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Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Pity the poor defenders of Israel

It must be hard to defend something when the facts aren't on your side. Yesterday I had one defender of Israel bragging about how Israel was the "only country in the Middle East" to respond to the disaster in Haiti. Well, except for the 30 tons of aid coming from Iran, along with aid from Qatar, the UAE, and others. And except for the aid being collected in war-ravaged Gaza. Other than that, yes, Israel is the "only country."

Then today a letter writer to the San Jose Mercury News asserts that Israel was the first country to set up a hospital in Haiti after the earthquake. Well, except for the Cuban team of 60 doctors from the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade against Disasters and Serious Epidemics (joining 344 Cuban doctors already on the ground in Haiti), who within hours of the quake had already set up a hospital, assisted some 2,000 patients and carried out 111 major surgeries and 60 minor surgeries.

The letter-writer was correct, of course, that an Israeli medical team is in Haiti doing admirable work. Unfortunately, what one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away (taketh away from the Palestinians, naturally). This very day, Ha'aretz is reporting that Israel is now refusing to grant work permits to foreign nationals working for NGOs operating in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, thus effectively crippling the work of groups such as Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, and Save the Children.

The letter-writer also has the nerve to brag about 900 people from Gaza who have been admitted to Israeli hospitals for treatment. He's probably unaware (since it's never been reported in the U.S. corporate media) that at least 337 Gazans, the majority of them children, have died (as of the middle of last year; the number is undoubtedly higher by now) because of being refused permission to obtain such treatment (often because their families refused to become collaborators/informants for the Israeli military). He should be aware, however, that the main reason Gazans need to obtain medical treatment in Israel in the first place is because of a lack of medicine, medical equipment, and even electricity in Gaza, all due to the crippling blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel, Egypt, the U.S., and others.

Update: Both the U.N. and the WHO criticize the medical situation in Gaza (and the Israeli responsibility for it), comparing it to the situation in Haiti.

Second update: Akiva Eldar in Ha'aretz:

The Israeli newspaper reader knows about the baby pulled from the wreckage in Port-au-Prince. Few have heard about the infants who sleep in the ruins of their families' homes in Gaza.

The disaster in Haiti is a natural one; the one in Gaza is the unproud handiwork of man. Our handiwork.

A few days before Israeli physicians rushed to save the lives of injured Haitians, the authorities at the Erez checkpoint prevented 17 people from passing through in order to get to a Ramallah hospital for urgent corneal transplant surgery. Perhaps they voted for Hamas. At the same time that Israeli psychologists are treating Haiti's orphans with devotion, Israeli inspectors are making sure no one is attempting to plant a doll, a notebook or a bar of chocolate in a container bringing essential goods into Gaza.

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