Has Israel Turned Iran’s Deadly Earthquake Into a PR stunt?

Published November 15th, 2017 - 12:16 GMT
A man rests in the ruins of his home in Kermanshah province following Sunday's deadly earthquake (Atta Kenare/AFP)
A man rests in the ruins of his home in Kermanshah province following Sunday's deadly earthquake (Atta Kenare/AFP)
  • Israel's PM has offered to send aid to foe Iran despite multiple officials previously insisting no help would be given
  • The move has been seen by some as an empty gesture intended to promote Israel's international image 
  • Commenters say Israel could have expected the offer to be rejected given previous incidents
  • As many as 70,000 Iranians are in need of shelter following Sunday's earthquake

 

Has Israel turned Iran’s deadly earthquake into a PR stunt?

On Tuesday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he had offered aid to Iran and Iraq following the disaster.

The sudden move seemed to contradict multiple Israeli officials who had previously insisted that no assistance would be sent.

The context of Netanyahu’s offer, the fact it went against previous government statements and his rhetoric around it have seemed for some to indicate that it was about little more than boosting Israel’s image.

“I’ve said many times that we have no quarrel with the people of Iran,” the Israeli premier said, indicating he had offered to provide "medical assistance for the Iraqi and Iranian victims" to the Red Cross.

“Our quarrel is only with the tyrannical regime that holds them hostage and threatens our destruction,” he continued.

Israeli journalist Judah Ari Gross pointed out the about-turn in the official Israeli line.

 

On Monday, a spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry had said he was unaware of any relief offered to Iran and Iraq, where at least 540 have died.

Meanwhile, an Israeli army spokesperson had indicated that “the Home Front Command has not organized a delegation [for Iran and Iraq],” according to Times of Israel.

Another journalist, Raphael Ahren, also highlighted Netanyahu’s apparent divergence from his ministries.

The Israeli premier has repeatedly claimed that Israelis want to be friends the Iranian people. The two governments have no diplomatic relations and Israel considers Iran to be an "enemy state" and the "main threat to Israel's security." Iran, meanwhile, does not recognize Israel as a legitimate state.

 

 

 

In January, he even issued a Facebook video, subtitled in Farsi, which addressed “every Iranian.”

“By calling daily for Israel's destruction, the regime hopes to instill hostility between us,” Netanyahu said. “This is wrong. We are your friend, not your enemy. We've always distinguished between the Iranian people and the Iranian regime."

This way in which Israel posits itself as the ally of the Iranian people against its government has been mirrored by U.S. President Trump’s words.

Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly in September, Trump said “the longest-suffering victims of Iran's leaders are, in fact, its own people.”

It is no coincidence that Netanyahu was addressing a conference in the U.S. when he made the dramatic change of policy. He was speaking via video link to the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly in Los Angeles.

Trump and Netanyahu are the staunchest opponents to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which lifted crippling economic sanctions from the Middle Eastern nation.

The White House has not proposed to send help to Iran, despite Bernie Sanders suggesting in a tweet that it could be “an important act of friendship” amid “growing tension between our two countries.”

While Tehran has made no public response to Netanyahu’s supposed offer, an official from his office reportedly said it was immediately rejected.

Some online suggested that Netanyahu could have known that would be the reply.

Following a 2003 earthquake which killed 26,000 Iranians, the then Iranian interior minister said that they could not accept aid from Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

The implication is that this was an empty promise, but one that allowed Netanyahu to frame Israel in a positive light to a foreign audience.

“Our humanity is greater than their hatred,” he said.

“Israel continues to be a light unto the nations and this is what I am proud of. And all of you can be proud of Israel’s morals, and Israel’s might.”

By extension, it also gave an opportunity to take the moral high-ground.

“This shows the true face of the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu’s office said in response to the rejection, according to Times of Israel.

Comments from Israelis online took a similar tone.

 

While Netanyahu has been busy using the earthquake as an opportunity to promote Israeli generosity, survivors in Iran’s Kurdish-majority Kermanshah province have been desperately appealing for assistance. More than 5,000 were injured in the disaster and as many as 70,000 people are in need of shelter, according to one aid agency, the BBC reported.


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