Israeli and Jewish Pride in Haiti
Posted Thu, Jan 21, 2010

As soon as the reports about the terrible tragedy in Haiti started pouring in, Israel began to organize its delegation, which includes rescue teams, medical teams and a team responsible for clearing bodies. The Jewish community in Toronto also did its share by raising funds for the purpose of assisting the medical teams. The Israeli delegation is working around the clock and in a short time has managed to rescue a few civilians who were trapped under the rubbles, to provide life-saving treatment to the injured, and to help as much as possible to restore order in the disaster-stricken country, which is also the poorest country in South America.

The Israeli delegation to Haiti is a source of pride to every Israeli. Actually, maybe not to everyone. I happened to be in Israel on the day that discussions started about the forming of the Israeli delegation. I was watching the reports on the morning show on Israeli TV, where the “objective” host did not give the interviewee a chance to explain all the details, and accused him of organizing an operation simply for the purpose of earning PR for Israel. Similar criticisms were published in Haaretz newspaper and on important websites such as Ynet and Walla. Professor Yoel Donchin, head of the patient safety unit at Haddasah Ein Kerem, also criticized the Israeli operation and said that in Israel’s point of view, “a minute on television is more important than anything else, and Israel uses such tragedies as a means to train its forces on medical rescuing and providing treatments”.

It is important to listen to criticism and no one is immune from it. However, it is very hard to comprehend the motive behind the venomous tone which accompanied the criticism from the beginning. Even if the Israeli delegation was lacking in the way it operated, what purpose is there in publicly blackening its image? Even if Israel indeed went out to Haiti in order to improve its PR, why judge it so harshly and not praise it? Any help to Haiti these days is considered a blessing, no matter what the motives behind it. It is much better to help others who need it than to find endless reasons as to why one should join hands and do nothing and click one’s tongue. It is a well-known fact that this is not the first time that Israel has sent a delegation to disaster-stricken areas, and the idea of helping the needy is deeply rooted in Jewish and Israeli culture and tradition. It is permitted to look at the half empty glass, but the obsession in not taking our eyes off it, teaches more about the thought process of the beholder.

Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi
Fellow and senior researcher at the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs , head of research of the Orient Research Group Ltd., investigative journalist and an activist in the Jewish and Israeli communities.

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