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Speculations on what happened to the adopted Yemeni children Speculations on what happened to the adopted Yemeni children
by Joseph Gatt
2019-02-26 10:17:20
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I am about to give away a scoop. Some would say drop an H-bomb, given the history and nature of the scandal. But since no one really pays attention to all the other stuff I do, no one will pay attention to this one.

Part I

In the 1950s and 1960s and beyond, 1,053, mainly Israeli children of Yemeni descent, disappeared. The parents were told that the infant died. The parents were not given the child for burial and were sent home from the hospital. No death certificates were given.

The parents were struck with grief and incomprehension. Most parents being recent arrivals to Israel, they thought it was customary in Israel for the government or the hospital to bury stillborn or dead children, when the custom would be the burial by family with all the traditions that go with it. Some mothers and fathers had their doubts, and thought mistakes were made, as the child was born healthy. Some husbands even accused their wives of killing the baby because they had suspicions it was an adulterous baby.

yemeni001_400Over the years, grief struck families more or less organized, and protests were held in 1994, led by a Yemeni rabbi. The protests turned violent, led to the exchange of gunfire, one protestor was killed by snipers, and a dozen protestors, including the rabbi, were sent for lengthy terms in jail. The rabbi got 8 years.

5 Yemeni children resurfaced out of the 1,053, adopted by Ashkenazi families, whose foster families were specifically told not to tell their Yemeni child that he or she was an adopted child. It was mostly male babies who were given up for adoption. Another 60 or so are said to have been found, with question marks on the rest.

Where did the Yemeni children go? Here's the scoop. They were adopted by Arab families from the Middle East. You heard me, Arab families from the Middle East. And I am one of them.

To avoid raising suspicions, the children were given up for adoption to Arab Muslim or Christian families from the Middle East who were expats living in Europe or North America or elsewhere, mostly diplomats. Adoption is illegal in all Muslim countries, and the Arab families' extended families were to be kept in the dark about the adoption as adoption is illegal. So the children were given up for adoption to Arab expat families in Europe, North America, South America, who would tell their families back home that they had been pregnant.

Why Yemeni children? Because physically Yemeni children have the same complexion as Arabs from the Middle East, the Yemeni children could easily be confused as being the biological children of the Arab families.

The Yemeni children would often grow up as outcasts in their foster families from the Middle East, anywhere from Mauritania to Morocco to Algeria to Tunisia to Libya, Egypt or Jordan, Lebanon or Syria. Saudi Arabia tended to be avoided because Saudi Arabian diplomats tend to be posted for lengthy amount of periods abroad, never to move back to Saudi Arabia.

What happened to the Yemeni children afterwards. As I said, they tended to be outcasts in their foster families. Some were eventually recruited by intelligence agencies for their Arabic language, knowledge of the customs and traditions and other abilities. Other children were sent to work on sensitive work, while others had normal adult lives and did normal jobs.

Why Yemeni children specifically? Because the United States or Europe does not have the equivalent of Yemeni children, that is people who have Arab-like complexions and could easily be mistaken for Arabs. Per their Israeli origin, the Yemeni children would eventually be more collaborative and cooperative with the intelligence agencies they were working for, as normal Arab children tended to side with the Arabs in intelligence gathering.

I could be dead wrong, but I think I'm getting somewhere. Otherwise the Israeli government would have to explain what happened to the 1,000 or so Yemeni children who are nowhere to be seen.

Q & A

Q & A on the adoption of Yemeni children

Question: why were babies stolen from their parents?

Answer: Obviously, you can't clone babies. Israeli families tend to be tight-knit and bloodlines are very important. Families tend to raise orphaned children. In the 1950s and 1960s very few children were born out of wedlock, very few babies were abandoned, and the government needed Yemeni children for the complexion.

Question: How could Arab Muslim families accept to adopt Israeli children?

Answer: I'm not sure, but it was probably part of a prisoner exchange deal during the wars with Arab states. That is, Arab prisoners were released, but Israeli babies were given up for adoption in exchange.

Question: why families of Arab diplomats specifically?

Answer: Arab families are tight-knit and any adoption would be conspicuous. Arab families also strongly believe in bloodlines and blood ties and would only adopt children if they were family members who were orphaned.

