The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is critical of the fact that President Barack Obama, in speaking of the outpouring of extraordinary American humanitarian and rescue assistance to Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit the country on January 12, mentioned several other countries helping Haiti but conspicuously omitted one whose assistance to Haiti has exceeded that of all others apart from the U.S. itself Israel.
In remarks on the situation in Haiti on January 15, President Obama said, At the airport, help continues to flow in, not just from the United States but from Brazil, Mexico, Canada, France, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, among others The entire world stands with the government and the people of Haiti, for in Haiti’s devastation, we all see the common humanity that we share (President Obama’s Remarks After His Call with Haitian President Préval, White House Blog, January 15, 2010).
In the wake of the massive Haitian earthquake on January 12, Israeli dispatched medical and disaster relief teams to Haiti which among others things set up a field hospital which includes operating rooms; an intensive care ward; a maternity ward; a pediatric ward; incubator units; a pharmacy; x-ray equipment; 90 beds; 66 intensive care beds; and two delivery beds. To date, the Israeli 250-member emergency relief delegation from the IDF Home Front Command, comprising a search and rescue team as well as medical staff for the field hospital, has treated 960 victims, including dozens of children. Israelis have performed more than 290 lifesaving operations and delivered 16 babies in the hospitals maternity ward. Moreover, the Israel Forum for International Aid (IsraAID) has sent a delegation of 27 medical and logistical staff to Haiti which has provided emergency medical assistance and distributed humanitarian supplies. Also, Magen David Adom has sent a team to the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, which has assisted in providing medical assistance at the Red Cross field hospital.
In contrast, former President Bill Clinton was outspoken in praise of Israels efforts in Haiti, saying, I dont know what we would have done without the Israeli hospital at Haiti The Israeli hospital was the only operational facility which was able to perform surgery and advanced tests. In the name of the aid workers that operated in Haiti, in the name of the people who live there, and on a personal level I want to thank, we all want to thank, Israel from the bottom of our hearts (Bill Clinton hails Israeli relief mission in Haiti, Haaretz, January 29, 2010).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, It is disappointing to say the least that President Obama did not see fit to mention Israel among the nations assisting Haiti in the wake of the terrible earthquake to hit the country, in view of the fact that the Israeli humanitarian contribution has been swift and unequalled except by the United States itself. Surely the example of a small friend and ally like Israel, making such a disproportionately large and sustained contribution to the international relief efforts, deserves mention from the American President?
To many hundreds of survivors of the earthquake, Israeli doctors and rescue workers were the first people to offer a ray of light and hope amid the tens of thousands of human tragedies. Their performance in swiftly arriving on the scene, fully equipped and organized, setting up a field hospital, delivering babies, operating on the injured and providing trauma care to hundreds was exceptional.
Why therefore was Israel not mentioned by President Obama when its contribution has been so large and vital to relief efforts? Is The New Republics Editor-at-Large, Marty Peretz, correct when, noting the omission of Israel by President Obama, he observes, I understand that Obama doesnt like Middle East narratives that do not contain one side and the other side equal valence. But he couldnt have that here. The Arabs dont care a fig, not for their impoverished and backward own, and certainly not for strangers. Thats why their presence in Haiti amounted to a couple of bucks from Saudi Arabia and maybe from some other sheikhs. Israel is the first to be mentioned in any issue arising in the Middle East, whether it is connected to the issues or not. Here, however, where there is major story of an Israeli and humanitarian success, the President doesnt mention it, perhaps because praising Israel stands in the way of the current policy of talking down Arab intransigence and hostility to Israels existence while focusing publicly on alleged (and untrue) Israeli unwillingness to make concessions?
What Israel has done and accomplished for the survivors of the horrific earthquake in Haiti would have done honor to even the strongest and richest countries in the world. No one could have been offended had President Obama mentioned Israel among the other countries that deserved honorable mention, except those who hate Israel. Regrettably, not mentioning Israel in this context seems to have been a sop to such people.
We urge President Obama to rectify this glaring and conspicuous omission of Israel from among the countries mentioned providing heroic and extraordinary aid to Haiti at this time of great need.