Along with rest of the world, news coverage in Israel has in the last week focused on the cataclysmic earthquake in Haiti. Just like so many other countries it wasn’t long before Israel had its very own rescue team on the ground – searching for survivors under the rubble, setting up field hospitals – their hard work and determination to help the Haitian people broadcast proudly on the evening news.
There is no doubting the outstanding expertise and determined effort behind these Israeli rescue teams when parachuted into the latest horrific natural disaster; the countless lives they save, priceless.
But isn’t it slightly strange that the Israeli army is willing to send out the very best rescue teams and humanitarian aid to these far-flung locations at the drop of a hat when right next door millions of innocent civilian are living in abject poverty, and without much hope for a better future – citizens for whom Israel continues to have a legal responsibility for? What about the 1.5 million Gazans still suffering the aftermath of the violent conflict and the now unrelenting Israeli/Egyptian blockade?
This was the argument laid out in opinion piece by Israeli journalist Akiva Eldan in today’s Haaretz newspaper: Israel’s compassion in Haiti can’t hide our ugly face in Gaza
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. Only a little more than an hour’s drive from the offices of Israel’s major newspapers, 1.5 million people have been besieged on a desert island for two and a half years. Who cares that 80 percent of the men, women and children living in such proximity to us have fallen under the poverty line? How many Israelis know that half of all Gazans are dependent on charity, that Operation Cast Lead created hundreds of amputees, that raw sewage flows from the streets into the sea?
Of course, unlike in Gaza, the leaders of Haiti aren’t out on a mission to destroy Israel. Nevertheless it is still perplexing that nothing is done let alone broadcast on national Israeli TV of the humanitarian catastrophe that it is happening right now, every day, right next door.