Multi-million Dollar Publicity Stunt Reveals Gaza Marchersâ€™ True Objectives
by Noah Shack
Government Relations Research Associate, Canada-Israel Committee
“Could our resources have been more wisely used? Without a doubt, though it’s easier to criticize than to envision.” â€“ David Symons, a ‘Gaza Freedom March’ participant.
In response to an endless barrage of rockets being fired from Gaza onto civilian populations in southern Israel, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in December of 2008.Â On the first anniversary of that operation, 1,360 people joined Mr. Symons in Cairo on the Gaza Freedom March, the announced goal of which was to break the so-called blockade of Gaza.Â This small number was a far cry from the Million-Man March show of force that they hoped for. But more importantly, it appears that an obsessive condemnation of Israel edged out the welfare of Gazans as the core objective.
If a repeat of this ill-fated campaign were planned for next year, a quick visit to Air Canadaâ€™s website shows that a single, round trip, economy class ticket from Toronto to Cairo would cost $1584.52. To be generous, letâ€™s assume the average flight to Cairo for the Gaza Freedom Marchers cost around $1,000 per person. Thatâ€™s nearly $1.4 million evaporated before a single protester touched down on Egyptian soil.
According to its organizers, “the Gaza Freedom March will show the residents of Gaza that the international community of citizens has not forgotten them, and will call worldwide attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis.” In reality, the action was barely picked up in the media with the exception of Iranian Press TV, which was only too happy to broadcast images of another regional government manhandling protesters in the streets.
Not even the population of Gaza mobilized in response to this grotesquely expensive failed publicity stunt.Â According to Maggie Young, a UC Berkeley student who was one of 84 marchers admitted to Gaza, the protest was primarily led and controlled by 500 men associated with Hamas. Ha’aretz correspondent Amira Hass described it as “a ritual, an opportunity for Hamas cabinet ministers to get decent media coverage in the company of Western demonstrators,” noting that “there were no Palestinian women among the marchers – a slap to the many feminist organizers and participants, both women and men.”
A popular blog sagaciously relates the following: â€œAn interesting fact about white people is that they firmly believe that all of the worldâ€™s problems can be solved through ‘awareness.’Â Meaning the process of making other people aware of problems, and then magically someone else like the government will fix itâ€¦ This belief allows them to feel that sweet self-satisfaction without actually having to solve anything or face any difficult challenges.”
Would it not have been a better use of resources to send $1.4 million to initiatives already engaged in alleviating the humanitarian situation in Gaza? A successful global mobilization to raise millions of dollars for the Red Cross or UNRWA would surely enjoy more profile, and have the added bonus of actually impacting the situation on the ground for the people of Gaza. Instead, 1,360 people took a trip to Cairo to ring in the New Year, and returned home with nothing to show for it but some paltry awareness.
The root of this misguided resource allocation is precisely as Mr. Symons elucidates: “it’s easier to criticize than to envision.”Â By focusing exclusively on criticizing and demonizing Israel, participants in the Gaza Freedom March have revealed their true objectives. Their goal has far less to do with helping Gaza than with condemning Israel.
The marchers are home, but their campaign against Israel continues. Those same people who opted to hold a self-aggrandizing protest rather than allocate funding to a worthy cause now decry the Government of Canada for seeking transparency regarding its aid to UNRWA, blaming a shady Zionist conspiracy no doubt. Never mind that Canada will continue to actually support the people of Gaza by providing much needed food, and over $300 million in other Palestinian aid projects.
Easier to criticize than envision indeed.