The Case for Resisting Arrest: How do we best protest our Pro-Israel Government?

Graphic by Delaney Lumpkin/Graphics Center

American politicians like President Joe Biden have long supported Israel on the basis of Western values, claiming it’s the “only democracy in the Middle East.” However, their support for Israel is not just deteriorating democratic values abroad, but at home as well. 

Our government’s allegiance to Israel isn’t preserving democracy; it’s violating it. So far, our protests against this have been insufficient at creating enough change. We need to be more serious about how we approach protesting this support.

On Apr. 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would send $26.3 billion to Israel — $4 billion of which is for Israeli missile purchases, according to the Associated Press. This bill was supported for months by President Biden, Al-Jazeera reports. The Center on American-Islamic Relations described the Israel aid as a “blank check” with which Israel can buy more weapons to slaughter Palestinians. 

Both legally and morally, directing more aid to Israel is disgusting. Legally, it violates the Leahy laws to fund military units that have credible reports of gross human rights violations. This would logically exclude just about the entire Israeli military from American funding. Morally, we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to end Israel’s aggression against Palestinians, which includes threatening to cut off military aid, a tactic that has historically worked to get Israel to cease-firing.

In an all-too-rare occasion, public opinion and the right thing to do overlap. A YouGov/Economist poll from this month found that a majority of Americans don’t support increasing aid to Israel.

Biden has long affirmed his “ironclad” support for the state of Israel. But he wasn’t elected president to represent the interests of Israel – he was elected to represent us. When he ignores calls to end aid to Israel, he is ignoring his legal, moral, and political duties. Anyone who does that is not someone who can be trusted with power.

Again and again, we have witnessed our government violate the principles of liberalism and democracy to protect Israel. When the majority of the world, as well as a majority of the United Nations Security Council, recognizes Palestine as a state, the U.S. blocks it. When we see blatant war crimes, such as mass executions at hospitals, committed by Israel, the U.S. insists we didn’t. When tens of thousands of Democrats voted “uncommitted” in the primaries to show Biden that his re-election prospects rest on changing his policies on Gaza, he ignored them — throwing away his political future for the benefit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who publicly wants him to lose to former President Donald Trump. 

So, what is to be done? Well, one of the first suggestions you’ll find on any “How You Can Help Palestinians in Gaza” list is to “contact your representatives.” Seems easy enough. The only problem is that barely a month into this slaughter, we learned that our congressional representatives were letting calls about Gaza go to voicemail, as reported by the New Republic. There’s always boycotting, but that’s a literal non-action. There must be something more active we can do.

I, like many of you, have followed and participated in peaceful protests for Palestine, both on and off campus. I have been lucky enough to avoid facing direct legal consequences at these protests, but the same can’t be said for every protester. From the people who shut down the Golden Gate Bridge to students at Columbia and Yale Universities, Pro-Palestinian protesters have faced arrests and brutality, many without any resistance to police efforts.

That needs to change. While the image of protesters singing while being arrested is certainly romanticized, the truth is there is no honor in being arrested. It is not only your right, but your duty to resist arrest when you’re being targeted for denouncing genocide. We need to fight back against law enforcement shutting down demonstrations. 

Some strategies include forcing de-arrests, like surrounding police vehicles until detained protesters are released. Alternatively, we could look toward the example set by the 2020 Black Lives Matter protesters, who kicked tear gas canisters back at police and developed fast-moving protest structures to avoid mass arrests. Or we could follow the students at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, who on Monday barricaded themselves inside rooms and fought riot police.

Of course, the dangers of resisting arrest are not the same for everyone. Black and brown protestors face significantly more risk even when they’re not deliberately disobeying law enforcement. But as someone who also faces this risk, we have to brave it in light of the repression the pro-Palestinian cause is facing.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If all the sanctioned methods of getting our government to listen to us aren’t working, we need to try something outside of the accepted methods of protest. 

Breaking the law is usually bad. But our government is supporting atrocities in our name. If they’re going to break the rules, so must we.

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer, Opinion Editor: Chisom Okorafor 

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