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(photo credit: Reuters)
Pro-Palestinian activists organized a “Welcome to Palestine” protest to put a
spotlight on what they charge are Israeli violations of civilian rights in the
occupied West Bank.
The protests were peaceful and far different in
nature from the 2010 protests organized using boats in which nine civilians
including one American were killed by Israeli soldiers who stormed the
But like everything in the tragedy of Arabs and Israelis, the
issue of justice was thrown out the window and each side had their defenders who
took issues to an extreme to justify what their side did and to exaggerate what
the other side was doing.
The Israelis responded on several levels. On
one hand, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior provided foreign airlines a No
Fly List and threatened them with sanctions if they allowed any of the
identified pro-Palestinian activists to board their flights to
The IDF was placed on alert and confronted the protesters. In one
case, an Israeli soldier was videotaped slamming a Danish protester in the face
with his M16 rifle. The act of violence was unprovoked, although maybe the
protesters expressed some words the soldier did not like.
officials quickly condemned the soldier’s actions, which was good. But will that
soldier really be punished or are the Israeli condemnations just for show?
incident immediately became the focus of an international debate with both sides
calling each other names and trying to excuse their own actions.
the “flotilla” protests, these protests were far better organized and were
inherently peaceful. The protesters entered Israel through Israeli security,
while the boats were boarded in international waters, causing the clashes and
Protesters in the video were seen being pushed back by the
police, a common tactic anywhere and not just used by the IDF. The soldiers were
grabbing the protesters’ bicycles, and arrested some of them.
Israelis immediately tried to compare the Welcome to Palestine protests with the
flotilla protests. And they began describing the protesters as
“anarchists” and people who are there to cause trouble.
used their usual provocative language, calling Israel an “apartheid state” even
though in my opinion the term does not apply. It’s an exaggeration of Israel’s
policies toward non-Jews, which are discriminatory but not excessively so in the
context of a conflict that has been ongoing for more than 64 years.
sides are demonstrating actions that do not encourage peace. Their actions are
driven by confrontation.
The protesters can’t claim to be adherents to
the practices of civil rights protesters like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or
Mahatma Gandhi. King and Gandhi both insisted that no one resort to any form of
violence even as a defense or form of resistance.
refraining from using incendiary language to provoke the governmental abuse they
faced in America in the 1960s and in India in the 1940s under British
The Palestinian protesters may be working toward that goal, but
they are not there yet. The language they used was incendiary and intended as a
form of provocation. You cannot claim to be peaceful protesters seeking
civil rights when part of your goal is to provoke.
Israel’s response is
no better. You can’t claim to be a democracy and then enact policies that, one
after another, deny basic human rights. Many of the Palestinians in
Israeli jails are dissidents jailed because of their views. There is no
qualitative measure that distinguishes between one imprisoned dissident and
1,000 imprisoned dissidents.
I want to see the Israelis back off and
monitor the protesters, not harass or confront them. They have an absolute right
to protest against Israeli government policies.
I want to see Israelis
stop making excuses for the actions of soldiers. So many Israelis I know
condemned the soldier’s actions only to insist he was an exception to the rule,
when we all know that not to be true. They always point to someone else, saying
that they have done worse. That’s not an excuse.
I want to see
Palestinians protest with true civility, with the leaders setting the precedent
before the protests, eliminating the incendiary language and
name-calling. They should set aside anger and declare their goals more
Are they fighting to “destroy” Israel or to achieve compromise
with two states? Seeking one state given all that we have gone through is on its
face a provocation, and that doesn’t just apply to Palestinian extremists but to
Israeli fanatics, too.
The goal is peace. You do not build peace using
violence. You achieve peace by embracing one consistent policy of human rights,
law, ethics, morality and principle.
Still, these protesters are moving
in the right direction. The Israelis should support them.