Opinion

How Israel Is Directly Helping the Palestinian Arabs

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Posted: Apr 09, 2020 12:01 AM
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How Israel Is Directly Helping the Palestinian Arabs

Source: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Two recent articles of mine triggered separate, similar, and parallel feedback, with many comments cloaked in concern for “the Palestinians” but which were cover for denigrating Israel.  In both cases, the articles I wrote were humanitarian and not political in nature. One article was about Israel’s response to Coronavirus and the other was related to tips on being isolated from Natan Sharansky, a prominent Israeli leader and former Soviet political prisoner. 

Since this came up in the context of humanitarian topics, I want to address it, but with some (editorial) ground rules by way of full transparency. First, I don’t refer to them as “Palestinians” but rather as “Palestinian Arabs.” My Jewish father was born in British Mandatory “Palestine.” He was a Palestinian. Then, and until 1948 when Israel declared independence, the term “Palestinian” referred to the Jewish residents of Mandatory Palestine. It’s important to note Palestine was never a country of its own. I often wonder if Israel’s leaders then had chosen the name “Palestine,” what today’s “Palestinians” would be. Israelis?

Had the Arabs accepted peace and two states in 1947, or at any time since, they could have had a separate country and called it “Palestine” if they wanted, and referred to themselves as “Palestinians.”  But that national title only became in vogue afterwards and to delegitimize Israel’s existence.  

In fact, it was only in the mid-1960s that the terrorist PLO ascribed any kind of national aspirations to the Arab population of Mandatory Palestine to delegitimize and threaten Israel’s very existence. Even they knew then that the nationality they had invented had no historical roots.

Having said that, I do recognize that there is an Arab population in what was once Mandatory Palestine, that now identifies itself as a unique ethnic and national group.  Many of these are Jordanian because Jordan was also part of Mandatory Palestine until 1921.  Many of these are Israeli Arabs, full equal citizens, representing more than 20 percent of Israel’s 9 million people. And a few million are “Palestinian Arabs” living in Gaza and biblical Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), most of whom live under the autonomous Palestinian Authority. It’s the latter group about which I will refer.

Now, as to the question, “What has Israel done to help the Palestinian Arabs?” The answer is quite a lot.  Most Israelis agree that we should help them. Interestingly, while many Palestinian Arabs exist to blame Israel for all their problems, now many see the benefit and advantage in coordinating with Israel.

There have been and continue to be high level inter-governmental contact between Israel and the PA at ministerial levels.  Many Palestinian Arab workers have been offered shelter in Israeli hotels, so they don’t get stuck in the Palestinian Authority (PA) without work. Some are being treated in Israeli hospitals. Israel is using its resources to provide and facilitate the transfer of medical supplies, dozens of truckloads a day. This includes to Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, a terror group that goes to great lengths to fight Israel, and uses its resources to kill and maim Israelis while holding Israeli hostages.

While not proven yet, within a day or two of revealing that Israel’s Mossad was responsible for acquiring tons of medical supplies and testing kits, suddenly the Palestinian Authority reportedly had its own abundant supply.  This is not a coincidence.

My organization, the Genesis 123 Foundation, is raising money for food for some of the poorest families in Jerusalem who have at-risk and special needs children, including Palestinian Arabs. It’s not just our priority, but a priority of the Jerusalem municipality. On an unrelated note, we also provide support for Christian Arabs living among often hostile Moslem populations, some of whom are Palestinian and some of whom are Israeli Arabs.

To suggest that Israel does not provide abundant help all the time, as well as now during its own national crisis with the Coronavirus, is inaccurate and dishonest.  

Critics insist that Israel has a moral responsibility, suggesting that Palestinian Arabs are caged behind walls like animals behind electric fences, and they are just desperate to make a living and survive.  No good anti-Israel diatribe would be complete without allegations that Israel treats “the Palestinians” like the Nazis treated the Jews. These accusations are nonsense. I live among Palestinian Arabs with whom we share the roads, and among whom we work and shop.

Israel coordinates carefully with the PA for a variety of humanitarian and security needs.  As a sovereign nation, Israel has no direct obligation to provide for the PA or Palestinian Arabs who are not citizens.  It does so out of good will, and good mutual interests.  I wonder why critics expect Israel to provide anything, just because of geographic proximity, and not have the same expectation of Jordan or Egypt. Even the PA in Ramallah withholds support for their own people in Gaza because of strife between Hamas and the PLO. For that matter, why is it that the rest of the Arab world has more or less abandoned the PA, and Iran and Turkey are all too happy to provide money and weapons to fight us, but not to help them build a better society for themselves? This is only partly rhetorical.

But why Israel, alone, indeed? And why uniquely single out, attack, and blame Israel?  It’s not only inaccurate but racist to have lower expectations regarding Palestinian Arabs, misusing billions they receive from the UN, EU, and others to build infrastructure to improve their society, much less blame Israel for the lack of that happening. Doing so is a double standard that holds them to a lower standard than the rest of the world.

I am proud of what we do.  Yet in documenting all of this with links to credible sources (as in this article) critics write these sources off as “propaganda.” More like inconvenient truths.   

As far as Israel aiding the Palestinian Arabs, one of the best things Israel did for them is to build the Iron Dome which protects us from their rockets. God forbid, a Hamas rocket were to hit a kindergarten, hospital, or apartment building and there were many casualties, Israel’s response would be severe, and lives on both sides would be lost.

I have mixed feelings as to what obligation Israel has, and what our response ought to be. What aid and resources should Israel commit to protect a people who are openly hostile to us, who incite and celebrate terror, and who don’t recognize our right to exist? With a son in the army protecting us, how many soldiers should be employed in the service of aiding the PA and its citizens?  

I don’t have all the answers on this, but I am proud as an Israeli that we do what we do, even if we are held to a higher standard. Nevertheless, those who want to find fault with Israel will do so regardless of the facts.