Home > Gaza, Haiti, Ira Sharkansky, Israel, Palestinian Authority, United States of America > Israeli left says Gaza entitled to Haiti-style aid

Israeli left says Gaza entitled to Haiti-style aid

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Media in Israel and overseas have described in the most positive of terms the aid that a team of IDF and Magan David Adom (Red Star of David) personnel have provided in Haiti. An article in the New York Times adds to the praise, but also reports on Israelis who lament that their country does not do next door in Gaza what it does across the ocean in Haiti.

It would be a surprise if there were not such Israelis. It is an argumentative society, where any view held by a majority or anything more than a tiny minority is an open invitation to dispute. The left wing remains active, even if recent election results and polls indicate that its numbers are in the realm of the insignificant. The resignation from the Knesset of one left wing member of the Labor Party, and the announcement of another that she would not enter her party’s next primary are further signals that their slice of the polity is in extremis.

Left-wing Meretz currently has three members in Knesset and left-of-center Labor 13. Both are historic lows for those parties. A poll has shown Labor likely to drop to six members. Critics who remain within its Knesset delegation have been quieted by the futility of their protests against party leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

If the left is well represented anywhere, it is in the op-ed page of the prestigious Ha’aretz, which supplied some of the material quoted in the New York Times article about Israelis who lament the lack of aid to Gaza. The left also remains lively in the social science and humanities faculties of the universities. One of my friends and political science colleagues was quoted in a recent headline–again in Ha’aretz–criticizing the decision of the Defense Minister to advance the status of a college located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Each weekend for the last year or two, Israeli activists (some of them claiming the label of anarchists) along with Palestinians and colleagues from overseas have demonstrated against a segment of the security barrier near the village of Bilin. Initially they sought to prevent the construction of the barrier, and now they try to dismantle it. Every weekend we hear how many were arrested or injured by the army, and how many soldiers were injured by the demonstrators. Some of the same people, or those who think like them, have demonstrated, been arrested, and have protested their arrest in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem, where their target is a structure that a number of Jews claim as their own.

I have no data to judge the incidence of Israelis who lament that their country does not do in Gaza what it does in Haiti. There has not been coverage of any such protest on the prime time discussion program that I have watched, or the radio talk shows I have heard since the earthquake.

There was a segment of the discussion program that coupled a retired senior officer of police and the leader of an Israeli civil rights organization who was arrested for demonstrating against the Jews who have moved into the Arab neighborhood. Their quarrel focused on the right of demonstration, as well as the activist’s assertions against ownership by Jews of a disputed building. The police officer said that the activist had been arrested because his behavior was not as dignified during the demonstration as it was in the television studio.

It appears to me that the New York Times correspondent was going beyond political realities when he wrote:

. . .  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.

His introductory paragraph is closer to what I have perceived, i.e., a pride in the activity and attention given to Israelis in Haiti, without linking it to domestic quarrels.

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?”

*
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

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  1. carol ann goldstein
    January 27, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    …”but also reports on Israelis who lament that their country does not do next door in Gaza what it does across the ocean in Haiti.”

    ” 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.”

    I agree with the left, Israel should help those in Gaza the same way they are helping the people of Haiti.

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