21 January 2010

Milking Haiti's Plight for Israeli Public Relations

The Cynicism of Israel's PR Aid to Haiti

Is Israel’s help in Haiti really useful or a gigantic PR exercise asks Sol Salbe, the translater of the item below? As he notes, Yoel Donchin is a good person to answer the question. Prof Donchin is the director of the Patient Safety Unit at the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem. His
patriotism cannot be questioned he has served on most of Israel’s disaster relief missions. For his verdict read on. Naturally this item was meant for Israelis only, it was only published in Ynet but not Ynetnews and translated by this News Service.]

In fact the answer cannot be anything other than yes. After the United States, in the last 30 years, the State which has caused most devastation and loss of life in Central and South America has been Israel. When the US couldn’t for reasons of domestic opposition, supply weapons to particular regimes, as was the case with Guatemala during the Carter years and likewise Nicaragua under Somoza, who stepped into the breach? Israel.

It is clear from this article that Israel missions to disaster areas like Haiti stay there only as long as the cameras are their to record their stalwart efforts. And the two weeks quoted in the article is cynical even given the example that the US itself sets, where restoring ‘public order’ that is a dictatorship is seen as more important than providing aid.

If Israel is really concerned about saving life then they can allow medicine into Gaza, allow the rebuilding of the destroyed buildings, lift the siege, pledge never to drop phosphorous bombs, fleschettes or cluster bombs where children might find them and stop turning sick people away from their check points or delaying them until death.

Haiti demonstrates, in all its terrible reality, the naked truth about US relations with its neighbours. The US has commandeered Haiti’s only airport, and is barring aid missions in order that it can land troops and supplies for them! Such is the barbarism of imperialism’s dominant state at the beginning of the 21st century.

Tony Greenstein

Public Relations instead of saving lives

Sending portable toilets to Haiti would have been a better option, but this does not provide good photo opportunities.

Israeli missions to disaster areas in the past have shown that such activity was in vain.

Yoel Donchin

I received my final exemption from the army after I published an article which said that the State of Israel acts like the proverbial Boy Scout, who insists on doing a good deed daily and helping an old lady cross the road even against her will. How ungrateful of me to publish such a column when I had participated in almost all the rescue missions to overseas disaster areas! Suddenly I am no longer suitable to take part in such heroic endeavours. But in light of the experience I gained in such missions, my conclusion is that we have wasted our effort.

Generally speaking, we start preparing for such a mission within hours of the announcement of a natural disaster. Most often the Israeli mission team is the first one to land in the area. Like those who climb Mount Everest, it plants its flag on the highest peak available, announcing to all and sundry that the site has been conquered. And in order to ensure that the public is aware of this sporting achievement, the mission is accompanied by media representatives, photographers, an IDF spokesman’s office squad and others.

I understood the purpose perfectly when the head of one of the delegations to a disaster zone was asked whether oxygen tanks and a number of doctors could be removed to make room for another TV network’s representatives with their equipment. (With unusual courage, the delegation head refused!)

The lesson learnt from the activities of those missions is that when there is a natural disaster, or when thousands of people are expelled from their homes by force, as happened in Kosovo, survivors may benefit from international assistance only if it responds to the region's specific needs. Also assistance must be coordinated among the various aid agencies.

The competitive race to a disaster zone imposes a huge strain on the local health and administration authorities. Airports are clogged by transport planes unloading a lot of unnecessary but bulky equipment. Doctors and rescue organisations seek ways to utilise single carriageway roads and in fact they are a burden.

The correct way to help is to send a small advance force to gauge the dimensions of the disaster. Which infrastructures are still standing? Would sending a field hospital with all its components not overload the road system, or other infrastructure?

Would they still call that child Israel?
Three components are crucial:
shelter, water and food -- these things are crucial in order to save the largest number of people. Water purification equipment, tents, basic food rations are needed. But they do lack the desired dramatic effect. If we went down that track we would miss out on seeing that child who was born with the assistance of our physicians. Most certainly, the excited mother wouldn’t give her child (who knows if he will ever reach a ripe old age?) the name Israel or that of the obstetrician or nurse. (Would he get citizenship because he was born in Israeli territory? There would be many opposed to that.) The drama is indeed classy, but its necessity is doubtful.

It would be far more appropriate to send a limited force to faraway regions. It being Israel, our current force contains a Kashrut supervisor, security personnel and more.

