After the earthquake in Haiti, some observers say Israel has traditionally been quick to dispatch aid to natural-disaster victims in distant lands while ignoring the suffering of people much closer to its borders, namely the Palestinians in Gaza, for whose welfare it bears responsibility.
Indeed, Gaza and Tel Aviv are separated by an hour's drive. Gaza and Sderot are five minutes apart, but you have to fly 14 hours to reach Haiti. Yet the main culprit responsible for the Gazans' condition is Hamas, which maliciously sacrifices the population's welfare in the Strip because of its war on Israel. For this reason, the distance between the two disaster areas is irrelevant when discussing the justness of the aid mission.
First, let's remember some facts before criticizing the relief mission for the victims in Haiti. Israel and the Israel Defense Forces gave Gazans the option to be treated at a field hospital near the Erez crossing (both during Operation Cast Lead and afterward). Who prevented this? That's right, Hamas. The IDF transferred hundreds of thousands of tons of food and medical aid to Gaza even while Qassam rockets and Grad missiles were falling on schools and the hospital in Ashkelon. Hamas intercepted these deliveries. The reason that more missiles and explosives - rather than food and medicine - are smuggled through tunnels connecting Gaza and Egypt is, once again, Hamas. The group is also preventing the import of critical building materials to refurbish damaged infrastructure, oddly claiming that this is not one of its priorities.
This is all intended to perpetuate the ruin in Gaza. Also, Hamas prefers to invest in rearmament rather than civilian infrastructure.
Nonetheless, Israel must continue to aid the residents of Gaza with food and medicine. In parallel, it must continue to apply military force to defend Israeli citizens in every way against rockets fired by Hamas. It must hit every enemy without mercy.
As for rescue missions abroad, there are at least three reasons why it is prudent to send aid to any area hit by massive casualties from natural disasters and crimes by brutal gangs. The first is what distinguishes us from other nations: the Jewish culture and tradition that command us to preserve life, not just in Israel. The second reason is that we are the remnants of a nation that has suffered and been persecuted for more than 2,000 years while the world remained silent. The third reason is that Israel's standing in world public opinion is not stellar, so aid missions and the like can help here.
Aid to disaster victims around the world portrays a different Israel than the one depicted in the media - the Israel that systematically oppresses nations and kills innocent civilians. The aid arriving from tiny Israel also strengthens the Jewish community worldwide. The presence of the flag, an officer, a soldier and a doctor from Israel sends a message to other nations that if we can, so can you. After the collapse of Israel's public-relations apparatus, such humanitarian deeds in disaster zones remain the only means to buttress Israel's standing in the eyes of world public opinion.
Those who continue to criticize Israel for its alleged unwillingness to extend aid to the people of Gaza need to take into account the possibility that they are supporting Hamas' baseless accusations and its modus operandi - shooting at schools and hospitals, starving the local Palestinians, and using hospitals as bunkers during war. This, of course, is not an academic conclusion. It's food for thought.
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