In May 2021, as Israel defended itself against yet another onslaught of incendiary balloons and rocket fire from Gaza, a territory it had unilaterally left 16 years prior, thousands of people rallied in the city centre of Sydney, Australia and in many other cities around the world, ostensibly to support the “freedom” and “human rights” of their fellow citizens of the world, the Palestinian people. Many of the protestors have nothing to do with, nor know nothing about the history of Palestine, but rather were incensed at Israel’s “aggressive acts” and use of “disproportionate” force – albeit acting in self defence. In addition to protests and rallies, millions of people around the world posted and re-posted on social media, tagging #freepalestine and #savesheikhjarrah, not even understanding what they are actually talking about.
This was a repeat of the rallies held around the world, again in support of the Palestinians, in July 2014 during Operation Protective Edge, again in response to provocation and thousands of rockets being fired at Israel’s civilian population.
Fast forward to March 2022, and we have an unprovoked war unleashed upon a democratic country, yet there are no rallies in support of freedom and democracy, nor against blatant aggression, war, tyranny and unnecessary death. Civilians are also reportedly being targeted and killed – the usual (false) criticism of Israel. And this war is on a much larger scale, and affecting everyone in far more personal ways around the world, such as higher costs of living (fuel prices have almost double in Sydney in less than a week).
There’s plenty to be upset about.
But where is everyone? Where are the rallies? Where are the protests? Where is the insatiable appetite for viral social media? Where is BDS if they are truly a movement of principles? Where is Gigi Hadid? Why have we not seen a rant from John Oliver? Yet all are so vocal when Israel is involved in a conflict?
I recently participated in a seminar conducted by the British/Israeli antisemitism expert Neil Lazarus. Without quoting him verbatim, he posed the premise that anyone who protests against Israel, but doesn’t protest against other countries’ actions is simply an antisemite. Hard to argue…
A lot of people have to have a hard look at themselves. I doubt they will.
The irony is even more bittersweet, as Israel is playing a leading role in trying to mediate the two sides, and end the bloodshed, yet there is very little acknowledgement in the international press.