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February 9, 2023 11:28 am
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The Earthquakes in Turkey & Syria: Israel Provides Aid, Haters Demonize Israel

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avatar by Chaim Lax

Opinion

An Israeli rescue team works to find survivors in southern Turkey following a pair of massive earthquakes, 8 February 2023 (Photo: Israeli government)

On February 6, 2023, two major earthquakes rocked southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria, killing thousands and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. To further complicate rescue operations, the region has been hit by sub-zero temperatures and snowy weather.

In response to the devastation caused by the earthquakes, Israel organized a relief mission to help with rescue efforts and provide treatment to those injured and traumatized by the destruction.

However, while Israel was mobilizing to help those most affected, anti-Zionists and antisemites on social media were using this opportunity to demonize and malign the Jewish state.

As Turkey and Syria were left reeling from the devastating impact of these earthquakes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would be sending “extraction, rescue and medical relief teams” to Turkey.

In addition, Netanyahu announced that, through coordination with a third party, Israel would be providing aid to Syria, even though the war-torn country is in a formal state of war with Israel and the two countries have no official relations.

This aid will include tents, medication, and blankets, as well as possible treatment of the wounded in Israeli hospitals.

The Israeli rescue effort, which is being dubbed Operation “Olive Branches,” is being carried out by members of the IDF Home Front Command’s search and rescue teams.

These are the same teams that were sent in the summer of 2021 to aid in the rescue efforts following the devastating collapse of a condominium building in the Miami suburb of Surfside.

Israel’s quick mobilization of a rescue mission is unsurprising given the Jewish state’s long history of humanitarian missions to areas devastated by earthquakes and other natural disasters.

As previously reported by HonestReporting, Israel’s storied history of aid missions to earthquake-stricken areas goes as far back as 1953, when the five-year-old state provided assistance to Greece following an earthquake on the Ionian islands.

Since then, Israel has sent missions to such varied locales as:

  • Mexico (following earthquakes in 1985 and 2017)
  • Armenia (following a 1988 earthquake)
  • India (following a 2001 earthquake)
  • Turkey (following earthquakes in 1999 and 2011)
  • Sri Lanka (following a 2004 earthquake and subsequent tsunami)
  • Haiti / Dominican Republic (following a 2010 earthquake)
  • Nepal (following a 2015 earthquake)
  • Albania (following a 2019 earthquake).

 

Hate, Conspiracies and Slander: Anti-Israel Responses to the Earthquakes

While Israeli rescuers were gearing up to fly to Turkey and assist in the rescue and treatment of those affected by the earthquakes, anti-Israeli provocateurs used the opportunity to spread lies and hate about the Jewish state on social media.

Some of the most heinous accusations and libels that have been lobbed against Israel include:

  • Journalist CJ Werleman’s comparison of the destruction wrought by the earthquakes to Israel’s demolition of illegal structures and homes of Palestinian terrorists.
  • The claim that the earthquake was caused by Israel, either by a missile strike or some other type of weapon.
  • Pro-Syrian regime propagandist Hadi Nasrallah’s manipulation of the earthquake tragedy to blame the West (including Israel) for Syria’s woes.
  • The false claim that “Zionist Media Outlets” focused attention solely on Turkey, without mentioning the destruction and deaths in Syria.
  • The claim that international aid missions are only going to Turkey and not Syria because Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a “Zionist servant.”
  • The claim (since removed) by Maria Dubovikova, a former columnist for Al Arabiya, that Israel detected the earthquake ahead of time but purposefully didn’t warn Turkey or Syria about it.
  • The claim by former journalist Daniel Easterman that Israel is only sending rescue teams to Turkey in order to “exploit the tragedy to gain political capital and improve it’s [sic] international image.”

Although these falsehoods and claims are (so far) confined to social media and have yet to penetrate traditional media, this does not mean that they should be taken lightly.

As recent studies have shown, social media has the ability to influence traditional media.

In addition, digital media is continuing to overtake traditional media as a primary news source, especially with the younger generations.

The fact that a number of these claims were peddled by people affiliated with the media only serves to highlight the dangerous influence that these lies and slanders may have on the general public.

The team at HonestReporting will continue to expose and fight anti-Israel lies and bias in traditional media, digital media, and social media.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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