I would like to discuss the Street Theatre protests known as “die-ins,” which our campus recently hosted in the Northrop Mall area. Let’s say that even if the sole purpose of this event was to increase awareness of the casualties of the war between Hamas and Israel that has ended recently with a truce, the ramifications of the enactment go far beyond spreading awareness.
Before I explain what ramifications, let me say that I also support events that push students to do more research and investigation into the events in the Middle East. What sources we consider trustworthy for news with accurate reports of history is the crux of the disagreement at hand. In a strange twist of irony, both Students Supporting Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine believe that mainstream media poorly reflect the realities on the ground in Israel and the territories. One side believes that the other’s is based on propaganda. That’s not unique to this conflict.
By parading these tragic casualties in front of crowds, SJP is, in my opinion, dehumanizing the very people they wish to have heard. By grouping all these people together and stripping them of everything but their death — even the circumstances of their death, beyond the fact that it is decidedly Israel’s fault, is stripped away. All that is left is an empty shell that can be used for propaganda. Surely SJP chapters do not mean to do that. Even more important, however, is that such “die-ins” put more Palestinian civilians at risk by feeding Hamas’ narrative.
Having failed to achieve their goals through force, extremist groups like Hamas sought another strategy. In their charter, Hamas states that they reject any well-intentioned negotiations with Israel as a way to resolve the conflict. The reason for this is also in the charter, being that Hamas does not view its struggle over when Palestinians establish a state in the Gaza strip and West Bank. Hamas has stated that their goal is to rid the region of all Israelis, including behind the green line. Since military force has proved less effective than desired against Israel, the new tactic Hamas has adopted is to use acts of war against Israel to provoke a military response. Why would Hamas want an Israeli attack? Because with one dead civilian in Gaza, Hamas gains more legitimacy than they could hope to achieve by violence alone.
Thus, Israel is faced with two options. The first is to do relatively nothing where all effort is focused on stopping weapons from reaching Gaza. The second option Israel has is to stop the attacks on its civilians by targeting Hamas leadership, thus demonstrating to Hamas that the terror group cannot continue such attacks without incurring devastating losses in military infrastructure and personnel.
The point to all this is that by incurring high civilian deaths, Hamas is painting a picture where Israelis appear to be aggressors and murderers of civilians. Hamas can then garner political support for the de-legitimization of Israel in the international arena.
To return to where “die-ins” play into this strategy, although there is clearly not coordination between Hamas and groups protesting Israeli military actions in Gaza, when Hamas sees that groups all over the world are able to use the unfortunate deaths caused by Hamas’ own disregard for loss of life on both sides, and get away with it, they stand to win support After all, the slogan of Hamas is “We love death more than [Israelis] love life.” So with increased condemnation of Israel each time a civilian is accidentally killed in attacks on Hamas military sites, they feel a great payoff in the political arena and are able to recruit more to their ranks.
If student groups want to help the Palestinian effort for statehood, which SSI supports, they must emphasize that using one’s own population in such a manner is unacceptable and ultimately increases the suffering of the population in Gaza and the hate taught to future Gazan generations. This ultimately works against the likelihood of a peaceful coexistence between an Israeli and Palestinian state in the future. I believe the people of Palestine and Israel both deserve normal lives and to not be manipulated by extremist groups into a conflict that cannot end well for Israel, Palestine and mankind as a whole.