In the present disaster, which is of a more massive scale than anything we have encountered to date, the need is not so much for a field hospital but field, ie portable, toilets. There is more of a need for digging equipment to dig graves and sewerage pipes.

A country which wants to provide humanitarian aid without concern for its media image should send whatever is required by the victims, and not whatever it wants to deliver. But would the evening news show the commander of the Israeli mission at the compound with 500 chemical toilets? Unlikely. It is much more media savvy to show an Israeli hospital, replete with stars
of David and of course the dedicated doctors and nurses, dressed in their snazzy uniforms with an Israeli flag on the lapel.

Does Israel have to enlist in the campaign and mobilise substantial resources to reach remote places thousands of kilometres away? If Israel does see providing humanitarian aid as part of its national character, if we see added value in having representatives on the ground in such places, it would be better to plan it in advance. It would be better to set a team of experts for such mega disasters who can decide what assistance should be sent depending on what is required and the means to deliver it.

It is quite likely that financial assistance commensurate with Israel’s resources would be preferable to the enormous expense and complicated logistics involved in the maintenance of a medical unit in the field. It is possible and desirable to assist in a different way.

But apparently a minute of TV coverage is much more important than all other considerations, and in fact Israel is using disasters as field training in rescue and medical care. After a fortnight, the mission will reportedly return to Israel. But to be truly effective a field hospital needs to remain for two or three months, but that’s a condition that Israel cannot meet.

Meanwhile, it is only in the Israeli aid compound in Haiti that large signs carrying the donor country’s name hang for all to see.

Prof Yoel Donchin is the director of the Patient Safety Unit at the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem. Translated by Sol Salbe. Hebrew original: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3836494,00.html

The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements Please note that while our own comments are not copyrighted we do appreciate acknowledgement. Items forwarded may be copyrighted and are forwarded to alert you of their existence. To subscribe write to ssalbe@westnet.com.au]


  1. How telling that you are so determined to vilify Israel that you even find a reason to attack those who are saving life in Haiti.

    Is there no limit to your cynicism?

    Would you prefer that more die in Haiti?

    You're sick

    Jonathan Hoffman

  2. TG, you quoted Jeff Blankfort recently questioning The Holocaust - and he is also a fan of Rizzo.

    I just thought this might be of interest, although haven't listened to it myself yet -
    Audio: Challenging Noam Chomsky's opposition to boycotting Israel (Ali Abunimah & Jeff Blankfort) #BDS #GFM
    14 Jan 2010

    From what I've read of Blankfort, I am not impressed.

  3. Jonathan Hoffman gets himself all worked up, but to no good purpose. This article is based on one printed on Yediot Aharanot, a rather right-wing Israeli daily, by Prof. Donchin.

    It is clear to most people that Israel's 'rescue effort' in Haiti is about portraying a different, kinder Israel from the cluster bombing child murdering, Palestinian hating entity that we all hate to know.

    Now I know that you, Jonathan, are co-Chair of the Zionist Federation in Britain but does that always mean you have to cover up for every cynical act of Israel? If other countries don't see the need to brandish their flag why Israel? If other countries put in civilian not military personnel why Israel? If the plight of the Haitians is going to last months why is Israel staying 2 weeks?

    So no, I would rather have no one die in Haiti. But for that to happen it is essential that US imperialism is removed from that benighted country and the wealth of Haitia goes to its people, not some papa doc corrupt political elite. The return of the popularly elected Aristide would be a start.

    It is Washington's utter contempt for the people of Haiti (Palestine et al.) that is the issue, as we see with US military crowding out aid convoys at Haiti's one airport. Control of the population is more important than aid and food and water, which is why Israel has now pledged to send over a police force.

    If you want to know how it's done, then Cuba's effort, 300 medical personnel is the way. Notice they receive no publicity because the news organisations prefer to focus on the opportunist little state that wants good photo ops before departing.

    And yes, if you murder 400 children and another 1,000 civilians in Gaza through the use of horrendous weaponry, then is it any wonder if I am cynical about israel's motives now.

  4. This post should be titled "Milking Haiti's Plight for Israel Bashing"

    Jonathan H.

  5. One of the commenteers over on jews sans frontiere blog posted this -
    What do you say now, Mr. Goldstone?
    by Doron Rosenblum
    21 Jan 2010

    It has to be read to be believed. A bit like the advert flashing away in the middle of the text.

