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.