Last Saturday, our reporter Ryan Torok covered a massive anti-Israel rally in front of the Federal Building in Westwood. The crowd swelled to an estimated 1,500 to 3,000 people, outgrew the plaza, then spontaneously spilled onto the street, shutting down Wilshire Boulevard as it made its way east toward the Israel Consulate. The protesters chanted “Free Palestine!” and waved posters reading “Zionists, Get Out of Gaza Now!” and “Israel Is Mass Murdering Children.”
That was the message they wanted to send to Zionists. So, naturally, Ryan asked them: What message do they want to send to Hamas?
This is what they told him:
“They have to fire more rockets, and they have to fire stronger. They have to be more aggressive,” Darka Raicevic, a Serbian woman, said.
Jami King, 41, who lives in San Diego and drove to Saturday’s rally with her boyfriend, Ammar Khan, said: “I don’t have a direct message for Hamas. ... I just want the [Israeli] siege to stop and for people to sit down and figure out a solution. It’s not for me to say what Hamas’ part in that is.”
Khan, 36, a Pakistani and engineer: “Hamas, their biggest problem is not having a vision for the future and not having a long-term view. ... what we [the United States and Israel] do in response doesn’t justify that. ... Who are we to lecture them? The U.S. has lost its moral high ground.”
Waylette Thomas, 22, a member of the pro-Palestinian group ANSWER and a student at Cerritos College, to Hamas: “We stand with you.”
It’s not for me to say what Hamas’ part in that is. ... Who are we to lecture them? ... We stand with you. ... Fire more rockets.
Of all the hypocrisies in the Gaza conflict, this has got to be the most galling: There is no pro-Palestinian outcry against Hamas. No messages on Facebook or slogans on protest posters addressing its leaders. No pro-Gazan street protests calling on Hamas to stop firing rockets and stop digging tunnels.
Hamas is proud of the fact that its military wing, the Qassam Brigades, uses suicide bombers, rockets and hidden tunnels to kill or threaten Israeli civilians, including women and children. If people at a “peace” rally can’t stand in moral judgment of child murderers — well, we can forget peace.
Here’s the issue: If you want to scream at Israel for inflicting civilian casualties, fine. And if you want to protest President Barack Obama for supporting Israel, OK. But if you really care about the fate of the Palestinians, if you would prefer innocent Palestinians live rather than die, you should also send a simple, two-word message to Hamas: “Stop shooting.”
Hamas needs to get the message from the worldwide pro-Palestinian movement: Resistance to Israeli control and occupation is legitimate. Violent resistance is not. Pick your reason: because violence against Israeli civilians is immoral, or because it will never, ever work. Either reason will do, but just stop.
If Hamas had stopped shooting rockets, and the Palestinians instead had used all the tools of mass nonviolent protests to draw attention to their plight, is there any question that thousands of innocent Palestinians would be alive today, living in homes untouched by bombs?
Why is the pro-Palestinian movement not marching for justice and against violence? Why does it conflate support for the doomed tactics of Hamas with support for Palestinians?
That well-meaning souls on the streets of Los Angeles misguidedly support Hamas’ violence is especially mystifying because so much of the Muslim world opposes it. When the conflict began, Palestinian Authority officials lambasted Hamas. They know violence and unrelenting terror won’t bring about a lasting solution. How do they know? Because they’ve already tried it.
In the early 1960s, Yasser Arafat, influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, proclaimed, “Liberating Palestine can only come through the barrel of a gun.” Arafat’s Fatah movement set off on a course of terror, which grabbed headlines, left thousands dead and pushed a just solution further and further away.
“The list of Fatah’s original founders doesn’t contain the name of anyone sophisticated enough to understand that conquering Israel was beyond their capabilities,” Palestinian-Egyptian historian Said Aburish wrote
Eventually the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed to recognize Israel and attempt to negotiate a two-state solution. Not because the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. had settled over Ramallah, but because the PLO leaders realized there was no way to defeat Israel militarily. Egypt, Jordan and the rest of the Arab world came to the same conclusions after wars in 1967 and 1973. Hamas didn’t get the memo.
Unfortunately, the anti-Israel protesters in front of the Federal Building are either too young to remember this history, too naïve or too blinded by hate to understand.
If they did understand, they would peel off and set up in front of the Qatari or Turkish consulates (9355 Wilshire Blvd. and 6300 Wilshire Blvd., respectively), calling on them to cut off Hamas’ remaining sources of support in the Arab world. They would start a social media campaign calling on Hamas leader Khaled Meshal to abandon violence in the name of the Palestinian people. They would tweet Hamas @Qassam_English using hashtag #NonviolentJihad. They would demand a diplomatic solution that would trade open borders and development for demilitarization. They would make sure Hamas uses every pound of concrete and steel for buildings, not tunnels.
In short, they would stop pretending that you can save Palestinian lives by spilling Israeli blood.
Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @foodaism.