Israel Aids Syrian Refugees: Outlier in the Middle East

It would seem that whenever the topic of “Israeli foreign aid” comes up, it’s too often an argument about how much Israel receives and rarely is it about how much they give. So let’s recap.

When the destructive Typhoon Haiyan ripped its way through The Philippines in 2013 leaving over 4000 people dead and countless others homeless and filled with despair, it was Israel who arrived on the scene almost immediately, with 150 IDF soldiers setting up field hospitals with over 100 tons of food and medical aid arriving with them. Then in 2014 when countries in West Africa were struck by the deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus, it was the State of Israel that not only constructed field hospitals in the affected areas, but also contributed an additional $8.75 million to the cause, with the UN declaring that Israel was the top contributor per capita in the fight against Ebola. And finally, earlier this year when Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, it was Israel who sent a delegation of 260 personnel – more than the UK, the US, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy and France combined – to set up field hospitals and administer aid to the thousands of Nepalese victims who were affected by the disaster.

And now the world is being forced to witness yet another tragedy, the half-decade long civil war in Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, over 320,000 Syrian civilians have been killed and over 1.5 million have been wounded with no sign of President Assad’s brutality ending any time soon. With this tragic and gruesome civil war comes millions of innocent civilians displaced from their homes, fleeing Syria and looking frantically for any sanctuary and support that they can find.

While the Arab world continues to point fingers at the West for not taking in enough Syrian refugees, perhaps it’s best to look a little closer to home. While countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq have taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees, the wealthy gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have taken in zero refugees while simultaneously profiting from their suffering by selling arms to the rebel jihadist forces and fanning the flames of war (and with Iran taking in zero refugees as well but backing the Assad regime instead).

While the aforementioned nations continue to pad their pocketbooks with the collective pain of millions, it is the State of Israel that is taking action. While the relationship between Israel and Syria hasn’t been a particularly happy one, with the two nations engaging in three major wars (the 1948 Arab Israeli War, the 1967 Six Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War), Israel has once again risen to the occasion to help the helpless, with Israeli NGOs providing food, medicine and clothing to Syrian refugees residing in Jordan since 2013.

Additionally, the Israel Defense Forces have erected a field hospital on the Israel-Syria border and has begun treating any Syrian refugees who were lucky enough to escape their decimated homeland.

As if this was not enough, Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot stated that the IDF would act in the vicinity of its border to defend Syrian refugees who were trying to escape the barbarity of Islamic State fighters and Syrian military forces.

This truly shows the value that the State of Israel places on human life. Given their history of mutual disdain, Israel has virtually no reason to show any compassion towards Syria. However, the sentiment of “never again” and empathy towards the innocent rings true in the heart of most Israelis and so, once again, the nation is only too happy to lend its support.

About the Author
Michael Aarenau lives in Montreal, Quebec. He has a Bachelor's of Public Affairs and Policy Management from Carleton University and is currently pursuing a law degree at McGill University. Michael is passionate about human rights, international affairs and justice. For cheeky insights in 280 characters or less, follow him on twitter @MAarenau
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