Protesting Hate


Often it takes some quiet reflection for things to become clear. This time it was a long drive back home after taking my son to school after the holidays. On the way we went under numerous overpasses in the GTA covered with Palestinian flags. I recalled this being done for fallen soldiers during the war in Afghanistan. Back then it put a lump in my throat. Now it gets me hot under the collar, but not for the reasons you might think. 

I have been annoyed by a number of protests in my life when they disrupt my day to day.  The most egregious being when the First Nations blocked the rail tracks near Belleville. That action cost me both considerable time and money on more than one occasion. I may have fired off a disgruntled tweet, but there is a part of me that respects the cries of injustice or pleas for justice and the legitimate personal sacrifice protesters make to demand change.   

I may not always agree with their cause or methods, but I will take passionate action in the real world, over social media - sit on my couch “efforts” any day.  It is why I haven’t fallen victim to the hypocrisy shown by many who complain about one protest, but not another. The right to protest is a fundamental right and anyone on team democracy should be on its side.  

So I did have to catch myself and ask why my reaction to the Palestinian “protests” were different.  After some reflection, I realized that these were not protests, but acts of intimidation. As always, not everyone in any crowd is in unison with their intentions and rationale, but it is finally becoming clear to the police and government officials what is the point.   

The point of a protest is to build awareness and gain followers to get the powers that be to make changes your cause deems necessary. Kicking skaters off a rink, yelling at shoppers at a mall and waving flags on a bridge does get attention and that may even get you some more followers, but unless that barking is done up the right tree - it's pointless. In fact, this lack of clarity to outsiders, may even do more harm than good. Just ask the truckers.  

Demanding a ceasefire to a foreign conflict in which the jurisdiction you live has no influence - makes no sense. I could see some rationale for the same protests in the U.S., but even that puppet master argument is getting weak. Israel is a highly advanced country with significant wealth. Yes, the United States, among others, helped build the country, but it is quite independent now.  

So what can those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause do? If it is truly about wanting peace and remembering the innocent lives lost, hold a vigil, where candles take the place of flags. My sympathetic heart would attend that. But if you want action, then you are in the wrong place. You will need a sympathetic party, the NDP comes to mind, to echo your demands and channel your energy politically. But currently they have no power and even if they were to gain it, Canada’s influence and standing in the world has fallen like a liberal defense budget. Israel may not even listen to the U.S. anymore, let alone Canada. 

No, if you really want to stop Israel attacks then people around the world sympathetic to the cause will have to go to Gaza. The truckers at least got that point. They took their protest and parked it right on Parliament Hill. Social media is no substitute for boots on the ground. Gandhi led by personal sacrifice, not tweeting. Martin Luther King marched in Selma, not London. 

You can’t defend a land and its people from afar. Probably many people waving flags on the bridge know this. So then what’s the point? It’s become clear that for far too many the goal is to rile up hate and anger toward the Jewish community. These are not protests, but acts meant to bring intimidation right to their doorstep. 

To that, we must all protest. 

By Gregory Cawsey