I’d like to say a word of honor and thanks and, yes, pride for the Israelis, paramedics, physicians, nurses, midwives, and medical imaging technicians, who went to Haiti to save lives.
I believe that they are people, individuals, who went there to save limbs from gangrene and amputation, stanch internal bleeding, relieve crushing pain. To deliver babies. To risk their lives, using jackhammers and hydraulics and their hands to make crawl spaces under tons of concrete and silt, going in themselves to pull children and adults to safety.
For all the time that they’ve been working, however, people far away, snug in the comfort of their laptops, have been furiously busy as well, people who are enraged to the boiling point by news reports of the Israeli rescue mission. People who see it as their mission to tell the world exactly what’s wrong with all of this.
Over the past week, the work of the Israeli medical team has become a kind of Rorschach for how people view Israel and Israelis. Most of the comment, it must be said, is supportive. Even on the part of those who cast the humanitarian misery in Gaza in contrast.
But for a shocking number of others, the bottom line is simple: Israel,
and Israelis, can do no right.
In its most extreme form, there are those who have accused Israel of using the Haiti catastrophe as a new reservoir for harvesting organs.
But even many of those who shun blood libels, have seized on the Haiti mission to bash Israel, revealing in many cases a hatred – and a bigotry – that borders on the visceral.
“I guess giving Israel credit for good deeds in Haiti,” wrote reader John Smithson on the widely read Mondoweiss site, “is like watching a serial killer or other sociopathic type mow an old woman’s lawn (or some other charitable thing).”
The contention is that Israel sent aid to Haiti on purely cynical motives, harnessing public relations to divert attention from the Goldstone Report, to divert attention from Gaza, to divert attention from its never-ending, always expanding internal crises.
The implication is that Israel, and Israelis, are constitutionally incapable of doing good for its own sake. Or that whenever they appear to do good, people of conscience should recognize that the evil designs behind it render any good that may be done, complicit in wrongdoing.
True, it is willful blindness to contend that Israel can do no wrong. But it is nothing short of racism to maintain, in Haiti and in general, that Israelis can do no right.
Israel, like all countries where war is endemic, like much of the unfortunate world, and like Palestine, is a nation whose people have been ruined, distorted, permanently traumatized, emotionally stunted. Yet Israelis, like people in all countries where war is endemic, and like Palestinians, have demonstrated enormous reservoirs of humanity under inhuman stresses.
As Palestinian-American journalist Ray Hanania wrote of the Israeli aid effort this week: “200,000 Haitians died in an earthquake. They sent doctors and supplies to help. That is a good thing. Just because we are fighting with Israel doesn’t mean we should sneer at that assistance to people in need. YES, I wish Israel could show the same compassion for Palestinians. But Israel and Haiti are not at war and Israelis and Palestinians (mainly Hamas and the settlers) are.”
People who truly know this place as more than a moral cartoon, also know that there is no such thing as a clear conscience in the Holy Land. Either your conscience is conflicted, or it is no conscience at all.
No one knows better than Israelis – not even their worst critics abroad – how flawed and wrongheaded their country’s behavior, and that of their countrymen, so often is.
No one knows better than Palestinians and their supporters, what it is to be tainted by bigotry, take missteps in conflict, and be dismissed by hatred.
I’d like to say a word of honor and thanks for the Israelis, paramedics, physicians, nurses, midwives, and medical imaging technicians, who went to Haiti to save lives.
Israelis, and Jews in the wider world, should not be forced to recite a catechism over how terrible, how flawed, how often mistaken they already know Israel to be, just in order to earn the right to feel and express their admiration, their gratitude, and yes, their pride.