“Nobody Asks Permission To Kill, We Don’t Ask Permission To Save Lives”
Gal was once called Syria’s Israeli Guardian Angel - and she certainly earned this title as she infiltrates countries that are hostile to her native Israel. But she does not infiltrate to kill or spy but in order to help. Her credo: “Nobody asks permission to kill, we don’t ask permission to save lives”. Together with her team Gal operates in countries that refuse humanitarian aid within their territory and that do not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel. And while helping, she focuses on those most often overlooked.
Gal, we are immensely proud and honoured that you agreed to speak to us. In return for your trust we agreed to keep your identity anonymous to protect your personal security. But tell us, what is it exactly that you do?
Our organization was established in 2005 in response to Article 7 of the Rome Statute and Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Article 7 outlines the United Nations’ definition for crimes against humanity, acts of aggression, genocide and war crimes, while Chapter 7 details “action with respect to threats to peace and acts of aggression”.
According to these statutes:
- Aid can only enter a sovereign country with the approval of the local regime.
- UN is obliged to pass all aid to the hands of the regime only, unless the regime has been condemned by the UN Human Rights / Security Council.
- Local regimes prevent distribution of aid to victims born to the “wrong” side of the political map.
- Prevention of aid is not considered to be a crime
We started our work in light of the understanding that UN member countries are allowed to deliver life-saving aid in cases of disasters or conflicts to the regimes or governments’ hands only unless the government of the disaster-stricken country has been condemned by the UN’s Human Rights Security Council (UN charter, chapter 7, UN Security Council). It is important to emphasize that a UN condemnation is a political act detached from the actual situation of victims and causalities in the field. Therefore, governments and regimes can easily transform disaster sites into weapons of mass-killing against wide sectors of political opposition by selectively preventing medical aid and food from entering the country. IFA believes that in the clash between justice (human rights) and international laws, justice prevails and that women and children should not pay the price for being born to one political side or another.
Why does a young woman decide to risk her own life to help others? Wasn’t there a less risky way to do good?
Me and the IFA team of volunteers represent the pulsating heart of the Israeli civil society and believe in the sanctity of human life and dignity as reflected in the Jewish “Halacha”.
I established IFA on the basis of the deepest Jewish values and the Jewish DNA. I believe that compassion, which is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition, is not inborn and must be taught and demonstrated from a very young age. This is why upon completing a mission in countries hostile to Israel and once our team members are on safe ground, we disclose to the locals their true Jewish and Israeli identities and by this touch young hearts and minds worldwide and bring these Jewish values to them too.
We often quote Isaiah, chapter 1, 16-17 “devote yourself to justice, aid the wronged, uphold the rights of orphan, defend the cause of the widow”.
You have entered countries that are hostile to your home country many times over. Don’t you think you are pushing your luck?
Our mission is to save lives where needed and not necessarily wherever it is legal and allowed with easy access and personal safety.
Is your government aware of your activity?
We were lucky enough to have been born to the only Democratic country between Marrakesh and Bangladesh, which does not limit our efforts worldwide. During the last years, our basic assumption is that the Israeli government is aware of our missions worldwide.
Do you ever make yourself known as an Israeli to the people that you help? And what’s their reaction?
In order to stay safe IFA team members work undercover using local appearance. The ability to gain the trust of our local contacts will directly effect the quality of the mission. Rarely, the team can disclose its' true identity in action and allow the other side to decide whether to continue the collaboration or not.
The reactions vary - from anger and feeling of betrayal to surprise and appreciation of the professional capabilities.
You mainly enter countries that Israel has no diplomatic relations with? Do you have a political agenda?
There is no political agenda when it comes to saving innocent lives. Throughout the years we have always made sure that the end users of our supplies and donations are innocent victims of disaster and dispute, and are mostly focused on orphans, widows and rape victims.
Aren’t the risks you take counterproductive to your cause?
Sadly, in 2020 dedicated volunteers need to hide their identity in order to maintain their physical safety while leaving their career, home and loved ones, in order to save sometimes the children and women of their sworn enemies. This consumes lots of time, energy and funding that could be invested in purchasing more critical aid and supplies.
You told me that the team you work with consist of Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. What does it mean for a Muslim to enter Syria for the cause of humanitarian aid, led by an Israeli?
It's important for me to emphasize that all of IFA's volunteers are Israeli civilians who have completed their military service and most are ex-commanders. Muslims, Christians, Druze and Jews, representing the melting pot of Israel's civil society.
For us the Jews, if ever we are caught we might be considered trade-able, whereas for a Muslim who is caught it is traitorism and will cost him his life through torture and definite death. Nevertheless, our Muslim volunteers are eager, motivated and fight over their right to participate in these missions.
Listening to your stories makes me feel I am talking to secret agent. Is that what it takes to be part of your organisation?
IFA is a civil organization and doesn't have access to any governmental database. Our own specialists are the ones that we as volunteers owe our personal safety and logistical capabilities that enable IFA's access to its' end users.
Apart from keeping safe, alive and out of jail - what are the biggest challenges you face?
Funding is our biggest challenge. Most donors pursue visible credit which is something that IFA cannot commit to provide due to the high risk missions and the need to protect its team and local contacts. Having said that, full financial and verbal reports are accessible to our trustworthy donors.
On the Syrian front, some of our donors where even invited to witness cross border aid missions.
Which country is currently in most need of humanitarian aid?
The list is endless. You have Yemen, Sudan, Niger, Mali, Chad, Syria, Somalia and many more. And children and women that were born to the wrong political side worldwide.
Who are your supporters and why do they do it?
IFA's supporters arrive from across the entire political range, we've gained their trust through out complete dedication to the victims' needs. For some of them it is important to provide civil rooted aid to minorities in distress that due to political barriers are not accessible to official governmental aid. IFA sees its supporters as true partners in its mission providing humanitarian aid while changing the minds and hearts of others, bridging gaps way beyond politics and diplomacy.
In your opinion, what does it take to bring peace to the Middle East?
Naivety and stupidity. The Middle East will not reach peace until we find true leaders instead of those politicians we vote for.
Gal, thank you so much for this interview. It was a real privilege talking to you.