Sunday, January 31, 2010

Eretz Nehederet, Israeli "SNL," on the Israeli efforts in Haiti

Above you will find an amusing skit from the weekly Israeli television satire, Eretz Nehederet. From what I understand, the Israeli government's and army's efforts in Haiti have made front page news in the States. It certainly did here, too.

The skit is hilarious. Certainly gives Jon Stewart, Larry Wilmore and Aasif Mandvi  a run for their money in terms of champions of sardonic wit.

Among the stories about Israel's involvement in Haiti, on both sides of the ocean, some have criticized Israel's aid (in the most extreme manifestations) as a media ploy. The argument goes: there are countless human rights problems in Gaza — drive 50 km, and don't cross an ocean to save children dying under destruction.  (see here for a series of examples).

Under Rabbi Brant Rosen's personal blog post, and also the cross-listing on Jewschool, reads:

If it comes from Israel, is it still “Israel bashing?”

This cynicism is caustic. I will not go as far to say it's dangerous. But it lacks subtlety and shows a certain discomfort with one's arguments.

It's a satire, folks. An amusing, hilarious political commentary.

I say this with a dose of frustration and anger because it seems to me to be the height of absurdity to criticize Israel, its military, its government, in any way for going to Haiti and setting up hospitals for one of the great natural disasters in my lifetime. It is the height of irony to be so harmfully cynical about Israel's motives for saving lives in Haiti.  Objectively, the Israeli army was the first to arrive.

Moreover, such a claim on the above blog uses precisely the same tools of political gain that the individual is accusing Israel for in the first place. (Translation: to accuse Israel of manipulating its political and moral image in the world because of its action in Israel = using said "manipulation" for political gains to push Israel down and hence elevate the suffering of Gazans).

Let us all elevate the level of discourse in this entire process. Cynicism acts as the foil to hope.

Rabbi Heschel articulates this agenda throughout God in Search of Man, manifested here as an example:

The dreadful confusion, the fact that there is nothing in this world that is not a mixture of good and evil, of holy and unholy, of silver and dross, is, according to Jewish mysticism, the central problem of history and the ultimate issue of redemption. The confusion goes back to the very process of creation (371).

One can and should criticize Israel in various ways, politically, religiously, for some of its moral choices. Because it takes way to long to do something as simple as paying the electricity bill.

But don't go looking to do so. It's ugly.  And it undermines the fundamental arguments, often important ones in their own right, that you are trying to make.

Israel's actions can and should be celebrated. In this case. And in countless others, as well.

We can hold tensions in balance. And when we lose this capacity, we destroy ourselves with the dangers of polarities.

1 comment:

  1. For some non-satire coverage of the Israeli effort in Haiti