and others involved in the case who I will not name. One of the things you don’t realize is that all the parties who spoke to me are in jeopardy. Social workers may use ANYTHING against a mother. Including the fact that she exposed elements of the case to me. Other sources who I spoke with face similar sorts of jeopardy. If you understood the autocratic nature of the child welfare system and how much mothers are under heel, you would not be so flippant.
In fact, only a woman who is truly desperate would be willing to speak to me. She must believe she has nothing left to lose because all of any value has been stripped from her.
If you want an Israeli misuse of power in regards to child welfare (not related to Muslim/Jewish issues) see this one –
the vice-mayor of Lod threatening a mother with child-welfare if she doesn’t remove a FB post.
I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a strictly Israeli phenomena, but rather misuse of power by politicians and bureaucrats.
I realized this article can put the family jeopardy, this is why I wondered where you got the information from.
I wonder what Daniella thinks about your article, making her case into a matter of nationality and racism. So far she haven’t linked it on the Facebook group you mentioned above or her personal account.
@ Arik: Would you like to know how many times she used the term “racist” & “racism” in our conversations? Not to mention that she thanked me profusely for my article. She is a woman whom the system has driven to desperation. She has no other hope. No other outlet. Every other hope & option is closed off to her.
My post has been widely circulated in the very large community of mothers whose rights have been trampled by the child welfare system. I think I’ll accept their esteem rather than your dodgy guesses about Daniella disliking my work or refusing to acknowledge it. You have no idea how lame your vapid attempts are. Do you think I do these things on my own? That I invent cases to write about? Or that total strangers suggest stories to me about which they know nothing or no one? No, the principals come to me & ask for help.
You realize the article can put which family in jeopardy? If you mean “Damri” then you’re a total idiot. He is one who got Daniella arrested & has the entire array of the State behind him. Who will harm him? Or do you believe I muster an army of readers ready to take up arms to right the wrongs about which I write??
Chillax man.nobody referred to Damri, I haven’t even mentioned them. You are either paranoid or just looking for any reason to use the word idiot.
BTW, do you have info about the latest gag order in Israel. Something to do with a person from Uvda investigation.
@ Arik: Yes, of course. Coming tomorrow I hope at Mint Press News.