In its long, ongoing, often bloody struggle with the Palestinians, Israel has lost the propaganda battle. There is simply no other explanation for: the ugly anti-Israel demonstrations last summer throughout the capitals of Europe, the near total silence from western opinion makers and political elites to the Palestinians’ accusations against the Jewish state in the International Criminal Court, the high-minded but biased and essentially immoral posturing against Israel in certain academic and journalistic circles, the results of opinion polls in Europe that cast Israel as among the most despised nations in the world, or the lingering popularity, especially on campuses in North America, of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. And of course, there are many more examples of anti-Israel behaviour that we could all cite.
We are no longer hoodwinked by the disingenuous attempts to distinguish anti-Israel from anti-Jewish. The singularly focused, cult-like obsession with Israeli transgressions – real and imagined – to the exclusion of other countries’ missteps, long ago put paid to that false dichotomy.
But deeply felt, hard-core, anti-Jewish predispositions explain only part of the distressing anti-Israel attitudes. A great deal of the anti-Israel animus, especially among young adults, and increasingly, alas, among young Jewish adults, can be attributed simply to ignorance: to a lack of knowledge concerning the history of the conflict and to the current state of affairs in Israel and about Israel. The Jerusalem-based think-tank, The Jewish People Policy Institute, recently confirmed this observation when it noted “the conflict with the Palestinians puts Israel on the defensive internationally and has an [negative] impact on the views of younger Jews toward Israel.”
What if our children were to read or see more than the usually slanted coverage of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians? What if they were also to read broader truths about Israel such as the Jewish state’s profoundly humanitarian, deeply-etched footprint in the worldwide march to relieve suffering? Would their attitudes toward Israel be less negative?
The following is but a small number of recent stories concerning Israel that most of our young people did not read or see in the mainstream media. They are excerpted from the news website Israel21c.org.
• Five years after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake that killed some 230,000 people, Israelis are still on location helping rebuild lives and communities. Within 24 hours of the quake, Israel had sent a 220-person team of rescuers, disaster-management experts and medical personnel. IsraAID: The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid is still operating there. Indeed, as IsraAID director Shachar Zahavi told Israel21C, “the organization is always one of the first relief groups to respond to disasters across the globe. Its policy is to stay on the ground to create and implement an infrastructure of programs to rehabilitate the affected community, leaving only once those programs are functioning in the hands of local residents trained by IsraAID. That’s why you’ll still find IsraAID workers in Japan, for example, nearly four years after a deadly earthquake and tsunami, and helping in Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, the Philippines, China, Hong Kong and South Korea.”
• Last month Israel pledged $8.75 million (US) – the largest per-capita investment by any nation — to the UN’s Ebola Response Multi-Partner Fund, trying to combat the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. The donation was in addition to fully equipped medical clinics and medical specialists that Israel has sent.
• As the battle for the Syrian town of Kobani raged late last year, IsraAID assisted some 1,000 Christian and Yazidi families by sending 2,000 blankets, mattresses and food for 1,015 babies and young children.
This is only a very partial list of the humanitarian aid Israelis – health providers, engineers, agricultural experts, teachers and scientists – provide to a needy world. It is one of the many unseen positive facets of the complex society of the tiny, imperfect country. Too bad.