Today, veteran activist John Minto led another anti-Israel protest in Auckland. At the US Consulate, protestors threw their shoes (something that’s already become a hackneyed protest tactic). Then, they marched up Queen Street for a rally at Aotea Square. By chance, I was in the area and snapped the photo of the rally (click on it to make it bigger). TVNZ's One News reported that there were “over a thousand” protestors, Stuff reported “around 500”, which in my opinion was far closer to the actual number.
The protestors were a mix of Palestinians, their supporters from throughout the Middle East and white liberals and leftists. The police reported that the crowd was “surprisingly well behaved”. The rally lasted around half an hour.
It struck me as ironic that so many people from the Middle East were exercising rights that would never be allowed in their home countries—in particular, women being allowed to speak at and lead the rally. I was also struck by the simplistic views of many of the leftist and liberal white folk.
Protestors say, correctly, that Israel is killing innocent women and children (as if killing innocent men doesn’t matter as much). But it’s also true that Hamas has deliberately launched attacks from, and stockpiled weapons in, residential areas. Is the fact that Israel is attacking them really so surprising?
Hamas is still committed to the destruction of Israel, and have attacked the country from Gaza. The Israelis haven’t hesitated to respond with all the force they can. Before the current conflict began, Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel, with no idea where they’d land, or what innocent person—or child—they might kill. Israel didn’t launch its current attack until after Hamas unilaterally declared the ceasefire was over.
So the situation is far more complicated than the activists or the media would have us believe. As I said in my post ten days ago, there are no saints in this conflict. However, like all nations, Israel has a right to defend itself, and Hamas attacked Israel. The question really is, was Israel’s response “disproportionate”? And that is where the debate is totally irresolvable.
The activists and supporters of Hamas say that Israel has gone too far. Israel’s supporters say the country responded as it needed to. Who’s right? I honestly don’t know.
But as I also said ten days ago, those who are suffering are the ordinary people on both sides, not the politicians or leaders. I believe that peace will be impossible while Hamas controls Gaza. They’ll never stop attacking Israel, and Israel will continue to respond. And the ordinary people will continue to suffer and die.
Rather than being so quick to only condemn Israel or the US or countries that don’t condemn Israel, activists would do well to condemn all aggression; I might have more respect for them if they at least admitted that Hamas isn’t pure and wholesome. The first step toward peace is for both sides to end their aggression against each other. But you can’t fit that on a protest sign.
Meanwhile, the ordinary people on both sides are still waiting for us get it right.