The devastating earthquake in Nepal has provided Israel with an opportunity to demonstrate its prowess in saving lives. In a reversal of what it does in Gaza, Israel has rushed across a border to help people whose houses and lives have been devastated.
The Israeli effort showed up on BBC this morning– saving a woman who hadn’t gotten medical attention in four days. And Israeli army efforts have been on NPR too. I’m sure the Israeli army has shown up on the cables, helping; it usually does.
But if by any chance you missed the Israeli army on the media, you can always find it promoting itself on twitter. Two days ago Israeli Army spokesman Peter Lerner celebrated the birth of a boy at an Israeli field hospital in Nepal. And today the Israeli army celebrates the birth of a baby girl.
Israel’s Foreign Minister who in his day job has called for beheading Palestinians who are disloyal to Israel has pledged to rebuild an entire village in Nepal:
“After consulting with various departments in the Foreign Ministry, we decided to adopt a village in Nepal, to assist with its reconstruction and to do our utmost to help people who have really found themselves in a difficult situation,” [Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor] Liberman told reporters in the ministry’s situation room.
The Israeli army, the IDF, is promoting its efforts in the country:
Stay up to date on our humanitarian mission in Nepal – Follow @IDFrescue
you are the only country involved keeping up a running commentary on how great you are
A twitter feed called IDF Rescue is putting up lots of fotos of its efforts:
More than manpower – Search & Rescue teams are operating with their dogs to locate survivors in #Nepal
Though we’d never urge Israel not to carry out these helpful efforts, why is it patting itself on the back so much? Well because it has an international p.r. problem, it’s becoming isolated internationally. Think of it as “disaster-washing.” Really, it should extend the same compassion to the Palestinians under occupation and siege.
We have been cynical about these undertakings before, say when Israel went to help the Philippines after the typhoon in 2013. It’s hard not to be, when Israel promotes the hell out of these efforts. “Our commitment is not national – it’s universal,” the Israeli army said in a baldfaced lie then, taking a break from occupation.
The media could use a bit of this cynicism itself. NPR did a story on a gay Israeli couple who paid a Nepalese surrogate mother to carry their child. Surrogates for gay parents are not allowed in Israel. The story featured all Israel’s efforts to help Nepal:
Israel did indeed do a lot. It sent a field hospital and search and rescue teams to help overall rescue efforts. The government also sent helicopters to remote spots in Nepal to rescue stranded Israeli hikers. It has brought scores of Israelis home, including some two dozen babies born to surrogates.
Now pressure is building to bring surrogates who are still pregnant to Israel…
NPR revisted the surrogate story again a day later. It emphasized the control of marriage by rabbinical authorities inside Israel, but generally characterized Israel as a bustling democracy. Debra Kamin of Time Magazine said:
Like all good stories in Israel, it is a very fierce debate with very passionate views on both sides…. Surrogacy, like many things in Israel, including marriage and funeral rites, is controlled by the rabbinical courts. So even though Israel is a democracy, the Jewish rabbinical courts control parts of the life process.
In Haaretz, Asher Schechter points out that Israel is doing nothing to rebuild Gaza, large sections of which it demolished last summer with enormous loss of life, much worse than Nepal on a strict square-mile basis:
Israel’s effectiveness and empathy wins it new fans from all quarters.
But not if the disaster strikes 70 kilometers down the coast from Tel Aviv, and if Israel is its direct cause.