By Dr Bothaina Shaaban
Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, a number of commentators have drawn attention to Israel's brazen efforts to use aid to the stricken country to "hide its ugly face in Gaza". That was how Akeiva Aldar described the obverse of "Israel's sympathy with Haiti" in Haaretz newspaper last week. In his opinion, such sympathy "does not" distract attention from the policies pursued by Israel in Gaza. Aldar's article highlighted the contradiction between the public relations campaign carried out by the Israeli government with its aid for Haiti while it is keeping the people of Gaza under siege. It is the apparent Israeli indifference to the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza who face severe shortages of food, medicines and other essentials, and are prevented from rebuilding their "shattered society" by the Israeli blockade – that Aldar calls Israel's "ugly face".
A couple of days later, in the Jerusalem Post, Larry Dervyn wrote about the aid successive Israeli governments have rushed to areas stricken by natural and humanitarian disasters with enviable efficiency, while Israelis at home feel ashamed of what is done in Gaza in their name. Mr. Dervyn asked why there is such a contrast between his government's efficacy in rescuing and treating the victims of disasters around the world and its wilful disregard for the catastrophe its policies have caused in Gaza.
His question was in part answered by Catherine Philip writing in the Sunday Times on 21 January. In her analysis she stated that Israel used the disaster in Haiti to launch a public relations campaign to cover up its shameful record which was described in the UN's Goldstone report as "war crimes" in Gaza. Philip's conclusion balanced the "natural" status of the earthquake compared with the manmade status of the situation in Gaza, as if that explained why Israel helps with one while exacerbating the other.
The lives of unarmed civilians across Palestine have become an issue of public interest because they – apparently have no value in the eyes of the Israeli security forces. The exception to this is if those lives in some way harm the public face and image created by Israel among its supporters in the West. To preserve that image, the Israeli government prevents the media, politicians, diplomats and human rights activists from entering Gaza to see for themselves the shameful reality of the immoral blockade imposed by Israel. This allows the Israelis to demonstrate elsewhere how keen they are to save human lives, in stark contrast to the skill with which they are able to destroy the lives, future, freedom and dignity of millions of Palestinians simply because they are not Jews.
Disasters in other parts of the world have often been exploited by Israeli politicians for their own ends; the day after 9/11, Benjamin Netanyahu said, "This is good for Israel". When the attention of the world's media is focused elsewhere, Israeli forces are quick to take advantage. Today, helping those hit by disaster has become an occasion for launching a public relations campaign, or achieving premeditated military and political goals, and people who are victims of earthquakes, disasters, occupation, repression and terrorism, become unwitting victims of campaigns that abuse their suffering to achieve objectives unrelated to the value, importance and sanctity of human life and dignity.
After the news was made public about the Israeli army killing young Palestinians in order to steal their vital organs, other stories appeared about Israelis stealing Ukrainian kids in order to harvest their organs; and now there are reports from Haiti pointing to the theft of body organs, again by Israelis. This is, apparently, all documented but nothing has been done to investigate these allegations. Israel's sponsor, the United States, has also used the chaos in Haiti to tighten its control of the island and everything that goes on there, intending clearly not to lose its grip again. It is evident, therefore, that Haiti's disaster is providing the cover for other agendas, both political and military.
At this point, it is worth noting the fact that the Arab states have fallen short with their support for the victims of the earthquake. Similarly, they continue to miss opportunities to take the initiative to rectify wrongs and thwart the attempts by the Israelis and their supporters to cover up "the ugly face" of Israel and its crimes against the Palestinians. Israel's diplomatic, media and political campaigns threaten to lessen the impact of the Goldstone Report and the growing international support for Palestine and its people.
The paradox of the Israeli position on Haiti's earthquake victims compared with its stand on the victims of Gaza's siege and the sixty years' war against the Palestinians is something that has to be explained. Israel is happy to help those afflicted by "natural" disasters, but continues to colonise Palestinian land, destroy homes, drop illegal bombs on civilian areas and encourage racist settlers to plant their hatred on Palestinian territory. All of these acts amount to collective punishment of the Palestinian people under the gaze – and apparent tacit approval of the international community.
A peculiar form of language has arisen in the official discourse about the situation in Israel-Palestine; it's a language that calls the criminal the victim, and the victim the criminal. So-called civilised leaders around the world call for "restraint" from the victims of Israeli policies and demand that they remember their "responsibilities" towards the "peace process" in a manner that suggests that there is equity in every sense between the colonisers and the colonised. In doing so these "leaders" downgrade the aggression of the Israeli policies and, thus, the likelihood of any tangible action being taken to stop them.
To-date, no language which encapsulates the reality of this conflict has been able to reach the hearts and minds of people across the globe. When we see the most basic of human rights – the right to life itself, and to liberty and equality – being distorted for PR purposes, we see a decline in the sense of social responsibility and a corrupt political process.
There is no doubt that what the world needs today is an aggressively peaceful approach (an apparent contradiction in terms, but quite feasible nonetheless) and a genuine concern for human safety and dignity wherever and whoever those human beings are. For earthquakes and disaster relief to become an opportunity to divert attention from war crimes and oppression on such a scale is unprecedented in the international arena. A "virtual world" is being created through the media, which bears no resemblance to the reality on the ground, including the fact that interested parties are subject to extreme pressure bordering on blackmail to ignore the political aims and objectives of those in positions of power. Hence, the media talks about the duty of Palestinians and Israelis towards the peace process, but overlooks or forgets that the Palestinians are in the grip of an illegal military occupation amounting to slow genocide, and are a predominantly civilian, unarmed population; meanwhile the Israelis are feted for their "humanitarian efforts" and are a nuclear, well-armed power. Such duplicity is not lost on those of us who can see through the lies and facade and will continue to push for a just peace and recognition of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians who wish to live in freedom and with dignity.
Source: Al-Sharq Qatari newspaper
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.