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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani shot near Gaza: A Canadian in Israel responds

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You know what this blog post was going to be about?  Volunteers.  And about how Israel doesn't appreciate volunteers who come here from places like United States and Canada. 

It’s an important topic, right?  Too bad that’s not what I ended up writing about.

Volunteers are people of all faiths and all ages who don't have to come here, and who work for organizations like Sar-El (which places volunteers on military bases), on farms, in schools, all over the country.  They must contribute millions of dollars to the Israeli economy, which is absolutely fabulous.

I was talking someone a couple of weeks ago who had been here volunteering on farms for two months, and she started telling me about how she and the others were forced to work half a day on Yom HaAtzmaut, while the farm's owner slept in, then lounged around the house with friends and family (later, the volunteers were invited to join the BBQ -- once they were done work).  She noted that the paid migrant workers weren't in the fields... probably because it's illegal to make them work on a national holiday.

Volunteers can work whenever they want, I guess.

That made me mad, and I also, somewhat guiltily, realized that my daughter has had a volunteer from the U.S. teaching English in her school this entire year and I hadn't even met her, let alone thanked her (she's been working one-on-one with some of the native English speakers), until someone invited her to our Lag Ba'omer BBQ.  So I felt bad that she's been in the country so long and probably barely acknowledged by the community, and finally, belatedly, invited her over.

Like I said, that's what this blog post was going to be about. 

Because seriously, with the feeling towards Israel in North America these days, it's not at all obvious that someone would come here to volunteer, paying their own airfare and often also paying to volunteer, just so they can show up and be ignored at best and their goodwill abused at worst.  Israelis probably see volunteers as "freyers," suckers who are easily conned and therefore aren't worth very much.

File:Flickr - Israel Defense Forces - Sar-El Volunteers at Lebanon Border (4).jpgFile:Austrian Volunteers in Ein Hashofet July 19731.JPGimageimage

(All freyers????  L-R: Sar-El volunteers 2012 photo © IDF via Wikimedia; Austrian Kibbutz volunteers 1978 photo © Robert Schediwy via Wikimedia; American volunteers at Masada meeting George W. Bush 2008 © White House via U.S. National Archives; Farm volunteer © WWOOF Israel)

I wanted to write about that because I was mad.  But then…

Then I saw something that made me even madder, and also -- I found out about people who abuse their volunteers even more than Israel does:  Gaza.  Or rather, Hamas, its quasi-elected dictatorship.

Gaza has had a humanitarian crisis over the last few years due to its leadership's terrorist policies.  Hamas is a government that's in power on a one-plank platform: eliminate Israel.  Once elected in 2006, they dismantled electoral operations so nobody could un-elect them and proceeded to take money out of children's and families' pockets and dedicate it to building terror tunnels and rockets with which to bombard nearby Israelis.

Hamas may be many things, but they're not stupid.  So in addition to these operations, they have poured a ton of work into the PR battle for the hearts and minds of the world.  It's a humanitarian crisis, they weep to the world, which is absolutely, 100% true.  And then, they point to Israel.  That's the whole PR thing: point to the crisis, point to Israel.  Repeat until hearts bleed and journalists cry.  It doesn't take much to make journalists cry, especially if there are pictures of children.

But courting NGOs and liberal media outlets is easy, hardly a challenge anymore.  Like I said, they cry easily.

So if I was in charge of the Hamas PR machine, then the thing that I would want most of all, more than anything else in the world, is a Canadian. 

The world loves nobody more than a Canadian.

To the world, Canadians are innocent, naive, the ultimate freyers, really.

Yup, that’s what would head up my wish list: A nice Canadian frayer, a volunteer who could stand himself up in front of the big, bad Israelis and get himself shot. 

Maybe the world has stopped caring when Palestinians have a crisis, but who can ignore a wounded Canadian?  A nice, humanitarian doctor who didn't do anything except stand in the wrong place at the wrong time?

The wrong place being in front of mean Israeli soldiers. The wrong time being during an uprising.

