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Update – 21 January 2010

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Posted by Emily Chrapot on 21 January 2010 at 12:50pm:

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This morning I woke to the news that another powerful earthquake had shaken Haiti, following the January 12 quake which has already completely devastated and ravaged the country. There was apparently no immediate sign of significant new damage, but relief efforts continue regardless.

At a time when natural disasters can cause so much devastation – in this case between 100,000 to 200,000 people lost their lives and over 3 million people have been affected by the quake – it is hard to switch modes and mention the positive things that have happened.

Yet, it would be hard for me to not at least mention, and in fact praise, the Israeli teams that have travelled over to help those affected.

On Friday 15 January, just 3 days after the earthquake, the Israeli delegation landed in Port-Au-Prince, and established its operation centre in a soccer field near the airport. The field hospital is one of the most advanced and includes 40 doctors, 25 nurses, paramedics, a pharmacy, a children’s ward, a radiology department, an intensive care unit, an emergency room, two operating rooms, a surgical department, an internal department and a maternity ward. The hospital can treat approximately 500 patients each day.

According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, as of 20 January:
–          367 patients have been cared for in the hospital;
–          104 life-saving operations have been performed;
–          44 patients are currently hospitalised; and
–          7 babies have been born in the hospital.

Please click here to watch some video footage from the field hospital which also includes images of the first baby delivered there. As a token of her gratitude and appreciated, the mother named her child ‘Israel’.

For another example of Israel’s rescue efforts, please click here to see video of the IDF Search and Rescue team in Port-au-Prince rescuing a 52 year old man from a collapsed building. It took roughly 6 hours to extract the man who had been trapped for four days. He had been able to communicate his location to rescue teams via SMS. The man suffered from some lacerations on his limbs and dehydration but after being treated at the IDF field hospital he is said to be in good condition.

These miraculous stories of survival and new life are not missed by media outlets around the world, with many reporting that doctors from other missions were sending patients requiring surgery to Israel’s field hospital. At the same time, criticism was heaped upon the US mission, which had sent staff for a field hospital but had still not received the instruments required for surgery.

Please see this video from CNN, where it was reported that in the US field hospital, people’s joy at seeing their family members alive was crushed at having to watch them in the hospital without the vital aide that they need to survive. The report praises the Israeli mission for being the only place that people can go to receive the medical attention they so desperately need.

ABC News also carried a long report on the story of a young woman who was going into labour. Dr. Besser, reporting for ABC News, came upon the woman and realised that given that her baby was sitting sideways, there would be no chance he could deliver the baby himself. After using his Blackberry to contact various people for advice, he was directed to the Israel hospital, where Israeli doctors were able to deliver the baby girl, and save the mother, who was suffering from extremely high blood pressure. The doctor noted that the woman received better care at the Israeli field hospital than she could have ever imagined, and praised the Israelis for the “phenomenal” work that they were doing (see the video here).

Please see this page on the MFA website for a full list of other media outlets that have mentioned Israeli efforts in Haiti.

With every heart-warming story I read about the Israeli teams in Haiti, I felt a niggling feeling that the nation’s many detractors were lying (pun intended) in wait with the standard ridiculous claims and concoctions. This first from the “I should have seen it coming files” came in the form of claims from a Seattle man that the Israelis arrived in Haiti to exploit the victims and make money. He also recycled the notorious false claims that the IDF engages in organ trafficking (see more). This sort of stupidity hardly merits a response, but it is nevertheless interesting to note that even in the face of a disaster, the Israel bashing lobby finds new ways to spout their nonsense. Then again, I am giving them far too much credit because surely this is just another variation of the anti Semitic canard about the Jews poisoning the wells.

In the meantime, there is precious little in our local press about Israel’s efforts in Haiti. I doubt that it really matters at times like these who is helping, as long as somebody is helping but I am interested to know why this story, entitled ‘After five days of despair, mother is reunited with baby son’ appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, but did not appear in it’s sister paper, The Age.

The article tells story of a mother who was reunited with her son, who was rescued after five days and, near death, taken directly to the Israeli field hospital where he was resuscitated, filled with fluids, oxygen and glucose. It is believed that he will survive this ordeal. The article notes the enormous field hospital that the IDF has set up and the extensive work that is being done there.

Our city’s floundering broadsheet did have space to run with a story in its local news section entitled ‘Palestinian supporters to picket Israeli tennis player’ by Andra Jackson about a planned protest by Australians for Palestine against Israeli tennis player Shachar Pe’er. A small protest of ten diehards took place outside the court precincts but was the article, which was virtually a free plug for a couple of fringe lobby groups necessary? Of course, Ms. Jackson, who was thanked for the article by one Palestinian group on the evening before it even appeared, made no attempt to provide some balance to her article by contacting Jewish groups for their opinion.

Had she done so she might have received a different viewpoint. Perhaps one suggesting that instead of boycotting the other side in the conflict more good could be achieved for both Israelis and Palestinians by promoting peace in much the same way as happened with the Peres Peace Football Team which came here in 2008.

The majority of people on both sides of the conflict want peace and it is a pity that there are extremists that want to make mischief, especially in a country like Australia. In these troubled times, it is a shame that the Age chose to focus on a marginal group’s protest against Israel’s supposed lack of humanity in Gaza, when  it is displaying the highest forms of humanity over in Haiti.

In the meantime, please read this Op-Ed piece from Ynet about the supposed blockade in Gaza entitled ‘Blockading the truth’, which highlights just how much aide is going into Gaza and exposes claims of a seige as complete falsehoods.

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