I have been a protester for almost 60 years. I came up at the end of the American civil rights movement, getting arrested once in the process. Between 1967 and 1970, there was not a single anti-Vietnam war protest in Washington, DC, in which I was not involved one way or another. I have protested in favor of the ERA, and against the United States going to war in Iraq, Now that I live in Tel Aviv, every week, I have gone to the Saturday-night Kaplan-street protests against the present government’s assault on the courts. Still, I refuse to participate in the protests to bring the hostages home. This is why.
In each of the protests above, the protests were to change government policy. The civil rights protests resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Though it took a long time, we were finally able to get the government to pull American troops out of Vietnam. We failed to get the legislatures to ratify the ERA and the Senate NOT to approve of the war in Iraq, but at least we tried.
The second reason for the protests was to educate. People outside the South needed education on the evils of segregation. In the antiwar protests, we were trying to get people in the government to understand why the war was both stupid an immoral. In those cases, we tried and succeeded.
In the “bring them home” rallies, neither of these justifications exist. The government does NOT need to be educated on the importance of bringing the hostages home. Everybody in Israel understands that. Both the IDF and the politicians have repeatedly said that bringing the hostages home is an important part of why Israel is fighting the war in Gaza.
Nor am I trying to change government policy. If the war ends now, especially if any Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands are released, Hamas will claim a great victory and say the that the October 7th massacre should be repeated several times. Indeed Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is already doing so, and for good reason. So far Hamas has achieved the following as a result of the October 7th massacre.
1. It has unified the foreign press, including much of the American media, in in writing that Israel is at fault in the present Gaza war. Indeed, even the United States seems to be backing off its original pro-Israel position.
2. Hamas has virtually taken over as the leading terrorist organization on the West Bank, where the population overwhelmingly approves of the October 7th massacre. The other terror groups in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority are all but irrelevant there.
3. Hamas has shown how weak Israel’s military has become. This is the same military that in only six days defeated all of the surrounding countries when they attacked Israel in 1967. Gaza is tiny. Hamas has no airplanes nor a significant navy, yet after three months of war, the IDF has still not obtained its objective of eliminating Hamas in Gaza.
I do NOT want Hamas to be able to claim that the October 7th massacre was a victory for Hamas. I do NOT want to see Hamas attempt more October 7th massacres. I do NOT want Hamas in Gaza to kill more Israeli citizens. I do NOT want to see more Israeli women raped. I do NOT want to see more Israelis burned alive or decapitated. Above all, I do NOT want Hamas to think that it is a smart thing to take even more Israeli hostages.
Much as I hate war, I believe that the government’s objective of eliminating Hamas in Gaza once and for all is a wise one. I have no intention of joining in a protest designed to change the present government policy in Gaza.