Israel not only helps its friends. It also has a long record of helping its enemies, sending humanitarian aid, medical personnel, and search-and-rescue teams, to these countries in the wake of natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. This practice has not lessened the recipients’ enmity. Israel should cease the practice, and direct its aid only to its friends, and to those who need it most, which right now includes Israel’s own people, for the war in Gaza, and Hezbollah rockets, have forced 280,000 Israelis to be internally displaced, having had to leave their communities on the Gaza and Lebanese borders. More on Israel’s aid policy, and why it should be changed, can be found here: “Israel is wrong to give aid to antisemitic countries – opinion,” by Sheila Nazarian, Jerusalem Post, February
In recent months, much has been made by Israel’s enemies of American relief aid to the Jewish state. What many of these critics overlook, likely because they do not know, is that Israel has its own decades-long record of providing humanitarian aid and emergency relief to countries in need, including Muslim-majority countries with no diplomatic ties to Israel – who now repay the Jewish state with inaction, silence, or overt hate in the wake of October 7.
In 1958, within a decade of Israel’s founding, the country formally adopted an international humanitarian aid agenda in an effort to prioritize foreign cooperation. That year, the government officially established MASHAV, the Foreign Ministry’s Center for International Cooperation, to administer its humanitarian efforts. MASHAV helps countries battling hunger, disease, and poverty by providing technical training and sharing Israeli technology.
The office sends Israeli eye doctors – widely considered authorities in the field – to countries across the developing world to treat preventable blindness and ocular disease, setting up “eye camps” using equipment usually unavailable in that country to treat patients and train staff. In the 1970s, MASHAV broadened the scope of its efforts by granting safe-haven in Israel to refugees initially from countries like Kosovo, Bosnia, and Vietnam, and more recently from Darfur.
Since the founding of MASHAV, which is now Israel’s official agency for international development cooperation, the Jewish state has provided humanitarian aid to over 140 countries. Starting in the 1980s, it has also offered humanitarian aid on an emergency basis, supporting countries facing everything from natural disasters to mass casualty terrorist attacks. In 2004, Israel sent 60 tons of aid to Indonesia, a country with no ties to Israel and the largest Muslim population in the world, after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami.
Indonesia refuses to have diplomatic relations with Israel, consistently supports anti-Israel resolutions at the UN, and refused even to express sympathy after the October 7 massacre. Those 60 tons of aid from Israel obviously had no effect on modifying Indonesia’s enmity.
In 2005, Israeli organizations provided aid in Pakistan after the earthquake in Kashmir, with Israeli NGOs dispatching missions to the region to help thousands of families, and in 2010, the state ramped up its earthquake relief efforts by sending a mass mission to Haiti, which included an IDF search-and-rescue team and field hospital. Israel has such a robust tradition of emergency humanitarian relief that the country even provided aid to Turkey and Syria after the 2023 earthquake.
Israel sent aid to Pakistan in 2005 after an earthquake struck, with no visible change subsequently in Pakistan’s attitude toward the Jewish state; it still refuses to recognize Israel, and has made clear that it will not do so until Israel agrees to be squeezed back within the 1949 armistice lines, and allows the establishment of a Palestinian state on the territory vacated, which must include east Jerusalem. That will never happen.
While Turkish President Erdogan has for years continued his thunderous denunciations of Israel that began with the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, Israel did not hesitate a minute, but was among the very first countries to send aid to Turkey after the earthquake in 2023, providing humanitarian aid as well as critically important search-and-rescue teams. Those Israeli teams are credited with saving the lives of 19 Turks, pulled from under the rubble.
But after the atrocities of October 7, no words of sympathy for Israel were uttered by the Turkish government or the Turkish people. Palestinian flags fluttered in Turkish cities, anti-Israel and antisemitic posters were pasted on walls and displayed in shop windows — “Jews not wanted” was one of them — and Erdogan praised Hamas after its operatives had on October 7 beheaded babies, burned children alive, raped, tortured, and murdered girls, sliced the breasts off women, gouged out the eyes and cut off the genitalia of men. That lifesaving aid Israel provided after the earthquake to Turkey earlier in the year did not soften Erdogan’s rants against the “Zionist entity”; they have only increased. His party’s organ, the newspaper Yeni Safak, headlined a story on Israel “The terror state must be destroyed.” The Turks themselves have held marches in support of Hamas, calling for an end to Israel’s “aggression” in Gaza. A politician from Erdogan’s AKP Party said at a public hearing that he was praying for the soul of Hitler, adding that the world will find peace only when it is cleansed of Jews and that the Holocaust was “unfinished.”
Israel’s aid to Syria after the same 2023 earthquake was swiftly offered; the Syrians made a show of refusing to accept such aid from the “Zionist entity,” but in fact, in strict secrecy, it accepted the humanitarian aid, though it did not allow Israeli search-and-rescue teams inside Syria. Syria not only remains in a state of war with Israel, but it continues to allow Iranian-backed groups in the country to shell the Golan Heights. That is the malevolent Syrian response to Israel’s good deed.
So the next time there is a tsunami in Indonesia, or an earthquake in Pakistan, Turkey, or Syria, the Israelis should not immediately dispatch humanitarian aid and search-and-rescue teams. Instead, both the government, and Jewish aid agencies, should sit tight. Let the world realize that Israel is no longer going to be a source of succor for its enemies, who have so often pocketed its aid and then continued to denounce the Jewish state until the welkin rings with anti-Israel hate. Just this once, Israel, behave the way all other countries behave. Stop thinking you have to be so very tikkun-olamish and in all things a light unto the nations, including by helping your worst enemies. No, you don’t.