Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90
Look who joined the riot at the Gaza border fence. December 21, 2018.

From March 2018 to December 2019, the media reported on The Great March of Return. Each Friday, the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza approached the barrier separating Gaza from Israel in “spontaneous,” “peaceful” protests, demanding the right to return to their homes in “Palestine.” It didn’t take long for Hamas to coopt the protests. Soon, amidst the smoke of burning tires and under cover of night, Gazans attempted to break through the fence into Israel.

These were not peaceful protests; they were destructive riots. But how does international law apply to civilian rioting in support of military objectives?


Which paradigm is applicable: Conduct of Hostilities or Law Enforcement — or a combination of the two? 

The March was useful for Hamas. It put pressure on Israel to deal with masses of Gazans at the barrier, many of whom tried to break through and infiltrate into Israel. The Gazans who were killed or injured became frontpage news generating worldwide condemnations of Israel

By the end of 2019, Hamas “postponed” the weekly riots.

But on October 7, 2023, Hamas penetrated the barrier — murdering, raping, and kidnapping Israeli civilians.

Now, riots against Israel are again in the news, but this time they are around the world. These are pro-Palestinian riots, and they are not peaceful — but that does not stop the media from calling them “protests” even while describing the destruction they cause. After all, no one wants to admit the government is losing control:
Beyond the destruction, another goal of the riots is disruption:
Some have questioned the methods of the rioters. After all, how can they hope to change people’s minds when they resort to violence and inconveniencing people? This misses the point. The rioters and those organizing them are not interested in reason and dialogue. They are pushing an agenda.
And they are using public disruptions as leverage.
This is not a new form of protest. It is an application and even a refinement of hybrid warfare. The NATO Review explains the concept:

Conflicts are fought in new, innovative, and radically different ways. With the advent of modern hybrid warfare, they are less and less about lethal or kinetic force.

It is important to note here that the concept of hybrid warfare might not be entirely new. Many practitioners contend that it is as old as war itself. Nevertheless, it has gained significant currency and relevance in recent years as states employ non-state actors and information technology to subdue their adversaries during or—more importantly—in the absence of a direct armed conflict. [emphasis added]

 Back in 2018, during The March, The Begin-Sadat Center For Strategic Studies made the connection between the Hamas-inspired riots and how other countries were also weaponizing unarmed civilians. For example, during the Russian campaign in Georgia:

Those campaigns made deliberate and effective use of the combination of military force and civilian activity. In the fighting in Georgia, for example, armored forces were able to enter the north of the country thanks to the efforts of Russian-oriented Georgian-Abkhaz civilians, who, in a preparatory move, seized the tunnels and bridges of the expressway that leads to the capital, Tbilisi.

This is not limited to Russia, nor does there have to be a military component: “Similarly, Beijing is making use of thousands of civilian fishing boats in its efforts to extend its sovereignty over the South China Sea.”

According to The NATO Review, hybrid warfare does not require a context of all-out war:

What takes the centre stage here is the role of civilians: how they think and act in relation to the state. Contemporary digital and social media platforms allow hybrid actors to influence this to the detriment of the adversary state with considerable ease. The Russian online disinformation campaigns, some of which are very subtle yet grave, against some Western states constitute a good case in point. [emphasis added]

The riots we are seeing are not spontaneous. They are a means to push an agenda, demanding that Biden and the Democratic Party support a ceasefire in Gaza. The alternative is the disruption of Biden’s presidential campaign.
These riots are not like the anti-Israel protests we are used to. The Toronto Sun points out that instead of the smaller, less organized anti-Israel protests we are used to, now:

Hundreds, sometimes thousands, participate. They’ve got professionally-rendered signs and banners. They’ve got transportation, and food and drink. And they’ve got organizers who wear uniforms and control the crowds.

But there is more to this than just better organization; there is also better funding. But the money is for more than just staffing and supplies. People are being paid to riot:


pro-Palestine — and, increasingly, pro-Hamas — protestors are being paid to protest.  To block highways and roads.  To intimidate and threaten Jews and non-Jews. To cause chaos.

From the Palestinian Authority’s pay-to-slay program, we have now arrived at the pay-to-riot program. The people who hold the money call the shots. Since the organizers are still paying out despite the riots, vandalism, and chaos  — it appears that the rioting, vandalism, and chaos are what the organizers want.

According to Francesca Block, writing for The Free Press, one of those funding this chaos on the streets of the US is the American-born tech entrepreneur, Neville Roy Singham. He is the founder and one of the lead supporters of The People’s Forum. The group helped to organize at least four protests after October 7 as of November 14.  One of them was on October 8, before Israel had taken any action in Gaza:


The New York Times found ties between Singham and “a lavishly funded influence campaign that defends China and pushes its propaganda”:

What is less known, and is hidden amid a tangle of nonprofit groups and shell companies, is that Mr. Singham works closely with the Chinese government media machine and is financing its propaganda worldwide.

The article describes him as “a socialist benefactor of far-left causes.” Singham denies any connection with the Chinese Communist Party or China itself. However, according to the article:

He and his allies are on the front line of what Communist Party officials call a “smokeless war.” Under the rule of Xi Jinping, China has expanded state media operations, teamed up with overseas outlets and cultivated foreign influencers. The goal is to disguise propaganda as independent content.

“Smokeless war” is a good description of hybrid warfare.

The August 2023 Times article makes no mention of Israel, Palestinian Arabs, or Gaza, but as a supporter of far-left causes Singham’s People’s Forum supporting violent protests is not surprising. For China, the riots are not necessarily a question of supporting Gaza, but rather using pro-Palestinian protests and the chaos they create to undermine the US.

These Chinese media interests are helping sow discord in the U.S., Rep. Mike Gallagher, the chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, told The Free Press.

“The Chinese Communist Party uses tools like Confucius Institutes on college campuses, TikTok’s addictive algorithm, and organizations like those that Mr. Singham funds to divide and weaken America,” Gallagher said.

If Gallagher is right, the chaos created by these “protests” is not a bug.
They are a feature.
Which means that Israel is not the only target.

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Bennett Ruda has been blogging at since 2003. He also contributes to the Elder of Ziyon website. Bennet lives in Elizabeth, New Jersey, with his wife and two children