Natural disasters are always difficult times for the victims to go through. For most people, they are traumatic experiences. In an earthquake of the large seismic magnitude that recently hit Haiti (January 12) and Chile (February 27) there is very little people could prepare against. Chile and Haiti were struck by earthquakes of magnitude 8.8 and 7.0, respectively. In spite of the progress that science has made in recent decades, we are still at the mercy of such natural disasters. Our best efforts can’t even predict earthquakes.
A preventive measure, therefore, has always been about how to minimize the effects of an earthquake. Preparedness and education are sure recipes for curtailing effects of such disasters. It is known that more people die from falling structures, heavy objects, beams, roofs, etc. than earthquake itself. The lighter the structures are the lower the casualties from an earthquake. As such, most modern states require strict building codes, e.g., so that buildings can withstand at least a 7.0 scale tremor. But as we know too well policies don’t necessarily translate into enforcement, and as such building codes are hardly followed in most third world countries where with the right kind of bribe and government connection almost anything can be bought and evaded. It is no surprise to learn that the death toll in Haiti may reach 300,000 while the comparable number in Chile may not even reach a thousand. This is interesting given the fact that the earthquake in Chile is the seventh strongest ever recorded in history, and was nearly hundred times stronger than that of Haiti. Credit there for less casualty goes to the slain President Salvador Allende of Chile who in 1972, a year before his overthrow in a CIA-coup, enforced strict seismic building codes. This revelation may come as a surprise to free market fundamentalists, the disciples of Milton Friedman -- who was opposed to any government regulation, seeing them as yet another infringement on capitalist freedom.
One of the most common features of such natural disasters has been the looting that follows. Very few people are left with enough supplies to meet their thirst and hunger. Thus, when disaster relief responses are slow in coming, everyone is for itself and many people turn into violence, looting stores and markets. Not surprisingly, we heard news reports filled with images of bands of men armed with rifles, metal stakes and hatchets stalking the streets of Port-au-Prince and the coastal city of Concepción, attacking firefighters, looting and burning supermarkets and adding an air of menace to the already tragic situation.
Politics, or more appropriately public diplomacy, is often difficult to be separated from natural disasters. Wherever disasters strike, the local government can become a casualty. Some wealthy nations don’t want to be seen as filthy, heartless, misers that don’t care about the plights of the victims and are, thus, often the first ones to send relief supplies. Some humanitarian gestures are outright hypocritical and insincere though. Consider the case of Israeli relief work during the recent Haiti crisis. There was so much publicity around the “humanitarian” activities of the Israeli (IDF) Medical Corps, providing first aid services to injured victims of the earthquake that we hardly heard anything about the sincere and noble work of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), let alone the Zakat Foundation of the USA or other relief agencies.
Haiti offered a picture perfect venue for Israel’s public diplomacy. Press officers from the Israeli military were flown in, as were photographers and a video team to document the work of Israeli medical and rescue personnel. They distributed daily footage to the press. “In Europe, Israel’s image is defined by the Goldstone report, so news items like those coming from Haiti can definitely help change that image,” said an Israeli official referring to the United Nations report that accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes.
As confirmed by the Israeli official, the Israeli relief effort in Haiti was a charade to hide Israel’s dirty past. Just about a year earlier, some 1500 Palestinians, a vast majority being unarmed civilians, were killed like cats and dogs in Gaza by the same IDF. The Goldstone Report, endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, accused Israel of committing war crimes. The three-week long savage, genocidal blitzkrieg damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes, 15 of Gaza’s 27 hospitals and 43 of its 110 primary health care facilities, 800 water wells, 186 greenhouses, and nearly all of its 10,000 family farms; leaving 50,000 homeless, 400,000-500,000 without running water, one million without electricity, and resulting in acute food shortages. If the Netanyahu government in Israel was sincere to help those in need it need not travel 10,500 kilometers to Haiti. Gaza is only half an hour away.
The blatant Israeli hypocrisy with Haiti’s relief work was not lost amongst conscientious journalists and activists though. Akiva Eldar, an Israeli columnist of the newspaper Haaretz, wrote on January 18, just a few days after the Haiti earthquake, “A few days before Israeli physicians rushed to save the lives of injured Haitians, the authorities at the Erez checkpoint prevented 17 people from passing through in order to get to a Ramallah hospital for urgent corneal transplant surgery.” “Perhaps they voted for Hamas. The remarkable identification (among Israelis) with the victims of the terrible tragedy in distant Haiti only underscores the indifference to the ongoing suffering of the people of Gaza,” he lamented, referring to Israel’s tight blockade of the territory.
