A fiasco is a fiasco, and it's hard to label the Israeli handling of the fake freedom-fighting flotilla anything but a disaster. But take a deep breath and think a little beyond the obvious headlines. After we all deplore the loss of life, and some of us deplore the PR victory for Islamic radicals and their fan base, consider what happened.
On Tuesday, I posted a short piece over at the American Enterprise Institute's blog asking what we would do if a flotilla made its way toward Guantanamo to deliver aid and comfort to the victims of American aggression, illegal detention or some such. And if that flotilla ignored warnings to turn away and refused to allow U.S. security to board peacefully to examine the contents. And if, once boarded, those on the boats attacked our servicemen. It hasn't happened--yet. But why not?
After all, the flotilla wasn't really about the Palestinians. If it were, then why not float a shipment to the refugee camps in Lebanon? And it's not really about rights. If it were, then why not protest Hamas' treatment of girls in U.N. Relief and Works Agency camps? The spokeswoman for the flotilla made clear that the mission was more about Israel than it was about actually helping anyone; indeed, the flotilla refused to dock for inspection and transportation of goods to Gaza (maybe they were worried someone would think bulletproof vests and night-vision goggles were not educational). It's not even about getting food and medicine to the Palestinians, something Israel facilitates already.
There's no need to detail the reactions to this incident--nor note the glee with which such champions of human dignity as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Daniel Ortega and the U.N. Human Rights Council have responded--because others have done that job. The Obama administration is getting some credit in some quarters for not jumping on board the anti-Israeli bandwagon. But it deserves little. It is precisely the administration's harping on Israel from nearly day one that has given credence and legitimacy to these over-the-top criticisms.
And it is precisely the administration's unwillingness to call Turkey--a NATO ally--on the carpet for its cozying up to our enemies that fed Ankara's willingness to sponsor this Potemkin humanitarian effort. No, the White House didn't make matters worse, but it certainly helped pave the way for what occurred.
Yes, we can regret what happened and we can criticize the Israeli handling of the entire incident. But Israel has the legal right under international law to ensure that shipments to Gaza do not contain arms--arms likely to be used against it--much as every civilized government has the right to protect its citizens within the bounds of the law.
And when we justify the performance artists who seek to overturn those rights, we set ourselves up for the same treatment. Maybe not today, but soon.
Danielle Pletka is the vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at AEI.