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Lying in Wait

The moment I heard about the devastating earthquake in Nepal, I knew that one of the first countries to put its hand up to offer assistance would be Israel. The IDF and other Israeli rescue teams are well renowned for their expertise in the area of crises. In 30 years, the IDF has sent 24 missions to 22 countries around the world, including countries that would not exactly call Israel a friend.

And so, an Israeli rescue team set off with a delegation of around 260, the largest of any other country except neighbouring India. What Israel cannot provide in financial assistance, it makes up for in expertise on the ground. After only four days in Nepal, its field hospital was up and running and more than a hundred patients were treated, including the delivery of a baby boy. The Israelis are also actively assisting in the search and rescue mission in the country’s capital, which resulted in the miraculous rescue of a 24-year-old woman after five days buried under the rubble of a collapsed hotel.

None of this is surprising given Israel’s assistance in other crises, such as the typhoon that hit the Philippines in 2013 and the Haitian earthquake of 2010 and nor is it surprising that irrespective of the nobility of Israeli gestures of assistance to others who might be in a state of distress, there always seem to be detractors laying (or should that be lying?) in wait for the opportunity to pluck some ridiculous claim out of mid-air about this small country. They are part of a dark industry that seeks to inculcate hatred into peoples’ minds about the Jewish State.

Prominent Israeli Arab asked this question yesterday at a StandWithUs forum, ‘Why is it that there is so much hate against the Jewish state… [?] [Can] the world tolerate a nation that is different?’

Apparently not.

In Haiti in 2010, it was the fabrication about Israel harvesting organs. In 2015, it is the Executive Director of the so-called “Human Rights Watch”, Kenneth Roth, whose claims are equally repulsive. 

As soon as the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Twitter that it was sending a rescue mission the Nepal, Roth tweeted this:

“Easier to address a far-away humanitarian disaster than the nearby one of Israel’s making in Gaza. End the blockade!” 

Roth is not simply being stupid or mean-spirited: he has an agenda against Israel which brings shame upon his position as the Director of Human Rights Watch. There is nothing particularly “humanitarian” in the wake of a disaster which was already claimed the lives of over 5,000 people to connect this crisis with the conflict between the Jewish State and its Palestinian neighbours and to demonise Israel rather than highlight the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes.

Roth’s outburst is the result of what happens when people are so blinded by hatred that they cannot see the bigger picture. The nearby disaster to which Roth refers is in Gaza, a region governed by Hamas whose Covenant is to destroy Israel and kill Jews. 

Unlike a natural disaster like an earthquake, this is a man-made disaster that could easily have been avoided if Hamas cared more about the welfare of its own people rather than harboured a desire to kill Israelis. During the 50-day war between Hamas and Israel last year, Roth acted as a cheerleader for Hamas terrorism, issuing hundreds of tweets demonstrating his bias as a critic of Israel and an apologist for Hamas and the other terrorists operating out of the area. All the while, he ignored the daily war crimes being committed by Hamas as it fired an average of 100 rockets a day at Israeli civilians from heavily populated Palestinian areas, thereby also putting its own people in harm’s way.

As with most propagandists who look at things with jaundiced eyes, Roth most often gets things wrong. 

An example was the time he sarcastically tweeted, “Remember when #Israel insisted Hamas was behind kidnap-murder of three West Bank teens. Oops, turns out it wasn’t”.  Well, a few weeks later, it really was a case of “oops” when Hamas officials, including the top dog Khaled Meshaal, admitted that it was in fact Hamas that did it, but we never heard a chirp or an apologetic tweet from a red-faced Roth on the subject again.

The other element addressed by Roth in his vile tweet about was the “blockade” of Gaza which conveniently ignored the reasons for the blockade on certain items coming into Gaza and the fact that significant humanitarian aid and building materials enter the territory on a daily basis. Just a few weeks ago, lethal materials were found hidden inside a shipment meant to help with the rebuilding of Gaza resulting in more silence from Roth who was also reticent when it came to Egypt whose border with Gaza also happens to be blockaded for similar reasons.

Beyond that, why is it that even when Israel does something good, people feel the need to criticise and make it about the conflict with the Palestinians? Israel is a country that is so much more than just the conflict, and its attempts to help other countries have never been about trying to get the microscope off other issues, unless you truly believe that Israeli rescuers spent 10 hours pulling a woman out of the rubble in Kathmandu so that Ken Roth would stop talking about Hamas boy scouts in Gaza for two minutes. Another anti-Israel activist/journalist, Max Blumenthal also tweeted “For a country responsible for so many man-made catastrophes, natural disasters can’t come often enough”. And there were plenty more stupidity of that ilk. 

Thankfully, there is always a voice of reason, and in this case Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur wrote the following: “Israel is perfectly capable of being involved in two completely different things at once, of being angelic in one arena and terrible in another, just like every other country. The IDF doesn’t go to Nepal to avoid the Palestinian issue. It goes because Israelis have honed emergency medicine into an art form, and because the IDF has never quite shed its founding culture of adventurousness, and above all because there are people out there who desperately need help… So go ahead and hate Israel. Or love it. It doesn’t really matter. The reality of Israel isn’t affected by whatever weird story might be playing out in your imagination.”

