Are You Kidding Me, White Helmets

On Sunday, Israelis awoke to an amazing piece of news. This was the type of news we needed after coming within hours of being dragged into war in Gaza on Friday. This was the type of news that makes people proud to serve in the IDF, to live in such a state. And most of all, it was just the kind of news the world needed coming out of Syria; light emanating from the black hole of despair that country has become.
If you don’t follow Israeli news, or foreign news too closely you may have missed it. The IDF coordinated the evacuation of 422 people from Syrian positions about to be conquered by government forces. On its face, that’s objectively good news. But when you learn that this was 98 members of the Syrian White Helmets and 324 of their family members, it takes on greater meaning. The Syrian White Helmets, for those unaware, are a civil support organization that has provided medical help, supplies, and much needed care to those in need due to the civil war.

This is fantastic news. Israel risked her bravest sons—combat soldiers—on a mission within Syria that was aimed at rescuing people that the Syrian government has targeted for death. The Syrian government sees the White Helmets as terrorists and has accused them of the chemical weapons attacks that the international community rightly attributed to Assad and his Iranian masters. Accordingly, these White Helmet volunteers—brave in their own right, knew they would be killed as the government retakes areas near the Israeli border. Israel stepped in, and brought them to Jordan. This was not political, it was humanitarian.

According to multiple international reports, the US, Germany, France, and even the U.N. asked Israel to coordinate this rescue. These countries knew Israel had soldiers in the area, and the expertise. Forgetting that Syrian state media, which has portrayed the White Helmets as supporters of terrorists, if not terrorists themselves, condemned the operation, this was objectively fantastic. There were no casualties and everyone made it safe to Jordan.

Fast forward to Tuesday. 48 hours after these 422 people had their lives saved by Israel. What do they do? Release a statement about their ordeal, or at least partially. They thank the UNHCR, and then went on to say, “Ninety-eight male and female White Helmet volunteers, with 324 of their family members — mostly women and children — have arrived in Jordan through the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.” The absurdness of that statement is mind boggling.

First, no mention of Israel-the country that rescued them and has been providing treatment alongside the White Helmets for years. Second, “occupied Syrian Golan Heights.” Occupied from who? If they contend that Israel occupies the Golan, are they saying Assad is the rightful owner? The Assad regime that has killed hundreds of thousands, and tried to kill them? Are politics so important they just had to take a shot at Israel-who literally stopped them from being killed.

This is not an isolated incident. France did something very similar. In their statement they said, “Due to extensive international mobilization, a group of White Helmets and their families could leave Syria today, where there was a real danger to their safety…France has actively joined the procedures carried out by several partners to ensure the success of the operation.” Again, no mention of Israel.
A member of Frances parliament, Meyer Habib took his government to task on this, and rightly so. He said, “Many Western countries have expressed their gratitude to Israel following the extraordinary humanitarian activity. Even European Union Foreign Policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who is usually hostile to Israel, expressed her appreciation. However, in the official statement of the French Foreign Ministry we do not even mention the word ‘Israel.'”

The willful ignorance exhibited by France and The Syrian Civil Defense (the official name of the White Helmets) is absurd and indefensible. It is understandable why they may not want to go into detail as to how Israel helped, possibly risking future operations. However it is inexcusable that France, theoretically an ally of Israel, and 400+ people who just had their lives saved by Israel, chose to ignore Israel’s role, and then bash Israel’s “occupation” of the Golan Heights.

Consider this, if Israel was not in control of the Golan Heights, how many Syrians would have not gotten life-saving aid that Israel has been providing. Hell, if Israel wasn’t in control on the Golan, 98 members of the White Helmets, and 322 members of their families would have been left to their own fate against Syrian army, tanks, and the Russian Air Force.  A simple “thank you” would have sufficed.

About the Author
Saul Mangel, a writer based in Netanya, specializes in international relations, the defense industry, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Originally from Philadelphia, Mr. Mangel holds a bachelor's degree in political science. While working at a leading intelligence firm in Israel, Mr. Mangel will continue to contribute to the Times of Israel.
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