By RON PROSOR
Last month, a group of Scandinavians pulled up anchor from a Swedish port and set off toward the Middle East under the pretense of delivering humanitarian aid. The Nordic fog may have clouded their choice of destination. The moral compass of these self-proclaimed human-rights activists steered them to the Gaza Strip, not Syria.
The fleets of flotillas, ferries, yachts, sailboats, canoes and catamarans and that have set sail for Gaza in recent years rival the size of the Spanish Armada. Yet one might argue that humanitarian flotillas are needed just a bit more urgently in Syria, where more civilians have been murdered by the Assad regime than those killed during Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and 9/11 combined.
The conflict in Syria has also claimed roughly four times as many victims in the past 20 months as were killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past 20 years. The residents of Gaza continue to enjoy more international assistance than virtually any other population on the planet, but almost no aid is reaching the two million people displaced within Syria—roughly 10% of the country’s population.
The flotilla crowd has different priorities. They prefer to work around the clock to protest Israel’s legitimate defense against the terrorists who target its citizens and fire thousands of rockets into its cities. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised: It’s much easier to face news cameras in Tel Aviv than bullets in Damascus.
Indeed, Israel is the luxury destination of choice for this type of “human-rights activist.” In Israel, these weekend revolutionaries are free from the dangers of arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and execution that abound in the totalitarian states that make up the rest of the region. Instead of trying to dig into the dark abyss of abuses in neighboring states, they prefer to lounge in the comfort of Israel’s democratic institutions, civil society and independent media, which offer a wealth of easily accessible information that they use to attack Israel.
The burden of democracy is always heavy, and Israel is proud to carry it. With more reporters and human-rights activists per capita than anywhere else on the planet, we understand deeply the invaluable role of civil society, even though its institutions can sometimes be used and abused by those with the most radical of agendas.
Today much of the international human-rights arena resembles a masquerade ball, where the most extreme views can be easily masked beneath the empty utterance of words like “democracy” and “human rights.” Norwegian scholar Johan Galtung, the leader of the Scandinavian ship to Gaza, was recently suspended from the Swiss World Peace Academy for a series of anti-Semitic rants. He recommended that all university students read “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the infamous piece of 19th-century propaganda used in Nazi classrooms.
Far from criticizing the tyrants of the Middle East, the flotilla crowd often joins hands with them. Just this May, the British activist group Viva Palestina enjoyed the hospitality of Bashar Assad, making a pit stop in Syria on its way to trying to enter Gaza. Around the same time that Assad’s thugs were gearing up for their massacre of children in Houla, members of Viva Palestina were proudly tweeting their whereabouts and posting photos on Facebook of themselves next to the regime’s representatives.
Instead of dancing with dictators and tangoing with tyrants, what if the flotilla crowd actually set sail in the direction where aid is so desperately needed?
—Mr. Prosor is Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.
(EYE)(NRO) It was, in the words of U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan, the “tipping point” in the Syria conflict: a savage massacre of over 90 people, predominantly women and children, for which the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad was immediately blamed by virtually the entirety of the Western media. Within days of the first reports of the Houla massacre, the U.S., France, Great Britain, Germany, and several other Western countries announced that they were expelling Syria’s ambassadors in protest.
But according to a new report in Germany’s leading daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), the Houla massacre was in fact committed by anti-Assad Sunni militants, and the bulk of the victims were member of the Alawi and Shia minorities, which have been largely supportive of Assad. For its account of the massacre, the report cites opponents of Assad, who, however, declined to have their names appear in print out of fear of reprisals from armed opposition groups.
According to the article’s sources, the massacre occurred after rebel forces attacked three army-controlled roadblocks outside of Houla. The roadblocks had been set up to protect nearby Alawi majority villages from attacks by Sunni militias. The rebel attacks provoked a call for reinforcements by the besieged army units. Syrian army and rebel forces are reported to have engaged in battle for some 90 minutes, during which time “dozens of soldiers and rebels” were killed.
“According to eyewitness accounts,” the FAZ report continues,
the massacre occurred during this time. Those killed were almost exclusively from families belonging to Houla’s Alawi and Shia minorities. Over 90% of Houla’s population are Sunnis. Several dozen members of a family were slaughtered, which had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. Members of the Shomaliya, an Alawi family, were also killed, as was the family of a Sunni member of the Syrian parliament who is regarded as a collaborator. Immediately following the massacre, the perpetrators are supposed to have filmed their victims and then presented them as Sunni victims in videos posted on the internet.
The FAZ report echoes eyewitness accounts collected from refugees from the Houla region by members of the Monastery of St. James in Qara, Syria. According to monastery sources cited by the Dutch Middle East expert Martin Janssen, armed rebels murdered “entire Alawi families” in the village of Taldo in the Houla region.
Already at the beginning of April, Mother Agnès-Mariam de la Croix of the St. James Monastery warned of rebel atrocities’ being repackaged in both Arab and Western media accounts as regime atrocities. She cited the case of a massacre in the Khalidiya neighborhood in Homs. According to an account published in French on the monastery’s website, rebels gathered Christian and Alawi hostages in a building in Khalidiya and blew up the building with dynamite. They then attributed the crime to the regular Syrian army. “Even though this act has been attributed to regular army forces . . . , the evidence and testimony are irrefutable: It was an operation undertaken by armed groups affiliated with the opposition,” Mother Agnès-Mariam wrote.
sit back make popcorn