Love Your Enemy: Israelis infiltrate Syria to provide aid - Part II

Wednesday, August 08, 2012 |  Elizabeth Blade

This is Part II of a three-part story on Israelis infiltrating Syria to help refugees. If you have not done so already, we suggest first reading Exclusive: Israelis infiltrate Syria to provide clandestine aid - Part I

The group's leader, Sarah (not her real name), explains her motivations: “I am guided by my conscience. Even though the Holocaust of the Jewish people is over, massacres are still taking place and Syria is no exception,” she told Israel Today, stressing that the prevention of humanitarian aid should be considered as a crime.

Apart from saving lives, the organization is also improving Israel’s reputation in the eyes of the Arab world, shattering the myths and propaganda that they had been fed about the “cruel Israeli enemy”. “Though it has been more of a side effect than a top priority, people’s stance towards Israel did change,” said the woman, pointing out that most Syrians were shocked after learning about the true identity of those helping them. Others, however, promised to spread the word about the good-natured Israelis.

“One of the men asked me to show him my passport, reluctant to believe my assurances,” Sarah told the magazine. “When I finally handed him the document proving my words, he started kissing it, blessing the State of Israel,” she continued, adding that the eyes of many have been opened after realizing how much they have been poisoned with false information.

Other stories were even more striking. Talking to a woman, who got pregnant after being raped by a soldier, Sarah offered to take her to Israel, knowing that an abortion was a luxury the woman couldn’t afford. “When I told her I was Israeli, she looked at me and exclaimed: Israelis, what took you so long to come and save us?” Sarah said laughing.

Nevertheless, there are those who question the motives of the NGO, suggesting that Israelis have a hidden agenda. “Helping people is just a pretext,” said Mohammed, not his real name, a Middle East expert from one of Cairo’s leading analytical institutions. “The idea behind their mission is to collect information and pass it on to Israel’s intelligence service, the Mossad,” he claimed.

Dr. Eyal Zisser, a senior fellow at Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, dismissed Mohammed’s comments, saying that no one should doubt the NGO’s goals. “Linking every Israeli to the Mossad is a typical approach that most often has no grounds,” continued the expert.

Ayoub Kara, a Deputy Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee, who has been particularly active in helping Syrian refugees, joined the chorus, arguing that the NGO was just moved by the desire to help. “There is an emotional aspect to this tragedy. We care about human rights,” said Kara, a member of Israel's Druze minority who currently serves as a member of the Israeli Knesset in the governing Likud party. “We want peace in this neighborhood, and to achieve it, we have to be sensitive to the suffering of those surrounding us,” he explained.

The member of the Knesset also expressed hope that the work of such NGOs would improve the image of the country. “In an attempt to address the issue, we hold talks with some elements of the Syrian opposition, who already expressed their willingness to bolster ties with the State of Israel,” said Kara, referring to cooperation in the spheres of human rights, refugees and IDPs.

Dr. Zisser, however, was not that optimistic, stating that there was little the country could do to boost Israel’s image. “I doubt that the deeds of the NGO will be able to change anything. What you often come across on the Arab street is that Jerusalem should first solve the problem of the Palestinian refugees before interfering in Syrian affairs”, he explained.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the third and final part of this story

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