What should our protest achieve?

International Solidarity Movement activists
International Solidarity Movement activists

I just talked with my mother about a certain Israeli-Palestinians protest movement which people she knows are involved in but she has decided not to take part in. Like many such discussions, it came down to a general question of what the goal of non-violent protest is supposed to be. Is it supposed to be about changing the minds of the Israeli public? Is it about informing people about wrongs being done in their name? Is it about giving the world an alternative to the official narrative? Is it just about generally getting the authorities to overreact so as to draw attention to their abusive behavior?

I think this is an important debate to have, so long as it doesn’t get in the way of actually doing something. My thinking in the past months has been that one very important goal is indeed re-education of anyone who’s willing to listen. Israelis are taught that we have a highly moral army used only for defense; it took me years to realize how inaccurate that is. Most people accept the occupation as a necessary evil without knowing quite how ridiculous, abusive and petty it has become. A lot can be achieved by just making sure concrete, current examples of this are out there. Many who accept the occupation might change their mind once they realize what it has made Israel become.

But there are problems with focussing on the ills of the occupation. First of all, it’s a hard thing to sustain. Following these abuses eventually just gets you down. What’s worse, many Israelis are disinclined to believe it when lefties report this kind of thing. They are distrustful and take us for dupes under hostile foreign influence. So if any change is to happen, the left certainly has to do a better job of creating public debate, and we have to be more convincing to average Israeli nationalists.

I don’t know. What do you think? Comments are open.

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