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Why aren't the protests in America directed against Hamas or Russia?

While the casualty toll in the Russia-Ukraine conflict far exceeds that of the Gaza war, media coverage of this ongoing war has drastically diminished after just six months. Since then, it has been largely relegated to the periphery of news cycles, as if the world has grown accustomed to the grim reality of this protracted war.

 

The Gaza war has persisted for seven months, though its intensity has waned considerably, leading to a significant reduction in civilian casualties. Humanitarian aid now flows more freely into Gaza through air, sea, and land routes. Conversely, the protests against Israel and expressions of anti-Semitism are only increasing and are much higher than at the beginning of the war.


protest at the campus

The reason for this escalation is that opposing Israel has become a symbol and a fashion. Campus protesters feel imbued with a sense of historic mission, perceiving themselves as the modern embodiment of campaigns against the Vietnam War or the anti-apartheid movement.


The driving spirit behind these demonstrations is an Islamist and progressive nucleus, among which there is also a lot of antisemitism. But the absolute majority of the participants on the campuses are 'ambient activists', who participate in the demonstrations because it seems to them that this is what progressives are supposed to do as an act of solidarity with....Hamas. They shout in a hoarse voice, "from the river to the sea Palestine will be free," and they have no idea which sea and which river.


The fight over America


These protests are not really protesting against Israel. Instead, they are trying to shape America. In their day-to-day life, they try to change the social power structure that in their eyes rests on white institutional racism in the USA, which was born in sin. In the simplistic binary way in which they see the world, Jews are seen as part of the oppressive white elite, and therefore the Jewish state must also be a white (and colonial) state. Hamas is described there as an organization of brown people. This mindset already has a hold on corporations, on the education system, and on the media. This issue is a real threat to Israel's relations with the USA. Even a sympathetic president like Biden cannot ignore the popularity of these views among his potential voters in an election year.


The challenge that Russia poses to the current world order led by the US is sometimes seen as a complementary struggle to their internal struggle against the American establishment. Perhaps this is another reason why the protesters did not make Russia the object of their struggle as might (naively) have been expected.


Some good news


The good news is that it is still a marginal phenomenon. At the height of the protests, an Israeli student was elected president of the student union at Columbia University. According to a poll by Harvard Harris, 72% of Americans support Israeli action in Rafah (!), probably more than the support such a move receives in Israel.


The protest against Israel in its current form has very little to do with what is really happening in our region, and therefore Israel's influence on it is also small. And yet, Israel does not do the little that can be done. Israel must develop 'soft power' capabilities. Our problem is not ‘Hasbara’ or 'messaging', which in our view are quite primitive irrelevant means to the world in which we live. The challenge Israel is facing is leading complex diplomatic moves (e.g leading a move to temporarily accept refugees in Sinai), a real commitment (and not as a result of pressure) to basic humanitarian conditions in Gaza, empowering American Jewry to meet the current rise of antisemitism, and designing a clear agenda for the day after, one that responds to Israel's security needs

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