The Historical Roots of Israel’s Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine

April 6 2022

While the Jewish state is not alone in sending assistance to beleaguered Ukraine, it is able to bring to bear its unique expertise when it comes to offering certain kinds of relief. Tammy Reznik explains:

Jerusalem has provided aid with a focus on its well-developed capacity to provide medical assistance, despite not sharing any borders with Ukraine. Israel acted quickly after the crisis hit, sending a professional mental-health delegation from the World Zionist Organization to Ukraine within the first week of the invasion, as well as a large shipment of medical supplies, equipment, and clothing to be shared [by] all citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish. This effort has been managed by multiple agencies, including the Foreign Ministry, Health Ministry, and leading Israeli hospitals.

Israel’s humanitarian effort culminated with an announcement on March 14 of a government-approved operation, Kokhav Meir, [literally “shining star”]—named after Israel’s Ukraine-born prime minister Golda Meir. This operation will see the setting up of a field hospital on the ground in Ukraine, with at least 100 staff members. . . . Israel has long been renowned for its capacity to set up these field hospitals in emergency zones, but this case is significant for a number of reasons.

The field hospital, of course, is but one of several initiatives, which include inter alia the purchase and provision of generators for the hospital in Lviv. Reznick also explains the special significance of the operation’s name:

Israel by way of tragic circumstance has developed a leading role in response to mass casualties. As such, Israel has established a set of extremely effective procedures for rapid and effective response in case of emergency, with a recognition of the mental-health impacts, as a key aspect of its international response.

Israel’s humanitarian efforts, began in 1958, with the establishment of MASHAV, a Hebrew acronym for the Agency for International Development Cooperation, following the first visit of the then-Foreign Minister Golda Meir to Africa. . . . Meir, who went on to become Israel’s first and only female prime minister, played a significant role in Israel’s crisis response, and MASHAV is one of her strongest legacies. Interestingly, Meir is a popular figure in Ukraine, thanks to her own Ukrainian heritage (she was born and spent most of her childhood in Kyiv).

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Read more at Fresh Air

More about: Golda Meir, Humanitarian aid, War in Ukraine

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy