I arrived at Pioneer Courthouse Square some twenty minutes before the 11:00 am start of the protest against Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip. I had several times, the previous day, urged others to join me at the demo.
But I came with the experience of other, previous, demonstrations protesting other massacres by the Israeli Defense Forces. The protest organizers, in the main themselves Palestinian in origin, allow chants that celebrate the Intifada. They say “Intifada! Intifada! Long Live Intifada!” and elicit from those attending the repetition of such a chant.
I was unwilling ever to be part of such a demonstration again. I am not Palestinian, and am not attending in order to show my allegiance to an armed uprising. Sure, the arms — rocks, Molotov cocktails, suicide vests of the two earlier Intifadas, and unguided rockets today — are absurdly minor compared to the U.S.-supplied supersonic jets, drones, anti-missile missiles, and white phosphorus bombs that are deployed by the Israelis.
But I am representing the Green Party, as its nominee for Congress, and both in my personal opinion and in my political outlook I am asking both sides to learn to live with one another.
When, not long ago in Los Angeles, a march petitioning for civil rights for undocumented immigrants carried a Mexican flag, that was a similar confusion: there, it was ‘just’ a question of opportunities lost, where here it’s people being blown to bits by the scores. But just as I am not going to march down the street carrying a Mexican flag when asking that undocumented immigrants get treated fairly in the U.S., so I am not going to close my eyes and stop my ears when the demonstration protesting aggressive war by Israel celebrates weapons being launched against Israel.
I spoke to four fellow demonstrators about this. I was advised the the word, Intifada, means nothing other than Stand and Resist. But I know the context. It celebrates acts of violence by poorly-armed and desperate youths.
If anyone, today, were to say ‘One nation. One people. One leader.’ it would not be very objectionable, eh? — but it’s the English translation of Ein Reich. Ein Volk. Ein Führer. — the motto of the Nazi Party. Very, very objectionable indeed, because of the context.
I was advised that the violence of the launchers of rockets is in response to Israeli provocations, in response to decades of immiseration and brutality, in response to the burning alive of a teen-ager. Okay, were I Palestinian I sure might well be launching a rocket myself! — but I am not. And you cannot expect me to say that I am, when you celebrate actions of war. I am demonstrating for peace, against war.
The final response to my objection was, that the alternative to being in a demonstration where they chant Long Live the Intifada, is to do nothing. Well, non-intervention in a civil war in a foreign country, even when it looks to you like one antagonist has more justice on its side than the other, is doing nothing. Admittedly, it does not feel good.
So I left the demonstration, with a heavy heart. And I delayed writing this post. But even if I am a minority of one, even if I am politically stupid, and ineffective, and all the rest of the adjectives that are applied to ethical acts in time of violence, I am standing honestly and without compromise against war.