Alexandra Friedman | The value of human life

Israel provides relief around the world, even to the country’s enemies

· March 2, 2014, 8:06 pm   ·  Updated May 16, 2014, 12:06 pm

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While members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement were busy boycotting SodaStream, a company whose factory in Meshor Adumim employs 500 Palestinians from the West Bank and 450 Arab Israeli citizens, the civil war in Syria raged on. And while some fixated on Scarlett Johansson’s support of Soda Stream, Israel was saving Syrian lives.

Israel Flying Aid, a nonprofit NGO that provides humanitarian aid to countries around the world, even those without diplomatic relations with Israel, has been instrumental in delivering critical supplies to victims of the Syrian civil war.

Most of the donating is done anonymously. The organization makes a considerable effort to remove all tags and Hebrew markings on clothing, blankets and other donated items to ensure that their country of origin remains unknown. Evidence of the supplies’ Israeli origins would preclude their entrance into Syria.

Israel has treated hundreds of Syrians in need of medical attention in its own hospitals. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently visited a field hospital near the Syria-Israel border in the Golan Heights. “Here is the dividing line ... between the good and the bad,” he explained. “The bad is what is happening on the Syrian side of the border.” The good is Israel’s treatment of wounded Syrians on its side of the border. The cost of Syrians’ medical care, millions of dollars, is being paid for by the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Health.

Palestinian citizens living in Gaza in need of emergency medical attention regularly receive it in none other than Israel. Hadassah Hospitals in Jerusalem have a stated goal to provide a “hand to all, without regard for race, religion or ethnic origin.” This mission statement earned the pair of hospitals a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2005. Israeli hospitals also treat those who commit terrorist attacks just as they would treat any other patient.

The Israeli relief team was one of the first responders in Japan and New Orleans in the wake of natural disasters. It was the first responder in Haiti in 2010, before even the United States. Israel’s unfortunate experiences in dealing with mass casualties have made its relief team one of the most effective and efficient in the world.

Israel doesn’t have to assist Syrian refugees. Israel doesn’t have to send coats, blankets and food. Israel doesn’t have to treat Syrian war victims in its hospitals, many of whom were raised to regard Israel with nothing less than hatred.

Critics of Israel often discuss the “human rights violations” they believe Israel commits. To those critics, I make one request. Make a list of the countries in the Middle East that will send humanitarian aid to nations that are its sworn enemy and treat citizens of those hostile nations in its hospitals.

There would only be one country on the list: Israel.

What can be gleaned from this realization? There is a unique worth of human life in Israel unlike that of almost any other nation. This worth can be seen in the ethics of the Israel Defense Forces, which holds as one of its tenets “the value and dignity of human life.” It can be seen in the equal medical treatment of wounded victims and perpetrators of terrorist attacks alike.

While its professed enemies are committed to death, Israel is committed to life. While Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel, even at the expense of its own Palestinian lives, Israel is committed to the prevention of as many deaths - Israeli or Palestinian - as possible. While BDS focuses its attention on SodaStream, Israelis, Palestinians and Syrians are receiving medical attention in Israeli hospitals. While the world waits to decide whether or not to intervene in Syria, Israel leads by example.

When a Syrian being treated in a field hospital was asked whether his village’s opinion towards Israel had shifted, he explained, “The regime used to make us hate it, but it turned out to be the best country.” A Syrian man who brought his granddaughter to Israel to be treated ignored the risk involved in being associated with Israel and even bravely asserted, “When there is peace, I will raise an Israeli flag on the roof of my house.”

Alexandra Friedman is a College junior from Atlanta studying history. Email her at alfrie@sas.upenn.edu or follow her @callme_alfrie.

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