Israel in Haiti: Internet critics have their say By Mark Mietkiewicz "In less than a week in Haiti," Nathan Guttmann writes at Forward.com, "250 Israeli doctors, nurses and rescue workers not only saved numerous lives of people trapped and wounded - they did more for their country's image than marketing experts have in years." [bit.ly/isrht01] Selfess act or a p.r. stunt? Today the online debate over why Israel really went to Haiti. Israeli efforts have been documented by network TV and links have been circulated and recirculated via countless email messages. € CNN: "I've been here since Thursday. No one except the Israeli hospital has taken any of our patients." [bit.ly/isrht02] € ABC: "Before we knew it, ultrasounds, IV's, medications. Soraya was now getting better care at the Israeli field hospital] than she could ever have imagined." [bit.ly/isrht03] € SKYNEWS: "It's taken eight hours of risky, arduous work for his [Israeli] rescuers and on their faces it shows. So does the gratitude of the Haitians for what they have done." [bit.ly/isrht04] And the Israel Defense Forces haven't relied on the networks to get their message out. Their English website has over a dozen Haiti-related articles [bit.ly/isrht19] as well as several videos on their YouTube channel. [bit.ly/isrht06] You can even get instant updates via the IDFinHaiti Twitter feed. ("827 patients treated, 24 hospitalized, 251 surgeries, 14 births in at the IDF field hospital in Haiti") [bit.ly/isrht07] Meanwhile critics abound in online discussion boards. "I guess giving Israel credit for good deeds in Haiti is like watching a serial killer or other sociopathic type mow an old woman's lawn." [bit.ly/isrht09] And the Internet being the Internet, it's not hard to find people spouting blood libels that Israelis may be in Haiti looking for a supply of body parts for organ transplants. [bit.ly/isrht08] Some of the most pointed criticism has appeared in the Israeli press. Writing in Haaretz, Akiva Eldar lauds the work of the rescuers and the physicians. But his compliments stop there. "The disaster in Haiti is a natural one; the one in Gaza is the unproud handiwork of man. Our handiwork. The IDF does not send cargo planes stuffed with medicines and medical equipment to Gaza. ... At the same time that Israeli psychologists are treating Haiti's orphans with devotion, Israeli inspectors are making sure no one is attempting to plant a doll, a notebook or a bar of chocolate in a container bringing essential goods into Gaza." [bit.ly/isrht10] Sever Plocker continues with a similar theme at Ynetnews.com, "The Gaza Strip is ruled by a murderous terror organization, yet dozens of innocent children were killed there during Operation Cast Lead. Without taking anything away from the wonderful dedication and volunteer spirit shown by Israeli teams in Haiti, they should not be surprised to be challenged by the provocative question: "Have you been to Gaza already?" [bit.ly/isrht11] Bradley Burston doesn't buy the criticism as he writes in Haaretz. "...Israelis, like people in all countries where war is endemic, and like Palestinians, have demonstrated enormous reservoirs of humanity under inhuman stresses.... True, it is willful blindness to contend that Israel can do no wrong. But it is nothing short of racism to maintain, in Haiti and in general, that Israelis can do no right." [bit.ly/isrht12] With her tongue firmly planted in her cheek, The Telegraph's Stephanie Gutmann takes on critics of the Haiti mission with a column titled, "Israel builds a field hospital in Haiti. Anti-Zionists not fooled!" [bit.ly/isrht13] And Israeli cabinet minister Isaac Herzog explains the efforts but without the irony. "We see this as part of Israel's humanitarian outreach. ... Haiti was one of the countries that supported us on Nov. 29, 1947, [in the UN vote on the establishment of the state], and now it's our turn to support them." [bit.ly/isrht14] It should be noted that there are many other Israeli and Jewish organizations helping Haiti including IsraAid: The Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, the American Jewish World Service, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Chabad and Magen David Adom. [bit.ly/isrht15] Members of ZAKA are best known for their tireless efforts to retrieve body parts of the victims of terror attacks in Israel. [bit.ly/isrht17] ZAKA's Matti Goldstein explains why his team came to Haiti - and continued to work even on Shabbat. "People asked, 'Why are you here? There are no Jews here', but we are here because the Torah orders us to save lives... We are desecrating Shabbat with pride." [bit.ly/isrht18] Mark Mietkiewicz is a Toronto-based Internet producer who writes, lectures and teaches about the Jewish Internet. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.