When we think of a second front in this war, we think of Lebanon and Hezbollah.
Yet there is already a second front to this war: it is being waged on the streets of London, New York, Berlin, and Rome, where an onslaught of pro-Palestinian protests – which started before the blood of the massacred Israelis was dry, before Gaza casualties began to mount, and are just gaining momentum. London on Saturday saw as many as 100,000 anti-Israel protesters; hundred were arrested at a sit-in protest in New York City’s Grand Central Station. What is happening now is just the beginning. The situation in Gaza and the protests against Israel are going to get worse as, the IDF land operation intensifies and headlines about the massacre of Israelis fade.
This is dangerous for two distinct reasons:
- The physical safety, not to mention the psychological sense of safety, of Jews in major cities is going to continue to deteriorate (in some cases, drastically) in the coming weeks as the situation in Gaza worsens.
- Pressure from “the street” will eventually take its toll on the international support of Western governments (currently strong) for Israel’s war aim of dismantling Hamas, which requires significant time.
“Jews don’t protest” someone recently told me. With anti-Israel protests and the accompanying anti-Israel/anti-Jewish sentiment mushrooming, my response was: “they better learn – and fast.” The best defense is a good offense: if the pro-Palestine community is out on the street and the pro-Israel community is not, we are losing ground.
Social media is important, but street protests are more important – because they are real and they feed the mainstream and social media. This is especially true of the university campus, which needs special attention and resources.
Here are some ideas to consider:
- A war front requires a war room. An effective, sustained street operation requires a very strong operations/logistical back-end. (The anti-government protests in Israel were so effective in part because there was a well-funded, effective, nimble, PR-savvy, back-end operation.) Each city seeing protests needs a war room dedicated to pro-Israel protests.
- A theme for pro-Israel protests: the hostages. Hostage taking is a universal problem and Hamas is holding children and many foreign nationals. Protests don’t have to be loud and raucous (though they can be), they can be silent candle vigils with photos of children held hostage by Hamas. Family members of the hostages can speak by video link.
- Start, create a routine, and more people will join. (Just like in Israel everyone knew that Saturday night was protest night, during a long war, which this will be, routine – in addition to some ad hoc events – is important.)
- Your audience: the people at home. Without media and social media coverage (including self-generated content) effectiveness is limited.
- In some places, Jewish activists are the force behind the anti-Israel protests. While often the core leadership of the pro-Palestine protests are Palestinian or Arab, in some places (like in the Washington DC and Grand Central Station protest) the core group is Jewish, spearheaded by Jewish Voice for Peace, the leading BDS group in the US. Focus protests against this organization and its leaders – protest outside their places of work, their synagogues. Urge them to advocate for a release of the hostages.
- If you live in a city with growing pro-Palestinian protests or near an afflicted campus (this includes everyone in New York City and London) focus your attention first on what’s happening where you live — before Israel. This is your war front and your primary responsibility.
As we have seen with the BDS movement over the last two decades, the war to undermine Israel is well-underway on the streets of Europe and the Americas. This is a front of the current war; it is an onslaught not just on Israel, but on the Jewish people. If we can’t meet every anti-Israel protest with a pro-Israel protest (not juxtaposed, but cumulatively), we will lose this front, putting Jewish communities at risk and, in the longer term, undermining Israel’s war of survival against Hamas.