Jeffrey Goldberg is kvelling about Israel's field hospital in Haiti, here and here. (He also has a fine expose of the under-reporting of Egypt's brutal siege of Gaza, here, but that's not my present topic). Indeed, if you believe CNN or CBS, it's an impressive story.
I once asked Richard Silverstein why he only ever had bad things to say about Israel, and what that told us about him, but he rejected my insinuation: there's precious little about Israel that's positive, but in the rare cases there is, he's glad to report it. OK, fair enough (just barely). A team of Israelis saving lives at the other end of the world: moderately positive, don't you think? Not if you're Richard Silverstein. He has found a grumpy Israeli who has nasty things to say, and he gleefully amplifies his kvetches. The bottom line: Israelis saving lives in Haiti is a Bad Thing. (His blog, you'll recollect, is called Tikkun Olam).
Mondoweiss would prefer not to talk about the topic, but does mention it: why are Jews so great for everyone but the Palestinians? (Why, indeed. Let's see if we can think of any reasons).
As of yesterday, a week after the catastrophe, there were two field hospitals in Haiti. One was Israeli (the better equipped one, apparently). I looked for this fact on the Guardian's website, but was unable to find it. If any of you do manage to find it, feel free to correct me. Sometimes a lack of reporting can be as damning as a false report.
The interesting question, to my mind, is how come. OK, so Israelis are cynical and will bend over backwards to garner a positive mention on CNN, even if they have to cross the world and save lives to do so. This doesn't explain how they manage to do so, ahead of everyone else (or anyway, ahead of those who try at all). The answer to that, it seems to me, is that they think about such matters, and constantly try to improve. A fundamental aspect of the IDF (and of some other sections of Israeli society) is the commitment to learn as you go. Every event is analyzed. Participants, from the junior grunts up, are encouraged to think, and then to tell what they see and what their opinion about it is and how things could be done better. There are frameworks for learning from experience and not repeating the same mistakes (hafakat lekachim) - though there will always be new mistakes to be made, life being what it is.
Israelis go through more life threatening events than most people; they've got a culture that accepts and tolerates first-time mistakes, while encouraging everyone to think about how to avoid them the second time; and given their neighborhood, the potentials for future scenarios is great so at least some of them are thought about in advance. All this makes for abilities to respond which are greater than those of some other places. Yesterday, for example, they held a big exercise enacting a mass bio-terrorism attack on Tel Aviv by terrorists from Europe. Experts from 30 other countries decided not to boycott Israel but rather to come to Tel Aviv and observe the exercise.
Don't get me wrong: there is as much stupidity in Israel as anywhere else, and it hurts just as much. But not all the time, everywhere, and sometimes, mostly where it's most important, the stupidity gets sidelined. This can be a matter of life or death for Haitians.