The missing children affair—the mysterious disappearance of infants and young children, most of them of Yemenite background, in the early days of Israeli statehood—has attracted much public attention in recent decades. Between 1967 and 2001, the Israeli government established three commissions of inquiry that rejected the theory that the state itself administered the kidnapping of the children, but none of the commissions has been able to fully clarify the affair. This article surveys public awareness of the affair since the early 1950s—when public awareness of it was extremely low—to early 2018, when more than 80 percent of Israeli society believed the Israeli government to be responsible. The article analyzes why the commissions played a substantial role in shaping the public and scholarly discourse about it. Ironically, the commissions strengthened societal trust in the kidnapping allegation, which stands in contradiction of their own interpretation.
From “Missing” to “Kidnapped”: Israeli Commissions of Inquiry and the Framing of the “Missing Children Affair”
Nadav G. Molchadsky is a historian who specializes in modern Jewish history, history of Zionism, and the State of Israel. His research focuses on the complex web of relations among public affairs, historiography, law, and media. Molchadsky has a special interest in processes of collective memory formation and commissions of inquiry, particularly state and military. He has written and lectured about key traumatic events in the history of the Yishuv (the pre-state Jewish community of Palestine) and Israel. These topics include, for example, the affair of the Arlosoroff murder, the 1948 War, the Yom Kippur War, the riots of October 2000, and the Yemenite Children Affair—all of which led to the establishment of commissions of inquiry. In 2017–2018 Molchadsky was a Research Fellow at the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, and the Hartman Institute, Jerusalem.
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Nadav G. Molchadsky; From “Missing” to “Kidnapped”: Israeli Commissions of Inquiry and the Framing of the “Missing Children Affair”. The Public Historian 1 November 2018; 40 (4): 64–90. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2018.40.4.64
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