Saturday, 10 January 2009

Protests - what are they good for?

I was dragged out to go shopping in Edinburgh this afternoon... and saw in passing the "anti-Israel's actions against Gaza" march.

Now don't get me wrong, I agree with the sentiments - as is probably obvious from previous posts on the subject. But I guess this is where my cynicism surfaces.

Given that millions protested against the Iraq war - and no one in the government paid any attention, given Israel has ignored UN Security Council resolutions to stop the conflict, in what way will protesting in Edinburgh make a difference?

Now I know that's not the point of protesting - or is it? Am I just the kind of person that looks for an end point in any kind of action - appreciating that some things are intrinsically good but that the outcome of action are how they should be judged? I don't really know. Maybe Stephen Glenn - who spent the day in the rain at the march - can explain what was the expected outcome from today's action.

I admire the sentiment and the motivation to get something done... but I'm sceptical that today will have achieved anything other than annoying some drivers in Edinburgh who couldn't get through the centre of town. Anyone think otherwise?


Unknown 10 January 2009 at 19:45  

I guess it's the Martin Neimoller thing. You know:

In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

I feel so strongly about what is going on in Gaza that it would be wrong not to speak out.

I know full well that Gordon Brown and George Bush are not going to say "Look at all those people in Edinburgh/London/Leeds who were protesting. We have to change things."

But somebody has to stand up for these people. The gratitude shown by a Palestinian family in Pizza Hut to my 9 year old for the fact that she cared about them brings tears to my eyes.

And the fact that they felt that she had made a difference will, I hope, shape her future values.

Jeff 11 January 2009 at 00:02  

I have to agree Malc, in terms of creating solutions then protests are rather empty beasts but Caron makes a good point, if they provide a comfort to people who feel put upon then they do do some good.

By the sound of things in Edinburgh, it was a little bit messy and amateur with the red paint and shoe hurling (at the US embassy!?) but that said, I'll no doubt go to the Melbourne one next weekend.

Hope you got something nice at the shops!

Malc 11 January 2009 at 12:02  


The Neimoller thing is all very well... and I understand the speaking up thing. But I think the point stands - if you are speaking up in Edinburgh, who actually listens?

You got me on the second point though. If it makes a difference to one person - or indeed, shapes the values of the young who are participating - it has done some good. Perhaps not the hoped for outcome, but a good outcome nonetheless.

Anonymous,  11 January 2009 at 14:59  

People in Edinburgh listen Malc. Seeing so many people from all walks of life stand together for something that's right certainly influences me. Some people, as Caron said, will be comforted, others will perhaps be moved to donate, send aid, or even write to politicians as a result. A bit of solidarity never hurt anyone (except, perhaps, tommy sheridan)

Malc 11 January 2009 at 15:15  


That's probably the best answer I've had to "what was to be achieved by the march?"

I don't think a march in Edinburgh is going to stop the bombing, but if it was the intention of the march to raise awareness (which, I guess, is already pretty widespread) and to get people to donate, then I think it will have been successful.

My point was only that, if the aim was to get Israel to rethink the policy, then it was a waste of time. Israel listens to no one - not the US, not the UN, not the people of Edinburgh!

Solidarity, brothers and sisters!

Stephen Glenn 11 January 2009 at 18:49  

Malc I replied to your post on facebook and used it in my post this morning without realising you'd also posted this.

Yeah we marched against the war in Iraq and were ignored. But the point of marching against these unjust wars whether perpetrated by the US-UK coalition or in this case Israel. There are a number of was Israel (and more to a point others) will listen is if action is taken that will hurt then. Sanctions, like we brought to bear on Saouth Africa made them pay attention eventually.

Jeff you may think that the shoe hurling was amateurish. But considering the coverage it picked up worldwide I'd beg to differ. That a mixture of Scottish society from Morningside to both Sighthills were involved in what was a peaceful demostration were seen showing a Lavant and Arab insult to the American Consulate some 100 yards up the barracaded off road barracaded speaks volumes.

Stephen Glenn 11 January 2009 at 18:54  

As for annoying drivers I think the sheer scale of the march probably did shock everyone. The fact that some drivers may have been annoyed by just how long the protest took to past I hope makes them actually think a bit more about what is happening to Gaza and make some sort of response.

Malc 11 January 2009 at 20:58  

Stephen, you're missing the point of my question.

Those of you who were matching can't bring sanctions against Israel. And as you say, marches against the War in Iraq were ignored by the government. So, what are you expecting this time?

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