Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Faith and Hope, but Whither Charity?

by Ken Houghton

Discussing the Most Famous (Reviled?) Article in the Blogsphere, Big Media Matt and Scott Lemieux elide the crux of the question in light of current events for the Bigger Picture.

Matt declares:
Personally, I would be fascinated to read a serious defense of the proposition that making Israel by far the largest recipient of American foreign aid serves our national interests or else is dictated by considerations of abstract morality.

While Scott chimes in:
But moreover, I also don't understand the decision to focus on the power of the pro-Israel lobby, because it's ultimately beside the point.

Angelica's post yesterday goes to the heart of a matter weighing heavily on what passes for my mind these days, but it's my drive-to-the-station radio station of choice that provokes today's question.

Yesterday's show featured a member of Simply Tsfat calling not to discuss their coming tour but rather the needs of the people of Tsfat (Safed), who have been hit by Hezbollah missiles. He gave a website, a telephone number, and noted that much of the infrastructure of the city had been damaged or destroyed, that many people have left as refugees--in short, that help was needed.

Which is no secret. War damages both sides, no matter what. And that's the crux of the issue. As the Lovely and Talented Shakes notes, "there have been 12 civilian deaths in Israel versus 183 in Lebanon" (current "score," per CNN, 29 to 300). And one need only ask Michael Totten if there are Lebanese refugees.

Here's the rub, and why the well-intentioned Matt and Scott are wrong: giving to the charity named on Jewish Moments in the Morning is certainly safe. There is no chance that the United States will investigate it and discover that its funds are used to support anything the government would define as "terrorist activities." The steps in the process--investigation, discovery, evidence gathering--are simply not going to happen.

The same cannot be said if one wanted--as I do--to give to a charity specifically targeting Lebanese civilians and refugees.

As Duncan Black observed yesterday, "Politics is a contact sport. Those who would paper it over with a veneer of false propriety are pretending it's something that it is not."

And one aspect of that is that the political cover provided ensures that I have multiple options to which to donate for charities supporting Israel without fear of later being accused of supporting "terrorists," while the only clear options for Lebanon are places such as the American Friends Services Committee or Oxfam--but even there, they are providing aid only to Israel-controlled territories.

As Katrina made clear (by its lack of same), the key to effective aid is how quickly it is supplied. Israel, with relatively little damage, has multiple avenues of support. Lebanon, facing a far greater crisis in both infrastructure and refugees, cannot be supported without fear or favor. It case, "the power of the pro-Israel lobby" is precisely the point in attempting to allocate charitable donations.

Please feel free to note charities that are specifically targeting Lebanese refugees in comments.

UPDATE: At least the Europeans have the right idea:
Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the EU's executive Commission, said it was committing 10 million euros to meet the most urgent needs "in this very initial phase".
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