The Justice Ministry on Wednesday fined the opposition Yesh Atid party NIS 40,000 ($11,000) for using “sensitive,” personal information on Israeli Holocaust survivors for political campaigning purposes during the 2015 election.
According to a statement from the ministry, the party requested and received the information from The Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors, an umbrella group headed by former lawmaker Colette Avital.
Avital, who was also fined NIS 10,000 ($2,760) by the ministry, handed over files to the political party without the consent of the survivors and without completing the formal, legally mandated registration process.
Yesh Atid proceed to use the information to campaign to survivors, including through direct mail, the ministry said, in what it described as an illegal breach of the survivors’ privacy.
The party said in a statement Wednesday the incident was a “one-time mishap done during an election campaign, in good faith, and with no knowledge that the practice is improper.
“This is the first time that the party has deviated from the rule of law, and we take full responsibility for the mishap and are working to ensure it does not happen again,” it said.
The son of Holocaust survivor Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has made improving the living conditions of Holocaust survivors a part of his political platform. On the party’s official website, a page dedicated to its efforts to help survivors in the last government touts the compilation of a centralized list of all Holocaust survivors eligible for benefits to ensure they get their due.
“Data was gathered for those eligible for benefits for survivors from the Finance Ministry, the Welfare Fund for Holocaust Survivors, those receiving payments from the German government and other non-governmental bodies… In parallel with the Agency for the Rights of Holocaust Survivors, the Finance Ministry continues to lead efforts to identify more survivors who have not yet turned to these offices for help,” it says.
Formed by Lapid in 2012, Yesh Atid stormed to a surprising 19-seat success in the 2013 elections, becoming the second-largest party and joining Likud in the coalition. In the 2015 elections the party slid to the 11 seats it currently holds in the Knesset, where it sits in the opposition. The party has recently surged in the political opinion polls, with surveys showing it could tie or beat out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud for the most seats.