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March 17, 2011 1:32 am

Where are the Arab Offers of Aid to Japan?

avatar by Joshua Gleis

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Red Cross tent in Japan. Photo: Rudolf Ammann

The massive earthquake, numerous tsunamis, and subsequent nuclear troubles to hit Japan will no doubt go down in history as one of the world’s worst disasters to hit a country this century. Not since Hurricane Katrina have we seen so many casualties and such widespread damage take place in an industrialized state. Japan’s prime minister recently called the series of calamities the greatest disaster to strike his country since World War II. Clearly in need of assistance, nearly 70 countries have offered aid. As the largest and most capable of countries to do so, the United States has taken the lead in this effort. Yet other stories of assistance are truly heartwarming. Israel offered to send rescue teams just one hour after reports broke of the Japanese earthquake. It now has numerous teams from ZAKA and Isra-AID either in place or en route to assist. Jewish aid organizations such as the Jewish American Joint Distribution Committee have mobilized, as have the Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, and numerous Red Cross organizations. Even the impoverished city of Kandahar in Afghanistan offered $50,000 as a token of appreciation and friendship.

Since the end of World War II, Japan has been one of the most generous donors to the international community. Rather tellingly, when the 8.9 earthquake struck northern Japan, its own rescue units were in New Zealand helping that country recover from their earthquake. Its forces have regularly been dispatched around the world to help international aid efforts. The island nation has also offered some of the greatest amount of financial aid. After the massive tsunami struck Indonesia in 2005, Japan offered $500 million in aid – nearly as much as the United States, Great Britain, and China combined. For Afghanistan, it pledged $5 billion in aid- over one third of the total aid pledged worldwide. In the Arab world, Japan has served as a leading donor to the Palestinians via UNWRA, and has also provided assistance to the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Jordan and Yemen – to name a few.

Yet despite these realities, there is a deafening silence coming from the Arab world in response to Japan’s numerous catastrophes. Arab states sit atop the largest oil reserves in the world. According to the International Monetary Fund, in 2010, both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates sat in the top ten countries in the world with the highest per-capita GDP. Nonetheless, at the time of publication, there have been no reported offers of aid to Japan from any Arab country – either financial or otherwise. In fact, if you were to Google the words ‘Arab aid to Japan’ (without quotes), the only relevant hit would be the first – which is a blogger mocking the Arab world for its silence. Contrast this with a Google search for ‘Israel aid to Japan’ or ‘Jewish aid to Japan’, and the differences are staggering: you find pages upon pages of relevant hits. Similar hits can be found when searching for Jewish and Israeli aid activities for Thailand, India, Turkey, Pakistan, and of course, Haiti.

Few countries were more prepared for such tragedy than the Japanese: proactive building codes, a tsunami alert system, and a solid organizational structure that was trained and available in the event of an emergency. Most other countries in the world would undoubtedly have seen a significantly higher number of casualties if faced with a similar situation. Yet despite Japan’s best efforts, it was overcome by the sheer force and amount of devastation compounded by the back-to-back-to-back catastrophes.

Here in the West, while countries are engulfed in revolutions in the Middle East and tragedies in Japan, self described “peace activists” are engaged in a worldwide effort to portray Israel as the ultimate villain during “Israel Apartheid Week”. They argue that Israel more closely resembles an apartheid state than any other country in the world, and believe it is deserving of its very own set of boycotts, divestments and sanctions. When considering current events and realities on the ground, I hope that the Jews, Israelis, and Zionists around the world hold their heads up high knowing that they are doing what they can do assist their friends and act as responsible members of the international community. When one of the world’s most generous donor states in recent decades has itself needed assistance, much of the world mobilized to help. Let’s not forget who failed to act.

Dr. Joshua Gleis is an international security consultant and political risk analyst. He is the author of “Withdrawing Under Fire: Lessons Learned from Islamist Insurgencies” (Potomac Books, $29.95)

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