And hey, if I crossed my fingers (or whatever Muslims do) and wished hard enough, maybe my dreams would come true and my white knight, Dr. Tarek Loubani, would come charging in, as he has charged into Gaza many times before, getting himself arrested at least twice before, but never seriously hurt. 

That's about to change, because he has now chosen an extremely hot conflict, one in which Israeli soldiers are exercising restraint in the face of thousands of rioting civilians, but sadly 59 will be killed, sent to the front by the Hamas destroy-Israel machine. 

And Dr. Loubani will get shot.  And Dr. Loubani is no ordinary Palestinian, because he's also... drumroll... Canadian.

Unfortunately, I can’t use any photos of Dr. Loubani because they all seem to be copyright-protected.  Google him, he’s a nice-looking, ordinary-looking guy.  Everybody says he’s a saint, a humanitarian, a brilliant guy who invented a stethoscope that can be 3-D printed for under $3.  Amazing.  Hamas couldn’t have dreamed of a better poster boy.

As he lay in a hospital bed giving interviews with the Canadian media, the 37-year-old Dr. Loubani said, “I am very seasoned about not being shot at. I know where to stand. I know where to be. I know how not to get shot.”  I'd agree, but that's probably because normally, he lives, stands, works, teaches, in London, Ontario, where the odds of being shot at are not very high.

He's also big into the story of his own heroism, telling the paper that he passed up a chance to have one of the "last 10 tourniquets" used to stop the bleeding in his leg.  Heroically, he waved his friends off and asked for a pressure bandage instead to save the tourniquets for others.

And then he got to the crux of the issue: the Palestinian people's need for medical care, "no matter where they are, even at protests."  Well, yes.  But when you say "protests" to the Canadian media, they think of this:

Image result for protest toronto

When in reality they should probably be thinking of this:

Despite his claims that he knows how to protect himself, Dr. Loubani also has a history of putting himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like in 2003, when  he was jailed in Israel for protesting in the West Bank, or in 2013 when he got himself tossed into an Egyptian prison for trying to get through the closed border crossing into Gaza.

(What? Israel isn’t the only bad guy?  Never mind that…)

Image result for loubani

Clearly, Dr. Loubani identifies with the Palestinian people (he calls himself a Palestinian, though he was born in Kuwait; his family came to Canada as refugees).  He certainly has a right to do whatever his conscience tells him to do for the people of Gaza.  But I wish he wouldn’t blame Israel when the bulk of the responsibility for their oppression lies squarely with Hamas.

Happily for Hamas, Canadians have a short memory, and won’t think waaaay back to 2013, when journalist Margaret Wente wrote, after Loubani and filmmaker John Greyson (who was on board the Gaza flotilla) were freed from that Egyptian prison:

John Greyson and Tarek Loubani have been portrayed as innocents abroad, humanitarian do-gooders who were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. This picture is inaccurate and incomplete. The two are hard-core anti-Israel activists who've been mixed up in Middle East politics for years. They should have known what they were getting into.

You can read the whole article here.  It’s worth reading to see how well-intentioned Canadians buy into the Hamas propaganda machine.

Returning to this Gaza protest for just another moment, one thing stands out for me if not for Dr. Loubani in these "protest" pictures:  all the kids. 

And another question:  why aren't there pictures of Israeli kids on the other side? 

Oh, right.  Because we keep our children far, far away from conflict areas.  As far as possible.  We build shelters and put up sirens and Iron Dome to keep them as safe as possible.  As US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said a couple of weeks ago, "Anyone who truly cares about children in Gaza should insist that Hamas immediately stop using children as cannon fodder in its conflict with Israel."

