By N. Aaron Troodler
Peaceful protests have historically been catalysts for effectuating change.
Whether it be in the areas of social justice, racial equality or so many other critical issues, the act of the masses collectively raising their voices and making themselves heard in a non-violent fashion has helped bring about extraordinary and revolutionary adjustments to what had been the status quo. When used properly, peaceful protests have the power to shape history.
When Rosa Parks courageously refused to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus to a white passenger in December 1955, it triggered a wave of civil disobedience and peaceful protests against segregation that led to the integration of the city’s bus system.
It was the precursor to a nationwide movement for civil rights in the United States that reached a crescendo when on Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. told a crowd of a quarter of a million people near the Lincoln Memorial that he had a grand dream.
In March 1913, more than 5,000 intrepid women proudly marched in Washington, D.C., in an effort to achieve gender parity in political participation. Seven years later, the 19th
Amendment to the Constitution was born and women were granted the right to vote.
In response to the British mandate that Indians were prohibited from collecting or selling salt, Mahatma Gandhi famously led a peaceful march over 240 miles to the Arabian Sea to collect salt from the water. Seventeen years after Gandhi’s peaceful protest, India succeeded in gaining independence from Britain.
More than 100,000 Estonians came together in 1988 to protest the Soviet Union’s rule by playing music and singing for five nights in a show of solidarity. Three years later, Estonia regained its independence.
I recall attending peaceful marches in New York City on behalf of Soviet Jewry in response to the persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union, whereby their ability to practice their Judaism was impaired and imperiled. In December 1987, approximately 250,000 individuals marched on Washington, D.C., in solidarity with Soviet Jewry just prior to a meeting between President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Shortly thereafter, Soviet Jews began receiving permission to immigrate to Israel.
We can recognize civil disobedience and non-violent protests, as we have seen them used effectively on numerous occasions. Conversely, we know when something is not a peaceful demonstration, as our world has certainly seen its share of violent protests.
The recent weekly protests by Palestinians at the fence separating Gaza from Israel cannot be categorized as “peaceful,” despite repeated attempts by Hamas to characterize them as such.
The very essence of the Hamas protests is contradictory. While the Palestinians claimed to be protesting the ongoing hardships of Gazan residents, they directed their ire at Israel, rather than Hamas, which is primarily responsible for their suffering.
Hamas uses its power to strengthen itself, not the people of Gaza. It repeatedly diverts financial resources to enhance its military operations aimed at Israel, rather than improving the Gazan infrastructure and addressing the people’s daily lives and basic needs.
The protesters impugn Israel, but it is Hamas’ enduring efforts to destroy the Jewish state through rocket attacks, terror tunnels and terrorism that led to Israel’s need to institute security measures to safeguard its citizenry.
It was farcical when Ismail Haniya, Hamas’ political leader, stood in front of a large banner displaying photos of King, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi and proceeded to deem the Gazan protests “peaceful” and equate their demonstrations with the peaceful efforts of the individuals depicted on the poster behind him.
The image of Haniya in front of photos of these champions of peace was repugnant.
Hamas’ attempt to suggest some parallel between these pursuers of social justice and Hamas, a terrorist organization whose core mission is killing Jews, is disingenuous anddistasteful.
Hamas may claim its protests were non-violent, but the fact is that Israeli soldiers were contending with kites from Gaza laden with explosives, protesters hurling firebombs and rocks, and demonstrators who stationed incendiary devices alongside the Gaza fence. We saw Hamas leaders use inflammatory rhetoric to provoke the crowd, which led to them storming the fence in an attempt to breach it and infiltrate Israel.
Those types of actions are more akin to incitement and a declaration of war than to a peaceful protest.
In an emotional address to the U.N. Security Council, Ambassador Nikki Haley unmistakably declared that Hamas bore the blame for the Palestinian deaths and cited examples of the terrorist group’s incitement relative to the protests.
Salah Al-Bardawil, a senior Hamas official, asserted that 50 of the Palestinians who lost their lives were actually members of Hamas. In light of the overwhelming evidence, it would be negligent to maintain that the casualties were innocent noncombatants. That is what Hamas wants the world to believe, but the facts belie that postulation.
While the world focuses its attention on Israel’s response to the demonstrations and debates the actions of the Israeli soldiers guarding the fence, it regrettably overlooks the fact that the protests were intrinsically violent in nature, despite assertions by Hamas to the contrary. Through its repeated vows to annihilate Israel, Hamas has made it abundantly clear that it is not interested in peace. The notion, therefore, that these were “peaceful” protests is preposterous.
Civil disobedience inherently carries with it a degree of civility. Sadly, the Gaza protests were completely devoid of civility and bereft of any semblance of peacefulness. They were merely a smoke screen by Hamas intended to fool the world into thinking that it suddenly eschewed its terrorist ways and violent tendencies.
Let’s hope the world is not duped by this shameless public relations ploy by a terrorist organization whose primary objective is Israel’s destruction. l
Aaron Troodler, the principal of Red Apple Strategies, LLC, a public relations and strategic communications firm.