Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Will the failed flotilla participants change course?

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As Stephen Pollard's column in the Guardian explained last night, Israeli diplomacy has all but prevented a repeat of last year's flotilla debacle.

So successful has Israel been in stymieing the flotilla that what is actually setting sail amounts to one small boat with nine activists on board, leaving two weeks late. It is barely worth noting, and poses no threat to the Israeli naval commando unit, Flotilla 13, which played out a range of scenarios in expectation of a more substantial group, from a peaceful takeover of the boats to dealing with activist violence.

In frustration, the anti-Israel activists have embarked on what they are calling a "flytilla", arriving by scheduled plane into Ben Gurion airport to protest inside the building.

Whatever Israel's mistakes last year, this time it has played a blinder.

A rather pertinent question was then asked by David Harris, the head of the American Jewish Committee, in his Jerusalem Post blog today. Harris observes that there are many countries in the region in which the people are far worse off than in Gaza - such as Syria, Iran and even Egypt, where the life expectancy is 1.3 years lower. Of course, this is purely a hypothetical scenario. As Harris points out, the self-proclaimed "humanitarians", who tout themselves as brave activists, would never risk their skins by sailing into a genuinely un-democratic country.

Now don't bet the family farm that the flotilla folk will show up anytime soon in Egypt, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or anywhere else outside Gaza. The reason? Simple and obvious. If it doesn't have an Israeli connection, they're just not interested.

Why? Good question. Their single-minded obsession with Israel and all its alleged sins is worthy of in-depth psychological studies, just like their neglect of truly egregious examples of human suffering that don't involve the world's one and only Jewish state.

The predictable response of the flotilla folk and their ardent defenders will be that "two wrongs don't make a right," or that this is all a diversion from what's going on in Gaza.

Well, no, two wrongs don't make a right, but how to explain the thunderous silence of the flotilla folk -- self-defined, modern civil-rights torchbearers -- as basic freedoms are trampled on before their eyes in country after country, only to be met with telling indifference?

Just imagine how empowering it would be for those at grave risk to themselves, from Tripoli to Tehran, to know they have a lifeline of caring people prepared to risk their own life and limb in brotherly and sisterly solidarity!

But then again, life and limb would literally be on the line. The flotilla folk, even if they gave a fig for what's going on in Syria or Iran, know full well that they wouldn't stand a chance against regimes that have shown no respect whatsoever for the sanctity of human life. For all the demonization of Israel, they know they can count on the conscience of a democratic society that uses force -- yes, according to a strict code of conduct -- only as a last resort. If there are, however, flotilla folk who truly seek martyrdom, their chances, they should take note, do rise dramatically with an attempted protest at Assad's office or Iran's prisons.

It is a sad indictment on the world that self-proclaimed "activists" concentrate so much energy on one relatively small case and all but overlook the people who are truly in need of help, such as the situation in Somalia, which the UN has just proclaimed the worlds worst humanitarian crisis.

"The mortality rates we are witnessing are three times the level of emergency ceilings," he said. "The level of malnutrition of the children coming in is 50 percent. That is enough to explain why a very high level of mortality is inevitable," he said.

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