Saturday, July 8, 2017

IsraAID—and Jewish values—on the ground in global refugee crisis

Zara Abrams,

image from

IsraAID, launched in 2001 and now serving refugees in 39 countries, is itself an interfaith organization, with team members of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Yazidi and Hindu faiths. But the organization’s co-CEO, Yotam Polizer, says Jewish values are a driving force for much of its leadership. ...
Polizer, the co-CEO of IsraAID, said the Jewish history of persecution has primed his organization to make special connections with marginalized groups. In particular, one camp near Thessaloniki is home to a large population of Yazidis, a Kurdish minority group from Iraq that the Islamic State has targeted.
“The Jewish people went through the Holocaust and were able to rebuild their countries afterwards,” Polizer said. “So Yazidis have come to us for mentorship.”
USC public diplomacy professor Nick Cull says Yazidis also acknowledge the unusual bond.
“The Kurds see Israel’s struggle for statehood as somehow anticipating the Kurdish struggle for recognition—so some of this is reflected in the bond between Israelis and Kurds,” he said. ...
“The aid is clearly branded so that people know it’s Israel helping them, and it’s part of a strategy to show countries around the world that Israel cares, and that Israel is a valuable member of international community,” said Cull.
Cull says that Israel may want to “win friends” for key United Nation[s] votes, or to simply redefine itself as a country.
When people hear the word Israel, they hear the word crisis—whether they’re an anti-Semite or a passionate Zionist. Anything Israel can do to show that it’s just another state, for instance by providing aid abroad, will improve its image,” he said. ...

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