Why Israel should help Syrians during this crisis
Israel’s regional and global image continues to sink to new lows. The political peace process continues to be stalemated.
Fighters in the Free Syrian Army. Photo: Jonathan Spyer
Israel’s regional and global image continues to sink to new lows. The political
peace process continues to be stalemated.
As internal and external
factors allow Israel to keep indulging in self-perpetuating isolationism, the
anti-Israel camp finds no difficulty in recruiting sympathizers, further causing
Israelis to recoil from the compromises needed to advance toward a final
Despite this somber setting, Israel’s neighbor, Syria,
presents an unprecedented opportunity for Israel to demonstrate its morality and
humanity in a way which can not only change its perception in the Arab world but
also plant the seeds for an eventual peace in the region. The Syrian people have
every reason to feel abandoned by their Muslim neighbors, but that should not
provide Israel with a reason to ignore the human suffering underway that will
The relative silence on the part of the region’s most
affluent nations to the indescribable suffering of the Syrian nation not only
goes against Abrahamic teachings, but also contradicts even the most basic human
values. But it is precisely in this context that Israel should act for both
moral and political reasons.
Arabs everywhere know Jews will always stand
united in the face of any threats to Jews, regardless of whether such threats
are based in Israel or elsewhere. Sadly, Arabs have no illusion that they can
perform with the same compassion and empathy that such unity demands. Assistance
by Israel will likely be greeted with a cynical reception in many Arab states.
Yet the Koran and the Talmud both set a similarly high moral bar: Whoever saves
a single life is as if they have saved the entire world.
world has seen how Israel is rightfully proud of the way it has responded to
human suffering, regardless of place and circumstances. Israel aided Turkey
after earthquakes; it was a first responder to the disaster in Haiti, and it
regularly aids the poor and starving in Africa. When the tsunami struck Asia in
2004, Israel sent food and medicine. It has even offered assistance to Iran when
earthquakes hit in the past (these were rebuffed by the Islamic Republic). Syria
is closer and the human tragedy there at least as compelling – too compelling
for Israel to sit on the sidelines in silence.
Israel can take several
practical steps to achieve the urgently needed assistance.
loaded with medical and food packages can be air-dropped over the besieged
population centers of Syria.
Israel can set up medical field hospitals in
the northern Golan and ask for UN assistance to inspect and pre-clear unarmed
civilians in need of medical treatment.
Collection centers for medical
supplies, clothing and blankets can be set up overnight in Israel which can even
be combined with donations collected from the Palestinian population, thereby
conveying a poignant message that our differences are dwarfed by our common
By taking these steps, Israel can send an unequivocal message
that could win it hearts and minds in the Arab World. It could set the tone for
a fresh, new look at its interactions with its neighbors.
on shared human values should aim first and foremost to ensure dignified human
existence for all the peoples of the region, regardless of creed or race or
religion. The Syrian and Arab peoples will remember such bold and daring steps
and this will make a tangible difference in the minds of many in the
Israel needs to act and by a show of morality and leadership, not
only encourage others to respond but also benefit its own cause for acceptance
and respect by its neighbors and the region. Perhaps it will jump-start the
stalled peace process and even yield a lasting peace.
Ghanem M. Nuseibeh
is originally from a prominent Palestinian family of Jerusalem.
He is the
founder of London-based Cornerstone Global Associates, a strategic consulting
firm. He is currently a Senior Visiting Fellow, King’s College,
Eli Epstein is a New York-based businessman with long-standing
interests in the Middle East.