    I posted a link to your article on the media lens messege board TG, along with this comment -
    The late great Ahmed Equbal regarded it as axiomatic and part of the definition of a latin American neo-fascist regime that it has strong relations with the racist Israeli regime, whose military took part in many of the bloodbaths, and the genocide in Guatamala, on behalf of its US master.

    The US Congress prevented the US administration from militarily directly intervening abroad hence the usefulness of the Israeli regime willing to do Washington's dirty work for it, subverting American and Latin American democracy.

    More Israeli humanitarian intervention abraod -
    Israeli hand in Iraq's Abu Ghraib exposed
    Press TV
    20 Jan 2010
    The former American military chief of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq reiterates the Israeli involvement in the US-run facility, where hundreds of Iraqi suspects were tortured and sexually abused by US soldiers and interrogators.
    Shedding further light on the scandal that has served as a controversy-magnet for Washington ever since its emergence in 2004, the retired US army colonel Janis Karpinski says that Israeli agents were recruited by the US military at Abu Ghraib to interrogate the prisoners suspected of attacking US forces in Iraq.

  6. Thank you Joe for this informative article. It completely confirms what I said. Despite JH being sick and an anonymous blaming me for milking the plight of the Haitians, the fact is that they are so obvious, so blatantly transparent that it hardly needs me to point it out.

    This Doron Rosenblum not only asks, petulantly and childishly, 'what do u say now Mr Goldstone' but goes on to engage in a bit more, toe curling self-praise:

    "Angels in blue and white," we call ourselves, and this bit of self-indulgence brings tears of emotion to our eyes every time. "Thank you," we whisper to us and kiss our hand, "thank you for existing." But will anyone remember? Will anyone chalk up points for our side? Where are you now, Mr. Goldstone? Don't we deserve to have most of the items in your report erased?

    Can you imagine any other country in the world whose reporters can talk about 'chalking up points for our side'. In other words 'we rescue for the plaudits'. There's quite a bit about this in the Talmud, that those who do good deeds should not seek praise as it countermands the mitzvah.

    As if saving a few Haitians from the rubble somehow excuses the 1,400+ dead Gazans including some 400 children.

  7. Jonathan Hoffman:

    Israel has a man-made disaster right on its Southern border, a disaster to which it continues to contribute, in collusion with its allies Egypt and Holy Land II, in the form of a inhumane blockade.

    Yet you seem surprised that Israel's efforts in Haiti draws genuine suspicion as a manifest PR exercise? Surely you won't deny that this photogenic rescue bid will sit extremely well with the anti-Arab racists from Faux News? Or the vainglorious patriots and blind Zion supporters of CNN?

    Israel could (and should) start shining its light unto the Nations by respecting International Law and implementing UN Res. 242 but it refuses to do so, possibly in perpetuity. Will it ever consider paying compensation for the approx. 1,000,000 refugees it caused to abandon the homes where they lived, rather than spend money on PR stunts like Haiti? I doubt it, Sir. Of the many Zionists I've had the displeasure of coming across, you Sir, really take the biscuit for hypocrisy.

  8. Give me a break, Gert, you know as well as I do that hypocrisy and cynicism go with the territory. Hoffman is really no better or worse at it than any of the other hasbaristas. And the last thing he needs is another biscuit.

    Some questions that occur to me are: how many reporters and camera crew did Israel fly into Haiti, and why weren't they doctors? How come Israeli planes get preferential treatment when the US won't let MsF planes land? And why was Amos Radian touring around Port-au-Prince with escorts for five hours rather than digging people out of the rubble?

  9. ' How come Israeli planes get preferential treatment when the US won't let MsF planes land?' I suspect you know the answer to that one Ernie!!

    In fact since the US sees the situation in Haitia from a law and order, control, anti-looting (terrorism!) etc. perspective, what better than to let their favourite guard dog in, accompanied by a few civilians and doctors to garner some free PR.

  10. Dammit Ernie, you just don't know him as well as we do! ;-)

  11. Sure, Tony, I know. They're not difficult questions. I just thought it would be useful for Hoffman to ponder them, if he's equipped for that kind of thing.

  12. You do realize that Rosenblum is Israel's media finest satirist?

  13. There are I understand more stories about Israel's 'aid' PR effort. Note how Cuba, whose medical team of 300 arrived before Israel, and which has a fine record historically in these situations, has received no publicity. Now why would that be I wonder? Can't imagine, can you Jonathan?

    Excellent article on Electronic Intifada incidentally



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