The warped view of reality promoted by many “human rights” organizations is nowhere more evident than in the various global indexes they produce. I’ve written previously about the moral obtuseness of, say, a religious freedom index that ranks Israel and India – two countries where multiple faiths live and worship freely – as no better than Saudi Arabia, where non-Muslim worship is legally banned. The new 2012 Global Peace Index provides another stellar example.
Unsurprisingly, the Arab Spring caused the entire Middle East/North Africa region to plummet in the rankings. But within this region, the country that scored second-lowest, just above Iraq, is the only one that has suffered no unrest whatsoever during the past year: Israel.
At 150, Israel ranks three places below Syria – a country where some 14,000 people have been killed the last year, mainly by their own government. Yet Israel, whose citizens aren’t being slaughtered by anyone (even terrorists have so far killed only two Israelis this year), is deemed the less peaceful country.
Ordinary people, untroubled by the lofty concerns that motivate so-called human rights groups, are voting the opposite with their feet: Tourism to Israel is at record heights, while tourism to Syria is nonexistent. But the folks at GPI clearly don’t let common sense intrude on their metrics.
Israel also ranks a whopping 28 places below Eritrea. This would undoubtedly surprise the tens of thousands of Eritreans who have sought asylum in Israel in recent years, and been granted group protection because the UN deems their country too dangerous for forced repatriation. Needless to say, there has been no migration in the opposite direction, nor does the UN deem Israel sufficiently dangerous to entitle its emigrants to group protection. But once again, the verdict that ordinary people are passing with their feet is beneath GPI’s lofty concerns.
So what are those concerns? Well, according to GPI, a strong military is anti-peace. Among the 23 factors it ranks, almost one-third relate to military strength: “military expenditure,” “armed services personnel,” “heavy weapons.” “weapons exports,” “weapons imports,” “military capability” and “access to weapons” (high in a country of citizen-soldiers like Israel, where most men serve for three years and many do annual reserve duty for years afterward).
Yet if you live in a lousy neighborhood like the Middle East, a strong military is actually essential to preserve peace. Indeed, Israel’s military is a large part of why tourists still flock to the country even as they shun neighboring Syria and Egypt: Not only has it kept terrorism low, but it has also helped keep the unrest in neighboring countries from spilling over. Hezbollah, for instance, might well have attacked Israel in an effort to divert world attention from Syria if it didn’t know a devastating response would swiftly follow.
Many people naively take what human rights groups say at face value. But in fact, as the Global Peace Index once again shows, these organizations frequently offer a highly distorted view of reality.