As most objective observers throughout the world marvel at Israel's efficiency and generosity in leading the medical aid efforts in Haiti, some bigots insist on using these efforts as an occasion to continue their attack on the Jewish state. Both the neo-Nazi hard right and the neo-Stalinist hard left cannot help but to demonize Israel, regardless of what Israel does.
Richard Silverstein posted a piece to his blog titled "The Zionization of Disaster Relief." It accuses Israel of "exploiting the suffering of poor, defenseless Haitians on behalf of Israeli Triumphalism." It complains that Israel is rendering medical aid to Haiti only to deflect attention from its crimes against the Palestinians.
The hard left, even in Israel, complains that Israel should not be sending medical assistance to such a faraway place. Instead it should be sending it to nearby Gaza.
Even the New York Times, in an otherwise thoughtful analysis of the controversiality of the aid among some Israelis, failed to note the difference between Israel sending its limited resources to faraway Haiti and to nearby Gaza. Haiti is not at war with Israel. Haiti has not pledged itself to Israel's destruction. Haiti has not fired 8,000 rockets at Israeli civilians. Gaza, on the other hand, has a popularly elected government that has done and continues to do all of the above. Moreover, there is no comparison between the tens of thousands of Haitians who have died from a natural disaster, and the people of Gaza who suffer far less from what is, essentially, a self-inflicted wound.
Nor do the perennial enemies of Israel emphasize the comparison between tiny and resource-poor Israel, on the one hand, and the enormous and resource-rich Arab and Muslim nations, on the other hand. While Israel digs deeply into its treasury and manpower to send medical assistance a quarter of the way around the world, Arab and Muslim nations are generally missing in action when it comes to relief efforts. This is true not only in Haiti, which is a Catholic nation, but it was equally true when tsunamis and other natural disasters have devastated Muslim nations.
For those who argue that Israel is sending this aid to Haiti for its own selfish reasons, there are two answers. First the realpolitik answer: All nations have interests; and all act, at least in part, out of self interest. When the United States government is asked by Americans to justify its multibillion dollar foreign aid grants, it generally responds by arguing that these grants are serving the interests of the United States. When it comes to Israel, however, a double standard is always applied. Israel must act only out of altruistic motives, while all other countries are entitled to leaven altruism with self interest. The second answer is that Israel is doing far more in Haiti than would be required to satisfy its self interests. It is sending more aid per capita than any country in the world. It is doing it with extraordinary efficiency and real impact. Isn't it at least possible that the millennia-long Jewish tradition of tzadakah -- that is, charity based on justice -- is at least part of the explanation for Israel's generosity?
The fact that so many Israelis are advocating medical and other assistance to Gaza certainly supports this latter theory. Has any other country in the history of the world ever provided medical and other assistance to a people with whom it is at war -- to people who continue to support rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism against its own civilians? Again, a double standard. The reality is that Israel will be extremely generous to the people of Gaza if and when they stop supporting attacks on Israeli civilians, stop making martyrs of their suicide murderers, and stop encouraging their children to don suicide vests. Contrast Gaza with the West Bank, which today has an improving economy, better travel conditions and among the best health care available in any Arab or Muslim country in the area. The peace dividend the Palestinian people will reap from making peace with Israel is incalculable.
So continue to criticize Israel when it fails to live up to generally applicable international standards, but praise it when it exceeds those standards in rendering aid that has saved and will continue to save many lives. Israel will continue to send disaster relief regardless of how the world reacts to it because Israelis understand how it feels to be subject to disasters. But fairness requires that Israel not be condemned for its humanitarian efforts, and that its rendering of aid to Haiti not be used as yet another occasion for applying a double standard to its actions.