This is where we keep our kids in Israel:

Image result for sheltered playground israel

(playground in Sderot, Israel, near the Gaza border – with a bomb shelter to keep kids safe © Simon Mannweiler via Wikimedia)

Kids in Gaza celebrating a victory over Israel (it was really just a ceasefire, but that’s not what they were told) in 2014, meaning they’re probably old enough to be on the front lines of the protests now, 4 years later:

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(© Jordi Bernabeu Farrús via Flickr)

(Hey, Dr. Loubani, maybe the Palestinian people would have less “need” for medical care if they would stay away from volatile war zones instead of putting them front and centre???)

Shoot, Israelis are all too aware of the fact that there's a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  Who doesn’t realize that we know that already?  Who doesn’t believe we aren’t the most frustrated people in the world at the situation there, as it just keeps on getting worse and worse?  But for the most part, we have good reason to believe it's caused by the so-called leadership of Hamas, which couldn't care less about the Palestinian people, or at least, which cares less about the Palestinian people than it does about the Israeli people: namely, wiping us out. 

And driving the Palestinian people deeper and deeper into chaos and desperation makes good press, apparently.  And attracts the well-meaning NGOs and freyers, all ready and eager to help out.

Now that they’ve got themselves a Canadian, and a doctor, no less, Hamas is undoubtedly having a field day with the media fallout.  But it’s essentially the same bogus narrative they’ve been feeding the NGOs and the liberal media all along:  big, bad Israel is brutally oppressing the innocent people of Gaza.  It’s nice to dress up the message with a charismatic Canadian poster boy, but it doesn’t make the message stink any less.

Someone pointed out in my social media feed yesterday that with the tens of thousands of protesters burning tires to obscure Israeli soldiers’ field of vision, tossing rocks, flaming kites, and other projectiles, as well as trying in various ways to damage and breach the barricade itself, it’s actually a miracle that so few people on the Gaza side have been killed or injured.  If Israel was intentionally pursuing a policy of hurting innocent civilians, the numbers would be far higher, and would include lots more women and children.  It’s hard to imagine what “restraint” looks like in hot battlefield conditions like this, so it’s difficult to judge what I’d do if I were in those soldiers’ shoes.  

Frankly, I’m just grateful that they’re out there doing this job for me, because without them there, I honestly believe Israel’s existence would be on the line.

Honestly, I wish I could just go back and write that nice post about volunteers, and about how Israel should appreciate them more and make sure they have lots of chances to travel around and enjoy their time here.  Because at least they’re choosing to come here and work for Israel. 

Plenty of people are working for NGOs helping out Palestine and Gaza instead, and that includes Jewish people.  Which makes me think that if Israel doesn’t start showing tremendous gratitude for volunteers who come here and the millions of dollars in GDP or whatever economic measure you want to use in terms of value that they add our country, they just might start going over to the other side, however you define “other side.” 

Now that Dr. Loubani is out of commission for the time being, Hamas would be only to happy to have a few more freyers for their team.



Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


2 comments:

  1. I think a lot of Israelis aren’t sure what to make of those of us who volunteer. I’ve done SAR EL(on a military base) and the response of those in Israel who knew of it ranged from being thankful that I cared enough to be here and work so hard to thinking we must be crazy Rambo types who want to play with guns or something (which we certainly don’t do).

    On the farms it’s been a mixed bag. I suspect most volunteers on farms in Israel aren’t Jewish. I know it took awhile before they even realized I was; me with my Ashkenazi Jewish last name and keeping kosher and Shabbat). I don’t think they really see us or something; strange. And obviously that I’d really care to be part of the celebration for Israel’s 70th didn’t cross their minds.

    And yes, when volunteers come to help out in Israel(as opposed to those going to Gaza, Ramallah etc) it would be nice to appreciate that they are there and wanting to support Israel. So if there’s a volunteer in your kid’s school or community, invite them over and let them know you appreciate that they are there and rooting for Israel. I can tell you that many of us are treated badly back in N America for our support of Israel.

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  2. Either the first or the second group of what became SAR El stayed at Shiloh, and we really did a lot with them. Nowadays they stay on army bases.

    People who riot and threaten Israel with the terrorists are criminals. It's that simple.

    ReplyDelete

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