Gaza Protesters In US Need To Win Hearts And Minds – OpEd


Israel’s massively violent and indiscriminate response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, killing more than 22,000 people, including some 10,000 children, has provoked widespread international condemnation.

But while US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have expressed unrestrained outrage at the Hamas violence, their response to the far worse violence by Israel has been tepid at best. Rather than pressure Israel’s government to prevent the killing of civilians, the US has given Israel billions of dollars in aid and provided an endless supply of weaponry, including missiles, bombs and ammunition, which is being used to drive up the number of civilian casualties.

The Biden administration’s stance on the Gaza conflict has prompted many Americans, including the country’s large Palestinian population, to organize protests in cities across the country. These protests have all advocated one strong and moral message: they want the US to use its considerable influence over Israel’s government to force a lasting ceasefire, something it has so far rejected.

These protests have attracted tens of thousands of demonstrators, including many non-Arabs who are equally outraged by the double standards of the American response, which treats Arab lives as inconsequential and Israeli and Jewish lives as sacrosanct.

The one-sided nature of the carnage has fired up emotions and fueled a sense of outrage among the non-Arab Americans who have joined in or supported the protests in many American cities and at university campuses across the country. The result has been the largest outpouring of solidarity with Palestine in the nation’s history.

The protests have broken records, with about 300,000 people attending one demonstration in Washington in November. The media has not been fair in its coverage of the protests, just as it has failed to cover the day-to-day carnage caused by Israel’s assault.

Protests have repeatedly been held in Chicago, Houston, New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia and dozens of other cities. Chicago alone has seen 12 large protests.

The problem, though, is what are the pro-Palestinian protests intended to achieve? And are they achieving positive results? Or are the protests merely worsening anti-Arab feelings, which have already been aggravated by biased media coverage and the anti-Arab rhetoric of the majority of America’s elected officials?

On the one hand, the first priority of a protest is to elevate the moral outrage of the public to a level that reflects the degree of violence against civilians. But on the other hand, another purpose is to win the empathy and support of the wider public to counter the bias of the news media, the pro-Israel politicians and the double standards of the Biden administration.

Americans constantly assert that they are the champions of civil rights and that their nation embraces a constitution that guarantees freedoms that are championed throughout the world. So far, however, the protesters have not seemed too concerned about winning the hearts and minds of the American public. Instead, they have exerted most of their efforts on using the muscle of the massive protests.

Instead of winning over the American public, they are actually fueling anger — not at the carnage in Gaza but at the disruption the protests have caused. In many cases, protesters have intentionally blocked major expressways, causing great inconvenience. In Chicago, they have blocked every major route, forcing people to sit in their cars for hours as police attempt to break up the protest. In New York, the protesters intentionally blocked the city’s bridges, causing long delays for people trying to get to and from work.

It is possible to protest in a nondisruptive manner and still send a strong message to the American people. But it is a poor strategy to disrupt the daily lives of Americans and cause them aggravation. If they become angry with the disruptions, they will become distracted and even less caring about the violence in Gaza.

This does not even address some of the messaging that is being displayed at the protests, which is on occasions both anti-American and antisemitic. This plays into the hands of Israel, which has American politics in a powerful headlock.

The protests need to be reorganized and held in a way that is less disruptive to the everyday lives of Americans.

What can be done to win American empathy? Plenty. Imagine if every protester boycotted their local newspaper. Protesters could also have a huge impact by sending letters to Biden, Blinken and their local members of Congress. Instead of signs with angry slogans criticizing Americans, publish the pictures of the carnage and let Americans see what they cannot see in the mainstream news media.

Hold press conferences and carefully and effectively detail how Israel’s government is violating human and civil rights and killing civilians. Personalize the story with the names and details of some of the Palestinian civilians who have been killed, especially Palestinian Americans.

Do not be disruptive. Show the American public that, while you are angered by the violence in Gaza, you also care about their rights and you want their support.

Yes, Americans need to see the carnage that is being minimized by the media and their politicians. But they cannot do that when their lives are disrupted by delays that cause them aggravation. That is not the way to win friends, it is a formula for making more enemies.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected].

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