Israel doesn’t deserve brickbats
The media are sullying Israel’s character. Frequently criticizing Israeli actions and promoting an image of Israelis as Nazis, the media ignore all the good Israel does for the world. For more than 40 years, while still struggling for its own survival, Israel has been providing substantial humanitarian assistance to people worldwide.
Israel is a tiny country, about the size of Massachusetts, with a population of merely 6.3 million. Humanitarian efforts began only 10 years after Israel became an independent country, when it established the Center for International Cooperation (also known as MASHAV) in 1958.
Specializing in the development of human resources, the center’s mandate upholds the right of all people to live in dignity, free from poverty, with the right to food, security, health care, education, economic sustainability, gender equality, preservation of natural resources, child welfare and care for the aged. From soil cultivation programs in Kenya to computer education in Ethiopia, from medical programs in Jordan to seminars on cattle husbandry in India, Israel has helped alleviate hunger, disease and poverty in many developing countries.
In the ’70s, Israel broadened its humanitarian aid agenda by granting safe haven to refugees and foreign nationals in distress such as 303 desperate Vietnamese refugees who now live side by side with Jewish-Israelis in Israel; 66 of the refugees escaped Vietnam in an ill-constructed boat and were rebuffed by four countries before being rescued by an Israeli ship. In 1993, Israel became the first country to grant refuge to Bosnian-Muslims displaced by the civil war in Yugoslavia. These refugees benefit from ongoing assistance and were granted full rights as Israeli citizens. During the conflict in Kosovo, Israel provided shelter to hundreds of displaced ethnic Albanians and Kosovo refugees.
Israel has provided humanitarian aid in the wake of natural disasters beyond its borders, helping disaster victims on almost every continent. In December 1988, an earthquake shook the Soviet Republic of Armenia, killing 30,000 people and leaving 50,000 homeless. Joining the international effort, Israel sent Israeli Defense Forces search and rescue and medical teams. They treated hundreds of patients and brought 61 Armenians to Haifa for special medical treatment. When a massive earthquake killed more than 15,000 people in Turkey in 1999, Israel set up a 120-bed field hospital and sent more than 100 tons of relief supplies and a 250-person search and rescue team to Turkey. The team saved 12 survivors and uncovered the bodies of 146 victims. Tireless efforts resulted in the miraculous rescue of a 3-year-old Turkish boy more than 130 hours after the earthquake struck.
Countries ravaged by war and terrorism have received aid from Israel. During the Yugoslavian civil war, the Rwandan civil war and the conflict in Kosovo, Israel not only granted safe haven to refugees but also sent humanitarian aid to the regions. More than 100 tons of medical aid, food and supplies were sent to Bosnia, Rwanda, Macedonia and Albania. During the Rwandan civil war, Israeli medical personnel treated 3,000 Rwandan refugees. Israel donated 80,000 measles vaccinations to the refugee camps and taught agricultural techniques and disease prevention to help resettle returning refugees. During the conflict in Kosovo, an Israeli field hospital offered the only available medical help to 30,000 refugees.
More than 140 countries have benefited from Israel’s international humanitarian aid. Israelis assist the needy even while under constant threats to their security and an economic downturn. Israel has suffered seven wars and two intifadas since its independence 56 years ago and still views humanitarian aid as an integral part of its role in the international community.
Rather than being condemned, Israel should be praised. Instead of destroying, Israel is rebuilding. Instead of intentionally hurting, Israel is helping. Instead of fostering terror, Israel is providing hope.