Sunday, August 17, 2008

Israel possibly a sensitive country? (Perish the thought!)

I try to keep up with the news around the world as best I can, and along with local radio stations and word of mouth, the internet has a role to play. I regularly check the Jerusalem Post Ha'aretz, BBC, The Times (of London), Ynet, and Arutz Sheva websites. I also read blogs, and find that has many interesting articles.

Aside from Middle Eastern news, I try to keep abreast of world affairs, and the above mentioned news websites all keep me fairly updated. The recent Russian military response to Georgia's sending in of ground troops into South Ossetia has been well documented, and although this region is nominally part of Georgia, their attempt to regain control has sparked a swift and strong response for Russia. The forcefulness of the Russian response has seen it bomb Georgian airports and city centres (thereby killing many innocent civilians) and drive out many others. According to the BBC, "some 100,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the conflict." A conflict which lasted all of four days.

The situation has caused much consternation worldwide, and as with every other country, Israel has found itself involved, as approximately 400 Israeli civilians were caught in a war zone. Quoting, "A third rescue flight for Israelis and Jews in the combat zones of Georgia landed in Ben Gurion International Airport early Wednesday morning as a fragile ceasefire began to take hold in the volatile region. More than 500 people have stepped on to the tarmac in Israel since the first El Al plane arrived from Tbilisi Tuesday evening, bearing 210 returning Israelis and 30 new Georgian immigrants making a hasty aliyah." Israel, as far as I am aware, is the only country in the world to have laid on such flights, might it be that Israel is the only country that really cares about it's citizens? Just a thought...

But it's not just Israeli citizens. In 1999, Turkey suffered a massive earthquake and Israel's expertly trained Zaka (terrorist response) teams were the first to aid the Turks. Turkish people now recognise Israelis as miracle workers. The Home Front Command rescue team returned home after a week in Turkey during which they rescued 12 survivors of the earthquake and uncovered 146 bodies. Additionally, the Israeli public launched a spontaneous campaign to assist the earthquake victims in Turkey, in an impressive display of friendship and goodwill. In the course of a single day, thousands of Israelis stood in line to donate 25 tons of equipment - blankets, clothing, food and more. The New York Times website reported, "Amid the scenes of horror and death that have afflicted this city since the earthquake last week, the brightest sign of life is a field hospital operated by doctors and nurses from the Israeli Army. Eight babies have been born here since the quake. One boy was named Israel, and one girl is called Ziona. Their names are symbols of how firmly the earthquake has sealed the alliance between Israel and Turkey. ''God bless the Israelis,'' said one new mother, Serap Balcioglu, whose child was born blue and seemingly lifeless but was revived by an emergency team at the hospital. ''They're taking beautiful care of me. What would we do without them?''

Sometimes we fail to realise just how ethical Israel is, and how desperate it is for peace. A storm has been brewing recently over an event that happened near Nilin, a small Arab village in the Shomron (West Bank). Two Israeli soldiers shot a blindfolded and masked suspect they had apprehended in the foot, and were caught on camera by a young girl who had been given a camera by B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation. The shooting was most definitely inexcusable and certainly unacceptable, and the soldiers involved deserve severe punishment. But while this was worthy of news coverage, Britain would do well to remember that it's own soldiers are no stranger to controversy. Only in June did a private of the British Armed Forces die of exhaustion after being subjected to what amounted to torture. Private Gavin Williams, 22, collapsed and then suffered a heart attack following the extreme exercise session which was so intense it brought on hyperthermia and pushed his body temperature nine degrees Fahrenheit above the norm. Before he died in hospital, one of the officers who oversaw it was boasting to colleagues in the mess that it was the "best beasting of his life". Consider that this horrendous punishment was meted out to one of their own, and now take into account that such a thing never, never happens in the Israeli military. By way of comparison, it would seem that punishments like these are not unheard of in both the British and American armies. The BBC would also be advised to bear in mind the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, where grotesque pictures of routine abuse of detainees were leaked. Inmates were pictured stripped naked, humiliated and horrifically abused by American troops in direct contradiction of the Geneva Convention.

Although many regard the BBC as being vehemently Anti-Zionist, myself included, I have to say that I find their website a credible source of information. They have many good features and reports, that although often betray an anti-Israel stance are informative and dare I say it, balanced. Unfortunately they are often too short and concise so as to give a full impression as to what is happening, but then again, do I really expect the BBC to know exactly what's happening in the world? :D

One such article I read recently really struck a chord. It was explaining Israel's mentality and how Israelis feel that they can do no good, and are really honest people, who have no desire for war. I'll let you decide what you think of it - click here.

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