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Did Israel Overreact to Flytilla?

The Israeli and Jewish left is excoriating the Netanyahu government for what it is calling an overreaction to yesterday’s “flytilla.” The event was an attempt by foreign supporters of the Palestinians to create a public relations triumph for their cause by flying in to the country and creating incidents that would embarrass Israel. But though they claimed their intent was a week of peaceful protest, their real agenda was on display when those who made into the country yesterday unfurled signs that read “Welcome to Palestine” when they landed at Ben-Gurion Airport.

It can be argued that any attention paid by the Israeli government to these people is too much. Their goal is publicity and to paint the Jewish state in the worst possible light, so the scenes of security personnel bundling these people into custody as they landed served their purpose. That it coincided with a deplorable incident over the weekend in which an Israeli army officer assaulted another foreign activist was merely a bonus. But it cannot be emphasized enough that the goal of the Palestine Solidarity Movement and related groups that organized this stunt is not peace. Their program is support for efforts to dismantle Israel as a Jewish state. Whether the flytillians got a boost from their hijinks is actually beside the point. The idea that any sovereign state ought to be required to facilitate the entry of such persons or to refrain from deporting them is unprecedented. But then again, so is the malevolent campaign pursued by people masquerading as human rights activists to single Israel out for destruction.

As it happens, Israel’s strategy in dealing with this effort to infiltrate provocateurs into the country was largely successful. Watch lists of supporters of extreme anti-Israel groups were compiled and airlines were warned that such persons would be immediately deported upon arrival and that the carriers would be responsible for the cost of their return. That meant that only a couple of dozen trickled in and few made it past security. Those who did arrive were handed a sarcastic note from their temporary hosts that pointed out their hypocrisy:

Dear activist:

We appreciate your choosing to make Israel the object of your humanitarian concerns. We know there were many other worthy choices.

You could have chosen to protest the Syrian regime’s daily savagery against its own people, which has claimed thousands of lives. You could have chosen to protest the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on dissent and support of terrorism throughout the world.

You could have chosen to protest Hamas rule in Gaza, where terror organizations commit a double war crime by firing rockets at civilians and hiding behind civilians.

But instead you chose to protest against Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy, where women are equal, the press criticizes the government, human rights organizations can operate freely, religious freedom is protected for all and minorities do not live in fear.

We therefore suggest that you first solve the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience. Have a nice flight.

While the prime minister’s office that was the source of the note could be accused of paying these foes the compliment of taking them seriously, it also deserves credit for not worrying too much about the publicity. The idea that Israel will persuade wavering foreign observers to take its side by making nice with people who wish to destroy it is foolish. Changing the narrative requires making a case for the justice of Israel’s cause, and the note is a step in that direction.

As the New York Times pointed out, the Palestinians are actually unmoved by the efforts by these foreign cheerleaders for their cause. It is only the Israelis who get worked up about them. They shouldn’t bother, but if so, then the prime minister’s message is actually the one that they and anyone else interested in these affairs should be getting.


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