Arab diplomats tended to move abroad without their families. Often, they faced financial difficulties as Arab governments were notorious for giving very low salaries to their diplomats. So in exchange for money, and for keeping the secret, they were given children for adoption. It was often young couples who did not have children, as the government did not want their other children to find out that the child was adopted.

Question: Why were adoptions kept secret, even from the adoptees?

Answer: because the Israeli government's objective was that the adopted child be in full immersion with the family. That the adopted child learn the language, customs, traditions, and could easily pass as an Arab. That a child adopted by Egyptians be easily mistaken for an Egyptian, that a child adopted by Syrians easily be mistaken as Syrian etc.

Once the children reached adult life, they were either liberated and allowed to pursue normal jobs, in their adopted countries or in Europe or elsewhere, or they were recruited by intelligence agencies, Israeli or otherwise, for their language skills and knowledge of the customs. Also, because they were the children of diplomats, they often attended French or American schools, meaning they were often bilingual in French and Arabic or English and Arabic. The children also had a network of diplomats and dignitaries, businessmen and intellectuals from their adopted country who they could rely on.

Question; You say they were outcasts from their families. How did that work out?

They were often hidden from the public because someone could always find out the fraud and that there was no bloodline, as despite physical resemblances, there was always an air that they were not part of the family. So families tended to avoid displaying the children in public at all costs, and the adopted children were often left to play alone in their rooms when there were guests home. The children were not taken out to visit other family or friends, as the adoptee's parents often feared that someone might discover that the child was adopted.

Final question: What kind of intelligence work were they recruited to do? And why were they recruited by the intelligence community in some cases?

As adults, the adoptees would eventually be told that they were adopted. A flashback film would often play in their head, and their life would start making sense to them.

Because they were often outcasts in their families and communities, they tended to be a double asset: they knew Arab communities very well, and they tended to collaborate with Western intelligence agencies very well.

An Arab intelligence officer will often hide information or withhold information because they tend to side with the Arabs. The Israeli adopted intelligence officer will tend to have experience in Western countries along with being bilingual and bicultural, but will also want the Western country to win the war or battle against the Middle Eastern country. An Arab intelligence officer for example will try to avoid offending Islam or the Muslims, whereas an adopted Israeli intelligence officer will have no such emotional filter.  

Final final question: if this hypothesis is false, what other explanations could there be for the disappearance of Yemeni children?

Answer: I've thought about the topic for two or three years. The only, much less plausible explanation is that the children were adopted by European Jewish families as an experiment on genetics or on the adaptation of Mizrahi Jewish children in European families. But this explanation is very, very unlikely.

 Part II

As I said previously, the Israeli government took Yemeni babies from their parents in Israel and gave them up for adoption, very likely to families in the Arab world. What became of those children? Here's what's likely to have become of them.

In the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and even 1990s there was no social media and intelligence gathering was a lot more complicated. You needed human sources to gather intelligence, as few communications could be intercepted. In the 1990s telephone communications became more common and could be intercepted, but were not reliable as phones were shared by several people and people tended to talk in the presence of others. Today, with social media and online messaging apps communications, communications are easy to intercept, although not always reliable as people tend to make up a great deal of stories. 

Among the Yemeni children, some were  not very social. They lived alone, met a woman, got married, had children, had humble jobs. End of the story. They did not socialize with others, thus were not reliable intelligence sources.

But because they were mainly adopted by the Arab diplomatic community, the Yemeni children tended to socialize with the elite members of Arab society. Now remember up until the 1990s Arab states were mostly totalitarian states with an elite that was sealed off from the rest of the population. Yemeni children tended to have access to that elite, by going to schools with the children of the elite and hanging out with the children and families of the Arab elites.

Eventually, when the Yemeni students moved to Europe or North America to study or to work, they were a lot more reliable sources when it came to gathering intelligence on the Arab communities, especially on the Arab elites. They often knew Arab ministres and their families, Arab high-ranking military officials, Arab diplomats, Arab businessmen or Arab intellectuals.

The Yemeni children could be used in three capacities as intelligence officers. First, they could infiltrate Arab governments to intercept sensitive information. Second, they could be used as influence agents, that is to try to influence Arab governments to take certain decisions or to withdraw certain decisions. In some cases they could be used as moles, that is try to get jobs in the Arab government, prominent jobs so they could pass on information.

In some cases their status as adoptees was revealed to them, while in other cases no one, not even their families, would reveal their adoptee status to them. Their adoption status was only revealed to them if necessary and if it could help their work or mission.

