Israels ambassadör i Sverige Isaac Bachman skriver i Nerikes Allehanda:
Nästan varje gång Israel nämns i svenska medier handlar det om politik och de olyckliga omständigheter som är resultatet av att vara ett samhälle med västerländska värderingar mitt i Mellanöstern – en region där totalitära ideologier, terrorism och förtryck annars är normen.
Det som är olyckligt med detta trångsynta mediefokus är att den svenska allmänheten ges en förvrängd bild av Israel och går miste om alla de värderingar, intressen och mål som de delar med det israeliska folket.
Redan nio år efter att staten Israel utropades 1948 antog landet en officiell biståndsstrategi för att tillhandahålla livsnödvändigt bistånd och livräddande teknologi till över 140 länder, till och med länder som inte ens erkänner Israel.
Israels humanitära arbete inleddes officiellt 1957 då MASHAV, Israels center för internationellt samarbete, etablerades. MASHAV strävar efter att hjälpa länder lindra svält, sjukdomar och fattigdom genom att ge teknisk utbildning och dela med sig av teknik som förbättrar livskvalitet. Sedan MASHAV etablerades har man utbildat nästan 270 000 personer från cirka 132 länder.
Translation into English:
Almost every time Israel is mentioned in the Swedish media it’s about politics and the unfortunate circumstances that arise from being a society with Western values located in the Middle East – a region where oppression, totalitarianism, and terrorism are the norm. What is unfortunate with this narrow media focus is that the Swedish public gets a distorted view of Israel and misses out on all of the values, interests and goals that they share with the Israeli people.
Israel is a Western-style democracy with a free press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and with equal rights to all its citizens regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. The fact that Israel manages to remain the only democracy with free market values in the Middle East should serve as an inspiration to everyone who believes in democracy and freedom. What is even more astounding is the fact that, despite having faced numerous wars and many waves of terrorism, Israel has showed a longtime eagerness and commitment to help other countries.
Starting 9 years after its founding, Israel adopted an official humanitarian aid agenda, providing vital relief and life-saving technology to more than 140 countries, even countries that do not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.
Israel’s humanitarian efforts formally began in 1957 with the establishment of MASHAV, Israel’s Center for International Cooperation. MASHAV assists countries striving to alleviate global problems of hunger, disease and poverty by providing technical training and sharing technology to improve quality of life. Since its establishment MASHAV has trained close to 270,000 course participants from approximately 132 countries in Israel and in their own countries.
In Israel there are also many other players that are involved in international humanitarian work besides the state, including some incredibly successful NGOs. One Israeli-based international, non-profit organization that has managed to receive attention worldwide is Save a Child’s Heart, founded in 1995. Save A Child’s Heart is one of the largest undertakings in the world providing urgently needed pediatric heart surgery and follow-up care for children from Third World and developing countries. All children, regardless of sex, ethnicity, religion, or financial consideration receive the best possible care that modern medicine has to offer in a state owned hospital in Israel. To date, Save A Child’s Heart has saved the lives of over 3,700 children from Africa, South America, Asia, Europe and throughout the Middle East. In fact, almost half of those saved are from the Palestinian Authority controlled areas, Jordan and Iraq.
Another significant Israeli-based humanitarian aid agency is IsraAID, founded in 2001 with the purpose of bringing together Israeli and Jewish aid organizations with expertise in the fields required to provide humanitarian aid in the wake of a disaster. IsraAID has already managed to respond to crises in 29 countries, trained more than 5,000 local professionals, distributed over 1,000 tons of relief and medical supplies and helped over one million people.
Besides providing humanitarian aid and life-saving technology to countries around the world, Israel has, due to tragic circumstances, become a world leader in handling mass casualties. The knowledge and experience gained by rescuing Israelis from buses and buildings blown up by terrorists have been applied to save victims of natural disasters all over the world including Haiti, Nepal, Turkey, Greece, Mexico, Afghanistan and India, as well as victims of violence in Rwanda, Kosovo, Kenya, Argentina and Cambodia. Arguably, no other country can dispatch search and rescue teams and set up field hospitals as fast and effectively.
When the 2004 tsunami ravaged parts of Southeast Asia, Israel was among the first three countries to provide aid. After Japan suffered the worst earthquake in its history in 2011, followed by a tsunami, the field hospital established by Israel was the first to be set up by any nation offering assistance. When Haiti suffered the terrible 2010 earthquake, Israel’s 236 member relief team was the first on the scene and earned international praise as it was the only field hospital able to do complex surgery in the devastated country. In 2015 when a massive earthquake hit Nepal, Israel sent the largest delegation of foreign medical personnel to the area – almost four times larger than the second largest delegation and 15 times larger than the largest European delegation.
Like most Western societies Israel wants to help to improve the world. Israel began its humanitarian agenda very early on when it was still a developing country that had recently faced extraordinary challenges from both abroad and from within. Just three generations later Israel has transformed into a developed technological hub known for its spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. As Israel has developed domestically it has been able to expand the humanitarian assistance offered abroad. This trend will continue and I hope that together with other like-minded societies we will continue to alleviate the global problems of hunger, disease and poverty.