Another group of people that rush into the territories that are hit by natural disasters are the missionaries – the soul-snatchers. And Haiti had her share of such visitors. Soon after George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq that devastated the country in a Judeo-Christian orgy of mass murder and war crimes, destroying its entire infrastructure, putting the clock back to pre-Islamic Jahiliyah, we saw those missionaries doing their lord’s work amongst the victims with Arabic Bibles in their hands! Reportedly they had the blessing of Bush Jr., who claimed to have direct line with God. And before that we saw the Korean missionaries in Afghanistan with Dari and Pushto Bibles to salvage the “lost” Muslim souls! The Australian Baptist missionaries have drawn much notoriety for their declared goals to save the souls of Muslims in South Asia.
So, it was left to the American Baptists from Idaho to now work on the voodoo-ridden “lost” Christian souls of Haiti. The tele-evangelist Pat Robertson declared that the Haitians had brought the earthquake unto themselves by mixing voodoo religion with Christianity. He should explain this to the pure-bred Christian Armenians, Italians and (now) Chileans, or better yet, the Christian residents of California and New Orleans. Well, they may not be the right kind of Christians, in the dictionary of bigots like Pat!
What is so outrageous with the activities of these Idaho Baptist missionaries is that they tried to smuggle 33 children out of Haiti illegally. On 5 February ten missionaries were charged in Haiti with criminal association and kidnapping. The missionaries claimed they were rescuing orphaned children but investigations revealed that more than 20 of the children had been taken from their parents after they were told the children would have a better life in America. These parents were not told that their children would be put up for adoption. The children are now being cared for at the Austrian-run SOS Children's Village in Port-au-Prince. An official there, Patricia Vargas, said none of the children who are old enough to talk have said they were orphans.
As noted by Slate.com most of the children came from the quake-ravaged village of Callebas. Their stories contradicted Laura Silsby's (the group leader) account that the children came from collapsed orphanages or were handed over by distant relatives. She said the Americans believed they had all the paperwork needed — documents she said she obtained in the Dominican Republic — to take the children out of Haiti. She lied not only to the parents of those children, but also to the group's Dominican lawyer (they also have a Haitian one), who said only minutes before the charges were announced he was planning to charter a plane for the group's return to the United States.
New information has surfaced showing that Silsby is an Idaho businesswoman with a complicated financial history that involves complaints from employees over unpaid wages, state liens on a company bank account and lawsuits in small claims court. She defaulted last July on the mortgage on a house in an unfinished subdivision in Meridian, a suburb of Boise, according to the Ada County Tax Assessor’s Office. Yet in November, Ms. Silsby registered a new nonprofit, the New Life Children’s Refuge, at the address of the house, which she bought in 2008 for $358,000. New Life Children’s Refuge is the name of the orphanage Ms. Silsby and the nine other Americans charged in Haiti said they had planned to establish in the Dominican Republic. Ms. Silsby and her business, Personal Shopper, which provides shopping services for Internet customers, have faced multiple legal claims. According to state records and officials, Personal Shopper has been named 14 times in complaints from employees over unpaid wages. Ms. Silsby lost the house in Meridian to foreclosure on Dec. 7, records show, and it now stands empty, with signs in the yard promoting a foreclosure sale.
Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has labelled the American missionaries "kidnappers". American Baptists have requested the U.S. government to save the missionaries. Eight of the kidnappers have recently been released from the prison. Silsby and another kidnapper missionary remain behind the bar. According to Haitian lawyer Edwin Coq, each count of kidnapping carries a possible sentence of five to 15 years, while each charge of criminal association carries a sentence of anywhere between three to nine years. A verdict will likely be handed down in three months.
Many years ago, a Sufi Master told me that the missionaries are the enemies of mankind. From the reports I have since collected and read, his wisdom has only been confirmed. Jumo Kenyatta, the founder of Kenya, had a famous saying, “When the missionaries came to Africa we had land; they had the Bible. They asked us to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them they had our land; we had the Bible."
Well, natural disasters are very attractive to robbers of all kinds – the local thugs that prey on the vulnerable people, the big brothers that want to white-wash their past crimes by robbing long-term memory of the suffering people with their petty donations and hypocritical gestures, and not to be forgotten in this context the charlatans that want to deflect our attention away from their killing fields – the Gaza, and the soul-snatching robbers – the missionaries. Lucky are those who can save themselves from such robbers!