The reason their adoption was not revealed to them is that in many cases if the adoption is revealed to them they may want nothing to do with the Arab states they are working with. So in many cases, they go on believing that they were not adoptees and know nothing about the Jewish or Israeli background. Furthermore, if Arab states were to discover their status as adoptees (as many Arab officials are not aware of their status as Israeli adoptees) that could compromise their intelligence gathering capabilities.

Some families welcomed the Israeli adoptee while others did not welcome the adoptee and treated the adoptee as an outcast in the family. Those outcasts were especially valuable, because they tended to be very cooperative with Western intelligence agencies and were not afraid to betray their Arab friends.

Today things are very different. Online communications can easily be intercepted and there is no longer a need for human intelligence capabilities. Furthermore Arab states are a lot more open about their governance methods when they tended to be very secretive about their operational modes. Furthermore Arab states and Western states tend to have much better relations today than they had 30 or 40 years ago. Moreover, in the 1970s and 1980s a lot of Arab states were aligned with the Soviet Union and had no formal relations with the United States, and many Western countries. Needless to say, all Arab states did not have formal relations with Israel.

 Part III

I put in a lot of thought before revealing what had happened to the Israeli children of Yemeni descent who were adopted by Middle Eastern Arab families and scattered around the Arab world.

First, there is the question of unresolved grief for the Yemeni parents and children. Most of the parents were Yemeni on a side note, but some were from other Jewish Middle Eastern origin, or in some cases of European Jewish origin.

When you lose a family member, you grieve. When you lose a family, a country, never to be able to see it again, your grief lingers on and goes unresolved. For the parents, the inability to know for sure what happened to their babies, first the disappearance, then the appearance to the surface that the babies may be alive somewhere around the world, causes unresolved grief.

Furthermore, it's not like the children were adopted by families who had trouble having children and were willing to adopt children. Or by families who were trying to help with the cause of reducing poverty around the world by adopting children. The Middle Eastern parents were often forced to adopt the Israeli children against their will.

Tough love is when you love your children or adopted children and want to prevent them from doing stupid things. Tough love is an authoritarian form of love and is the kind of love most Middle Eastern parents show their children. But in the case of a lot of the Israeli adoptees, including me, it was not tough love, but contempt and scorn, at times indifference that was shown to the children.

The children were adopted by diplomats and showed different patterns. First, there were those children who tended to be loners, tended to like their comic books, or later on video games, who had no clear ambitions in life. Those were allowed to work normal jobs.

Then there were those who did not assimilate in the countries they travelled to with the diplomats, but made many friends among the Arab elite communities. Those were hired for all kinds of different intelligence jobs, ranging anywhere from military analysts to translators to informants to go-betweens to influence agents to economic analysts to business analysts to what have you, or in some cases to infiltrate Arab groups, businesses or governments.

Then there were those like me who assimilated to the countries where the diplomats lived, learned the local language and customs of the countries where we resided. We were the infinite minority. We were often sent to countries in our adult lives which were known for being closed to foreigners and foreign intelligence services and try to open up the closed foreign countries. I was forced to move to Korea and study the local Korean political system, learn the Korean language and eventually influence the Korean government to open up. For some like me it worked out fine, although far from perfectly, albeit with a lot of accidents in the process. For others it did not work out so well, as Asian political systems are notorious for their hierarchies and unwillingness to take advice from outsiders or to open up to outsiders.

But overall the case of Yemeni adoptees is a national tragedy in Israel, at least a tragedy for the parents and children. After laying bare this tragedy, I had a dream that I was in an Algiers apartment with a group of young Jewish men and women. Some were Israeli, Brazilian, French, British, American, you name it. We were struggling to communicate, but with mixing Hebrew, English, French and a little bit of other languages we got to communicate. One of those odd things, we proceeded to taking a shower in a huge shower hall, but we were all dressed in shower suits. I eventually lost my suit, which did not bother anyone, and left the shower, where I could not find a towel, and kept going in and out of the shower without my shower suit looking for a towel, and woke up. To me the dream symbolized that the Jewish people, and Israelis specifically, were cleansing from the sin of having stolen babies to give them to Arab families. In my case where I lost my suit and could not find a towel, that symbolizes that I laid my case bare naked, in public.   


       
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