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

Thursday, August 09, 2012 |  Elizabeth Blade

This is the third 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 and Love Your Enemy: Israelis infiltrate Syria to provide aid - Part II

Nevertheless, Israel continues to provide help to the needy. In a phone interview with this Israel Today, Kara stressed that the Israeli government works tightly with various voluntary entities, encouraging them to take action.

“We are willing to open doors to those seeking professional treatment, or, alternatively, fly medical aid to the victims of the Assad massacres”, he said, while agreeing that the Syrian authorities would never allow such assistance.

Sarah has also acknowledged the government’s involvement. “It has always been by my side whenever I needed to get more medicine or necessary equipment, like blankets”, she said but expressed concern over the lack of similar NGOs inside Israel. “We might boast a nice array of organizations that tackle poverty inside our country but none of them is doing what we do,” she reasoned.

Kara disagreed, saying that there are a lot of similar NGOs – many of which cooperate with leading international bodies like the Red Cross – but stressed that many of them are unable to do much due to various logistical and and financial problems.

Last June the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs appealed for more donations. To assist displaced persons in Syria, the report said it needed USD $180 million along with USD $192 million to assist the country’s refugees. But so far only 20% and 26% (respectively) of those sums were granted, leaving thousands waiting for help in conditions that put their lives at risk.

Meanwhile, some people have already started voicing their concerns over the dreadful conditions in the camps. According to a Lebanese news website, Now Lebanon, the newly-established Zaatari camp in Jordan falls short of international standards, with some complaining that the place lacks proper bathrooms, not to mention sufficient amounts of food and water.

The situation is no better in neighboring Lebanon, where residents of the border town of Arsal in the eastern part of the country accused the UN of helping only 150 families out of the 600 total, urging them to assume their tasks.

According to some estimates, Lebanon needs about USD $115 million to help the Syrians it is currently hosting. The European Union (EU) ambassador Angelina Eichhorst said in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir that the EU, which had already allocated 3 million Euros, is ready to provide Lebanon with assistance. Similar sentiments were echoed by several Gulf states and the US ambassador to Lebanon, Maura Connelly.

Yet, despite the heavy cash injections, there are some who think the international bodies aren't doing their job properly. “The UN does help refugees but when it comes to IDPs it fails to act decisively,” said Sarah, admitting that the difficulty in approaching victims of Syria's crisis bogged down many operations of the institution. “The Red Crescent is present but it has no power as it employs only locals who can be easily threatened and manipulated by the Syrian government. These organizations need foreigners, as they will listen to Geneva and their consciousness, rather than their governments,” she concluded.

Dr. Zisser partially agreed, saying that a lot of money is spent on financing various expenses like administration and other things that don't immediately benefit refugees. Yet, he also stressed that international community is committed to helping the Syrians.

With millions of dollars being pumped by Israelis into various forms of assistance for Syrian refugees, does Sarah wonder how much these efforts are acknowledged or appreciated? “I still haven’t asked Syrians if they would have done the same for me had anything of this magnitude happened in Israel,” she replied. “But I don’t care, all I do care about is my conscience”.

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