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For Israelis, Mixed Feelings on Aid Effort

JERUSALEM — The editorial cartoon in Thursday’s mass-circulation Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot showed American soldiers digging among the ruins of Haiti. From within the rubble, a voice calls out, “Would you mind checking to see if the Israelis are available?”

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Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
A 3-year-old Haitian boy on Thursday in the pediatric tent of an Israeli Defense Forces hospital near the Port-au-Prince airport.
A week ago, ahead of most countries, Israel sent scores of doctors and other professionals to Haiti. Years of dealing with terrorist attacks combined with an advanced medical technology sector have made Israel one of the most nimble countries in disaster relief — a factor that Western television news correspondents have highlighted.

But Israelis have been watching with a range of emotions, as if the Haitian relief effort were a Rorschach test through which the nation examines itself. The left has complained that there is no reason to travel thousands of miles to help those in need — Gaza is an hour away. The right has argued that those who accuse Israel of inhumanity should take note of its selfless efforts and achievements in Haiti.

The government has been trying to figure out how to make the most of the relatively rare positive news coverage, especially after the severe criticism it has faced over its Gaza offensive a year ago.

“Israelis are caught in a great confusion over themselves,” noted Uri Dromi, a commentator who used to be a government spokesman. “There is such a gap between what we can do in so many fields and the failure we feel trapped in with the Palestinians. There’s nostalgia for the time when we were the darlings of the world, and the Haiti relief effort allows us to remember that feeling and say, you see we are not as bad as you think.”

“Now They Love Us,” was the headline Wednesday on the column of Eitan Haber, a close aide to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the 1990s and a Yediot columnist. “In another month or two, nobody will remember the good deeds” of Israeli soldiers, he wrote. “The very same countries and very same leaders who are currently lauding the State of Israel will order their representatives to vote against it at the United Nations, proceed to condemn I.D.F. operations in Gaza, and again slam its foreign minister.”

Israeli journalists flew into Haiti with relief teams. And while the contours of the catastrophe have been well described, inherent in the coverage is the question of what Israel’s performance says about it and its place in the world.

Much noted has been the absence of rich and powerful Persian Gulf countries in the relief effort, a point made here when the 2004 tsunami hit large parts of Asia and Israeli relief teams swung into action there as well.

Many commentators argued that the work in Haiti was a reflection of a central Jewish value. Michael Freund, a columnist in The Jerusalem Post, wrote on Thursday, “Though a vast gulf separates Israel from Haiti, with more than 10,500 kilometers of ocean lying between us, the Jewish people demonstrated that their extended hand can bridge any gap and traverse any chasm when it comes to saving lives.”

But on the same page, another commentator, Larry Derfner, argued that while Israel’s field hospital in Haiti is a reflection of something deep in the nation’s character, “so is everything that’s summed up in the name of ‘Gaza.’ ” He wrote: “It’s the Haiti side of Israel that makes the Gaza side so inexpressibly tragic. And more and more, the Haiti part of the national character has been dwarfed by the Gaza part.”

Early in the week, Akiva Eldar, a leftist commentator and reporter with the newspaper Haaretz, made a similar point: “The remarkable identification with the victims of the terrible tragedy in distant Haiti only underscores the indifference to the ongoing suffering of the people of Gaza.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/world/middleeast/22israel.html


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Added: Jan-22-2010 
By: dperezweichert
In:
Middle East
Tags: Israel, idf, AIPAC, Palestine, Gaza, Obama
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  • Where the F-CK was Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Egypt and the United Nations. These countries and institutions are too busy hating Israel to have an ounce of compassion towards the REAL SUFFERING GOING ON IN AFRICA AND HAITI.

    Posted Jan-22-2010 By 

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  • Funny how the main focus of stories involving the Israelis are the Israelis themselves....

    Posted Jan-22-2010 By 

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  • the suffering in gaza was self inflicted you can't compare it to a natural disaster. So where is all the help from Islam that so peaceful cult?????

    Posted Jan-22-2010 By 

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  • Israeli has the "rolls royce" of the medical teams in haiti, Obviously they were prepared.... I wonder how they knew.. SIGH

    Posted Jan-22-2010 By 

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    • so now you are claiming Israel is responsible for the earthquake???

      hmmmmmmm...ok....

      Posted Jan-22-2010 By 

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    • Israel has always had good doctors ect.. The hold more Noble Prizes for medicine i believe out of everyone.

      Posted Jan-22-2010 By 

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    • never said the israeli did it, IM JUST WONDERING HOW THEY KNEW AND WERE PREPARED SO FAST? no one answered my question yet..........................


      Obviously Israeli were really prepared for this earthquake, AS OPPOSE TO THE 2004 TSUNAMIS........






      Its all about public relation heh........... disgusting...... using tragedie to acheive their own political agenda.......










      MANY COUNTRIES IN HAITI HAVE DONE AS MUCH AS THE ISRAELI, CUBA HAVE DONE PROBABLY MORE THEN ALL OF THEM, YET More..

      Posted Jan-22-2010 By 

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    • where is cuba....where is israel...duhhhhhhhhh

      Posted Jan-22-2010 By 

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    • oh yes and cuba is also about 50 times POORER THEN ISRAEL.......................



      are you trying to say that the media are so biased towards Israel is because they are so far away?????





      OK THEN WHAT ABOUT CHINA??????????????????????????????????? they are also in haiti and the distance between both is a lot more then between israel.....




      YOU DOESNT MAKE SENSE AT ALL....

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  • I agree with Akiva Eldar and his kind- Israel should start helping the simple residents of gaza by removing the bloackadge and assist them in other fields, just like Israel helps other 3rd world countries all over the world.

    Israel should do it, even that gaza is ruled by Hamas. by doing so hamas will gradually loose the support of the gazans in fighting against Israel.

    that is exactly what heppened in the pales. territories during the 90's.

    today the best example for it is Genin which More..

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