The Israel Defense Forces search-andjrescue team extracted a 52 year old Haitian government employee, trapped in the ruins of the customs office in Port-au-Prince after an earthquake, Jan. 17, 2010. (photo by WikiCommons/IDF)
A team from the Israeli Home Front Command’s Rescue Unit left for the Philippines less than 24 hours after the scope of the disaster there became known. Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the city of Tacloban, has been described as one of the most powerful storms that has occurred on Earth. It caused the deaths of thousands and left hundreds of thousands without a roof over their heads. Over the next few days, a large contingent from the Home Front Command will set out for the Philippines to help the survivors and to try to rescue people still buried beneath the ruins. Even stronger, better-established countries have a hard time dealing with disasters of this scope. Tragedies like this require foreign aid, and the help of international rescue units that have accumulated years of experience dealing with emergencies.
The IDF’s Home Front Command Rescue Unit was formed thirty years ago after two major attacks by Hezbollah against IDF staff units in Tyre, during the First Lebanon War [1982-1983]. Car bombs detonated with hundreds of kilograms of explosives, causing the collapse of Israel’s military government headquarters and a building used by the Border Police. Some 135 soldiers and civilians were killed, with most of the victims buried beneath the rubble. But at the time, Israeli rescue teams lacked the tools to extricate the many injured from the ruins. The first and second “Tyre disasters,” as the two attacks in Lebanon came to be known, and the attack against US forces in Beirut, which killed more than 200 Marines in October 1983, led to Israel’s decision to create a highly skilled unit that would train professionals to operate in disaster areas.
This new unit consisted of soldiers and volunteers, who are called in during emergencies. The latter included professionals whose services would be required, such as doctors, engineers, medics, crane operators, etc. Since then, the unit has acquired more than just considerable operational experience. It also has won international accolades. It went from being a unit designated to assist the victims of war and terrorism into a goodwill ambassador in those areas around the world struck by natural disasters and other calamities. Since it was founded, the unit has aided the victims of the earthquake in Turkey (1999), the earthquake in Haiti (2010), the Fukushima disaster in Japan (2011), the tsunami in Thailand (2012) and many others.
Over the years, as Israel’s status in international public opinion deteriorated and protests against it intensified, the unit’s global activities caused an entire public to feel a sense of pride. Israelis appreciated the opportunity to show the world another side of the IDF, so different from those images that came to represent the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, such as soldiers standing at checkpoints or dispersing Palestinian demonstrators. Support for the unit is more than just the consequence of its actions. It is also a direct response to the enormous frustration that Israelis feel about the country’s negative image around the world, which is only getting worse, particularly in Europe. In many cases, legitimate critics of Israel are joined by anti-Israel and anti-Zionist groups motivated by their own interests or by blind hatred. Various groups around the world have begun calling for a boycott of Israel and its products, and for economic or academic sanctions against the country.
The modus operandi of those groups is to demonstrate whenever Israelis appear around the world, whether it is in universities, theaters, or sports arenas. What they are striving for is the complete de-legitimization of Israel’s existence. Almost any time Israeli artists perform around the world, these movements’ “recruits” appear, waving signs condemning Israel. Last year, actors from Israel’s national theater, Habima, who appeared in London’s Shakespeare Festival, anticipated such an outburst and prepared in advance to respond, by handing out flowers to the audience as a counterweight to calls to boycott the country. Israeli soccer and basketball players competing in international tournaments are also used to the barrage of anti-Semitic jeers frequently hurled at them often during games. Anyone who has ever spoken with Israeli representatives, ambassadors, and consuls throughout the world has heard of the enormous frustration they have in the battle over Israel’s public image. Many feel that it is a lost cause.
Nissim Ben Shitreet, the former Israeli ambassador to Japan, told me about his own experiences during the Fukushima disaster two years ago. “The aid operation, which was well-planned on all levels at the Foreign Ministry and the embassy, made a significant contribution to improving Israel’s image and rebranding the country in Japan,” he wrote in a guest article for the Israeli website Walla.
I met Ben Shitreet in Tokyo shortly after the disaster. At the time he was practically helpless confronting the wave of disturbing anti-Israel rhetoric in the Japanese media. He told me then that the forces active in the effort to besmirch Israel’s reputation were very strong, and the Foreign Ministry and other advocates of Israel had a hard time confronting them. I’m not talking about criticism, he told me, but about lies and lack of understanding. Why is it no surprise then, that Israeli military units that participate in rescue missions around the world are a source of pride for so many Israelis? Why is it no surprise that so many regard this unit and its operations as a much-needed lifesaver to improve Israel’s image?
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.