The two earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria on February 5 have left nearly 3,000 people dead and tens of thousands of wounded. The devastation to infrastructure has been huge. Israel immediately sent humanitarian aid to Turkey, hardest hit of the two countries. And Syria on February 6 asked for assistance from Israel. Despite Syria having participated in three wars – in 1948, 1967, and 1973 – to destroy the Jewish state, the Israeli government did not hesitate. On the same day it received the request, it announced that that aid for Syria is on its way. More on this display of Israel’s essential goodness, even to those who have tried to destroy it, can be found here: “Netanyahu Says Syria Requests Quake Relief, Israel Ready to Send It,” Algemeiner, February 6, 2023:
Israel said on Monday that it had received a Syrian request for assistance with earthquake relief for the Arab state and that it was prepared to oblige, in what would be rare cooperation between the enemy neighbours.
Amazing, isn’t that, that Syria – despite its having tried to destroy Israel three times – was unembarrassed about asking Israel for aid and confident that Israel would send it. Despite the decades of Arab propaganda depicting Israelis as aggressors who want to create a Greater Israel “from the Nile to the Euphrates,” and as the cruel tormenters of the innocent Palestinians, the Syrians, who have joined other Arabs in disseminating such slander, knew perfectly well that Israel would be willing to help. After all, during the Syrian Civll War, Israeli hospitals have been treating wounded Syrian civilians and soldiers from both sides.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech he had ordered Israeli aid sent to Turkey, the epicentre of Monday’s earthquake, with the airlifts due to depart toward evening.
“Since a request was also received to do this for many victims of the earthquake in Syria, I instructed to do this as well,” he said at a ceremony in a hospital near Tel Aviv.
In later televised remarks to his party, Netanyahu said the request for humanitarian relief for Syria had been relayed “by a diplomatic official” – whom he did not identify.
“I approved this, and I reckon that these things will be carried out soon,” Netanyahu said.
Syrian officials have reported hundreds killed in the civil war-torn country, both in areas under Damascus’ control and in the opposition-held northwest.
Asked who had made the request regarding Syria cited by Netanyahu, an Israeli official told Reuters: “The Syrians”. Asked if this referred to opposition members or to President Bashar al-Assad’s government, the official said only: “Syria“…
The aid that Israel will send comprises blankets, tents and medication, Kan said, adding that the Netanyahu government had also indicated willingness to take in casualties if asked….
Let’s start with the aid already being delivered to Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ever since the Mavi Marmara episode in 2010 been scathing in his criticism of Israel. Five years ago, he decided to reestablish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, but the envoys had to pack up and leave after 17 months of trying to put things back together again; Erdogan had been unable to conceal his deep antipathy to the Jewish state.
Erdogan is a convinced antisemite, who once described the existence of the Jewish state as “a crime against humanity.” In May 2021, Erdogan, referring to Jewish people, said: “It is in their disposition that they are only satisfied by sucking blood.” Part of Erdogan’s rage has also been directed at U.S. President Joe Biden. “Today we have witnessed Biden’s approval of weapons [sales] to Israel. You [Biden] are writing history with bloody hands.”
But Erdogan has this year started again to try to.improve relations with the Jewish state. He calculates that pretending to be better disposed toward Israel will help him in the corridors of power in Washington, and make American military aid more accessible. As the Turkish journalist Burak Bekdil says, ”Erdoğan’s peace with Israel is not peace. It is a tactical move to flash to Washington: I am being a good boy, give me the F-16s, do not sanction me as further sanctions may terminate my rule at the ballot box next year.”
Erdogan has not exactly been trying hard to patch things up with Israel. He has given refuge to a dozen Hamas leaders and, what’s more, has provided them with Turkish citizenship and passports, making it easier for them to travel around Europe. He has ignored Israeli requests to expel Hamas members from his country. But despite his animosity to Israel, expressed in his unwavering support for the Palestinians, and in his own vicious comments, over many decades, on Israel and on Jews, as soon as Turkey put out a call for humanitarian aid after the two earthquakes, Israel was among the first of 40 countries to answer that call. The Israelis are not going to withhold their aid from ordinary Turks because of the attitude of their leader.
It is the same with Syria. No Arab country has been so consistently anti-Israel as Syria. Save for Egypt, no Arab country has gone to war against Israel so often – three times — to destroy the Jewish state. Syrian publishing houses since 1948 have been spewing out antisemitic propaganda. Alois Brunner, who was Eichmann’s chief aide and one of the most-wanted Nazi war criminals, found asylum in Syria, a generous salary, and protection by the ruling Ba’ath Party, n exchange for his advice on effective torture and interrogation techniques used by the Germans in World War II. The Syrians supported the terror group Hamas until 2012, when Hamas leaders decided to side with the opposition in the civil war. The Assad regime finally reconciled with Hamas in October 2022. Yet even though Syria is again supporting the most deadly of the terror groups Israel has been fighting, when Syria asked for humanitarian aid, Israel without hesitation agreed.
It was the same when the leaders of the P.A. and Hamas, who have spent their lives denouncing Israel, made sure that when they or their relatives needed medical care, they would be treated by Israeli doctors in Israeli hospitals. Israel never turned them down. These patients included the PA’s chief propagandist Saeb Erekat, who when he caught COVID-19 insisted on being treated at the Hadassah Hospital, where he received a standard of care unobtainable in Palestinian hospitals. Mahmoud Abbas, his wife, his brother, and his brother-in-law were all treated for serious illnesses by Israeli doctors. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar denounced Israel endlessly, but when he needed a heart operation, he insisted on going to an Israeli hospital; once his life had been saved, he went right back to plotting against Israel.
The Jerusalem-based Sheikh Ikrima Sabri behaved the same way. For years, he spewed vicious propaganda and anti-Israeli and anti-American incitement from his pulpit in al-Aqsa mosque. When he was in charge as the “Mufti” (an Islamic legal authority), he led millions of Muslims in prayers – beamed all over the Muslim world by radio and the Internet – with his religious rants against the United States (“Allah will turn the White House black…”) and religious curses calling for the “annihilation of the Zionists” and “the destruction of Israel.” But when he urgently needed heart surgery, his first choice was…the Zionist-run Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. The Jewish doctors saved Sabri’s life, and like Yahya Sinwar, he returned to defaming Israel and inciting violence and terrorism against Jews, even more fervently than in the past.
Now Israeli aid is winging its way to Turkey and to Syria. Neither country is likely to change its hostility toward the Jewish state. There is a moral in this story. But I don’t think the army of Israel-haters will allow themselves to find it.