The sinister message behind ‘Israel just gives aid for PR’ – analysis

Israel, as a world leader in search and rescue missions and disaster response, has a lot to offer Lebanon in its time of great need.

The helmet of an Israeli soldier and member of an aid delegation is seen as he waits for a flight to Nepal at Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv, Israel April 26, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS)
The helmet of an Israeli soldier and member of an aid delegation is seen as he waits for a flight to Nepal at Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv, Israel April 26, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Within hours of the huge explosion in Beirut Port, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi announced they had approached international organizations to offer aid to Lebanon.
An hour later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he had directed National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat to ask UN Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov what aid Israel could give Lebanon.
Gantz and Netanyahu repeated their offer on Thursday, with Netanyahu making it again from the Knesset.
Soon after, there were critics in Israel and abroad who claimed this was all for show, just a public-relations move.
Asked Thursday morning on KAN Radio if the aid offer was a public-relations move, Ashkenazi said: “In this reality, along with protecting our security, we have to offer humanitarian aid. You can’t be indifferent to these photos.”
Israelis making the remarks, or journalists asking that question, were probably mostly cynical and disillusioned by politicians in our country. They have reasonable doubts that a government that includes Hezbollah would accept the offer.
But those voices bolster the anti-Israel chorus that claims anything good Israel does is done to launder other ills.
First, the facts. Israel did not only make bombastic announcements; it genuinely made an offer. Ben-Shabbat and others gave serious proposals to UN representatives in the region, who passed Israel’s message on to Lebanese officials. There has been no response, and as these words are being written, it remains unclear if Lebanon will actually accept the aid.
Israel offered equipment and to treat victims in Israeli hospitals. Because Israel and Lebanon are enemy states, and Lebanon likely would not send any of its citizens over the border, Israel offered to help foreign nationals. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on Thursday morning said most of its injured soldiers, who are Bangladeshi, were in stable condition and would not need to be moved to Israel.
Israel, as a world leader in search-and-rescue missions and disaster response, has a lot to offer Lebanon in its time of great need. Israel has sent humanitarian-aid missions around the world since the 1953 earthquake in Greece’s Ionian Islands. In 2016-2018, it treated victims of the Syrian Civil War in Operation Good Neighbor.
Plus, there are Israeli NGOs, such as IsraAID and Israel Flying Aid, which go to war and disaster zones to help people in need of medical care, food, clothes and other supplies, or Save a Child’s Heart, which brings children from around the world to Israel for treatment.
ABC News in the US once dedicated an entire segment to the field hospitals IDF doctors set up after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, with Diane Sawyer calling the effort “legendary” and the program’s medical expert Dr. Richard Besser pointing out that Israel had gotten its tents up and running overnight, days before the US team arrived on the island.
Then and now, there are people perpetuating the idea that any positive action from Israel must have an ulterior motive.
This is the same idea as “pinkwashing,” as if to say that Israel being generally LGBTQ-friendly is all a conspiracy to cover up for the conflict with the Palestinians, or a more-recently coined term, “Mizrahi-washing,” as though Israel welcomed 850,000 refugees from North Africa and the Middle East in its early years to score some public-relations points in the 21st century.
One of the absurdities of this claim is that not even the most gung-ho Israel supporter says its record on gay rights or integrating minorities – both of which have room for improvement – means the government’s policies should be immune from criticism.
Plus, those making these claims tend to erase the people involved. Whether it is LGBTQ activists fighting for equal rights or Mizrahim raising their voices about how they are an integral part of Israel and its history, it’s dehumanizing to say their lives are just tools for propaganda.
And in the case of humanitarian aid, the disrespect goes in both directions. There are Israeli doctors who travel across the world and work day and night to save lives. And there truly are people who are victims of disasters, including those in Beirut, who need help and care regardless of the nationality of the person providing it.
If Israeli search-and-rescue equipment pulls someone out from under the rubble in Beirut, that person is unlikely to ask to be put back because Israel had a hand in saving him or her.
And this is yet another example of the double standards and moral relativism in so many anti-Israel messages. You’d be hard-pressed to find too many other countries that face this kind of delegitimization campaign over a charitable humanitarian gesture. Plus, wouldn’t it make more sense to criticize countries that don’t send humanitarian aid than to judge the aid as not sincere enough?
Yes, Israel highlights the good and downplays the bad. There’s a word for that. It’s called diplomacy. No country in the world intentionally puts its worst foot forward. It’s not a sinister Zionist plot.
What is sinister is these claims that are used to target Israel.