Rettig Gur hit the nail on the head. Israel does not do or not do things to adhere to some outside narrative or idea of what it should be doing. The fact of the matter is that there is a crisis somewhere else in the world that has nothing to do with the Middle East, and there the Israelis are helping out. The same cannot be said about other countries in the Middle East, and in particular those countries that use their power and money to fund terrorists. Not to mention the terrorists themselves who govern the people in Gaza and whose human rights record is as abject as the respect the director of this misnomer of an organisation has for the human rights it purports to uphold.

This will be my last article as I am going on leave until January 2016, but I am leaving you all in the very capable hands of Ted Lapkin, who you can contact at

And so I leave you with a spark of optimism in the form of this beautiful article by Israeli MK Yair Lapid in honour of Yom Ha’atzmaut this year entitled “I am a Zionist”.

I am a Zionist.

I believe that the Jewish people established itself in the Land of Israel, albeit somewhat late. Had it listened to the alarm clock, there would have been no Holocaust, and my dead grandfather – the one I was named after – would have been able to dance a last waltz with grandma on the shores of the Yarkon River.

I am a Zionist.

Hebrew is the language I use to thank the Creator, and also to swear on the road. The Bible does not only contain my history, but also my geography. King Saul went to look for mules on what is today Highway 443, Jonah the Prophet boarded his ship not too far from what is today a Jaffa restaurant, and the balcony where David peeped on Bathsheba must have been bought by some oligarch by now.

I am a Zionist.

The first time I saw my son wearing an IDF uniform I burst into tears, I haven’t missed the Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony for 20 years now, and my television was made in Korea, but I taught it to cheer for our national soccer team.

I am a Zionist.

I believe in our right for this land. The people who were persecuted for no reason throughout history have a right to a state of their own plus a free F-16 from the manufacturer. Every display of anti-Semitism from London to Mumbai hurts me, yet deep inside I’m thinking that Jews who choose to live abroad fail to understand something very basic about this world. The State of Israel was not established so that the anti-Semites will disappear, but rather, so we can tell them to get lost.

I am a Zionist.

I was fired at in Lebanon, a Katyusha rockets missed me by a few feet in Kiryat Shmona, missiles landed near my home during the first Gulf War, I was in Sderot when the Colour Red anti-rocket alert system was activated, terrorists blew themselves up not too far from my parents’ house, and my children stayed in a bomb shelter before they even knew how to pronounce their own name, clinging to a grandmother who arrived here from Poland to escape death. Yet nonetheless, I always felt fortunate to be living here, and I don’t really feel good anywhere else.

I am a Zionist.

I think that anyone who lives here should serve in the army, pay taxes, vote in the elections, and be familiar with the lyrics of at least one Shalom Hanoch song. I think that the State of Israel is not only a place, it is also an idea, and I wholeheartedly believe in the three extra commandments engraved on the wall of the Holocaust museum in Washington: “Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”

I am a Zionist.

I already laid down on my back to admire the Sistine Chapel, I bought a postcard at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, and I was deeply impressed by the emerald Buddha at the king’s palace in Bangkok. Yet I still believe that Tel Aviv is more entertaining, the Red Sea is greener, and the Western Wall Tunnels provide for a much more powerful spiritual experience. It is true that I’m not objective, but I’m also not objective in respect to my wife and children.

I am a Zionist.

I am a man of tomorrow but I also live my past. My dynasty includes Moses, Jesus, Maimonides, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Woody Allen, Bobby Fischer, Bob Dylan, Franz Kafka, Herzl, and Ben-Gurion. I am part of a tiny persecuted minority that influenced the world more than any other nation. While others invested their energies in war, we had the sense to invest in our minds.

I am a Zionist.

I sometimes look around me and become filled with pride, because I live better than a billion Indians, 1.3 billion Chinese, the entire African continent, more than 250 million Indonesians, and also better than the Thais, the Filipinos, the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the entire Muslim world, with the exception of the Sultan of Brunei. I live in a country under siege that has no natural resources, yet nonetheless the traffic lights always work and we have high-speed connection to the Internet.

I am a Zionist.

My Zionism is natural, just like it is natural for me to be a father, a husband, and a son. People who claim that they, and only they, represent the “real Zionism” are ridiculous in my view. My Zionism is not measured by the size of my kippa, by the neighbourhood where I live, or by the party I will be voting for. It was born a long time before me, on a snowy street in the ghetto in Budapest where my father stood and attempted, in vain, to understand why the entire world is trying to kill him.

I am a Zionist.

Every time an innocent victim dies, I bow my head because once upon a time I was an innocent victim. I have no desire or intention to adopt the moral standards of my enemies. I do not want to be like them. I do not live on my sword; I merely keep it under my pillow.

I am a Zionist.

I do not only hold on to the rights of our forefathers, but also to the duty of the sons. The people who established this state lived and worked under much worse conditions than I have to face, yet nonetheless they did not make do with mere survival. They also attempted to establish a better, wiser, more humane, and more moral state here. They were willing to die for this cause, and I try to live for its sake.

Emily Gian
Media & Advocacy Director
Zionist Federation of Australia

03 9272 5618