Thursday, January 28, 2010

Israelis in Haiti - a complicated viewpoint

cartoon: Eran Wolkowski, "Haaretz"

Hurray to the Israeli delegation to Haiti!

Well, first, I don’t intend to be cynical here. I actually applaud the delegation of physicians and rescue personnel who made the transatlantic travel, and were the first to set up a field hospital in Port-O-Prince.
The point that I would like to make, though, is this: As an Israeli, I have the feeling that the Israeli people, and that includes almost everybody, are using this event, maybe unintentionally, as a diversion from what is happening in Israel (or rather, in Palestine).
To be perfectly clear about this, let us separate two things.
The first thing is that the men and women who were deployed to Haiti from Israel, not only have done a great job in saving the lives of a few hundred people; they also did it for the right reasons, for the most part – namely, really for the sake of humanity, life saving, and all the right values. I’m saying “for the most part”, just because, to be perfectly honest, and with all due respect to those fine people – they are also aware of the benefits that this gives to Israel, politically. And rightly so!
Just as a side note to this post: one reservation comes to mind, regarding the motives of such a good deed, and that is - being an extraordinary and unusual mission – it also comes with some significant benefits to the members of the delegations, themselves. I’m not talking about money, of course. I’m referring to the satisfaction, thrill, and even the joy, in the most pure and good form of those feelings. I’m not suggesting that they don’t deserve them – on the contrary; I’m not saying that it’s a pleasant mission – it’s not. It’s horrible, demanding and difficult at the highest levels. Those people are being exposed to the most horrific views known to humans. Yet, it’s not rare to see people fighting over the right to be in the delegation, and not only because of the utmost necessity of this mission. But enough, this is hard to explain to somebody who hasn’t been in these types of situations.
The second issue involved here, totally separately from the first, is the use of this event, and the response to it, by the Israeli government and media. They are simply and cynically using the photos of the Israeli flag, flying over the stadium in the Haitian capital, to cleanse their conscience from the crimes that they (the Israeli government, not the Israeli people as a whole) are committing against the Palestinians.
I know what you are thinking while reading this. “Why not give the credit, once some good deed is done? Why be so cynical?”. Well, here’s why: the Israeli politicians, headed by Prime Minister Nethanyahu, who decided on dispatching this delegation, are the ultimate example of cynicism. They don’t really care for the people of Haiti. They don’t care about 3 million people, much closer to home, who live as second class residents in a territory controlled by the country that they manage, without national or even some human rights. They don’t even care about their own people, 80% of whom share only 56% of the wealth; 24% of whom living under the poverty line, according to the Israeli government itself. (1)
They only care for one thing – staying in power.
The touching and moving pictures of people helping in Haiti are an important message of humanity. But they also help Bibi and his gang to stay in power. They do this by creating an image, for a country that doesn’t deserve it. They do it by giving its people both the excuse to continue supporting some terrible things that are done in their names; as well as, at the same time, creating for them the mindset, that they are always the victims; because they are only doing good, and the World doesn’t recognize it. In summary, we are more moral than the entire world, we are good and sophisticated and powerful in our goodness and high technology; and at the same time, we are so weak and miserable by not being understood as such; by being so harshly criticized by the international media (which, by the way, actually praised Israel for the good job in Haiti).
Just read some quotes from some of the very fine persons who served in Haiti: “We will travel there, save lives, we will get ‘Kudos’, and then what? Will they love us more around the world? Will they remember it the next time we bombard Gaza?...” Another one said: “This is coming to us at the best timing possible. Now that we finished recruiting new people to our Unit, we are also getting some real-life training, on a special budget…”. (2) Let me be very clear: I am not questioning the noble motives of the fine gentleman who was quoted; I’m just saying, there is more to it than what is visible on a 2-minute item on TV.
This is what the average person in Israel is thinking: “We can’t be that bad if we were the first country to offer real help in Haiti” (which is, well, close to be true; other countries sent some relief too, but we didn’t see much of it on Israeli TV). Well, sometimes two things can be true at the same time: The Israelis are very well trained to respond to disasters – mind you, it’s not so much fun to live in a country which specializes in those kinds of things! – and, at the same time, the Israelis, most of them without their real intention, share the responsibility to a big crime that is lasting for 43 years, namely – the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.
And what about the responsibility of the Palestinians themselves, for their situation? – Well that’s a good subject for another post. But like I said, two things can be true at the same time.

(1) Source: National Social Security Institute, 2007
(2) (Lt. Col. Dr. Chemi Blomberg); Source: Haaretz Israeli daily, January 22nd, 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment