Category Archives: Civil Disobedience

With Blood on Its Missiles, US Indicted for Global Nuclear Terror

The Nuremberg Principles not only prohibit such crimes but oblige those of us aware of the crime to act against it. “Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity … is a crime under International Law.” […]

The ongoing building and maintenance of Trident submarines and ballistic missile systems constitute war crimes that can and should be investigated and prosecuted by judicial authorities at all levels. As citizens, we are required by International Law to denounce and resist known crimes.

— Kings Bay Plowshares Indictment of US for war crimes, April 4, 2018

On April 4, 2018, seven Catholics, three women and four men calling themselves the Kings Bay Plowshares, carried out their faith-based, nonviolent, symbolic action, pouring blood on the world’s largest nuclear submarine base and indicting the US for its perpetual crime of holding the world hostage to the terrorist threat of using nuclear weapons. The US crime that began in 1945 has reached new intensity with Donald Trump’s years of casual rhetoric threatening nuclear holocaust on targets from ISIS to North Korea. Every other nuclear-armed state engages in the same criminal threatening every day, but the US has been at it longer and is still the only state to have perpetrated the actual war crimes of not one but two nuclear terror attacks against mostly civilian targets in Japan in 1945.

The target of the Plowshares Seven’s radical direct action was the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, home to eight Trident nuclear submarines, each capable of launching nuclear missile strikes anywhere in the world. Each 560-foot-long Trident ballistic missile submarine carries sufficient firepower to attack some 600 cities with more destructive force than destroyed Hiroshima. The “small” warheads on Trident missiles have a 100-kiloton payload, roughly seven times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. The Kings Bay base covers some 17,000 acres, making it roughly 30 times larger than the principality of Monaco. The base was developed in 1978-79 under President Jimmy Carter, a former nuclear submarine engineer. A prominent Christian protestant all his career, Carter has long made peace with war-making, unlike the radical Catholics in the Plowshares movement since they hammered and poured blood on nuclear nosecones in 1980 (the first of more than 100 Plowshares actions since then).

On April 4, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Liz McAlister, 78, Stephen Kelly S.J., 70, Martha Hennessy, 62, Clare Grady, 58, Patrick O’Neill, 62, Mark Colville, 55, and Carmen Trotta, 55, entered the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base.

Carrying hammers and bottles of their own blood, the seven sought to enact and embody the prophet Isaiah’s command to: “Beat swords into plowshares.” In so doing, they were upholding the US Constitution through its requirement to respect treaties, international law through the UN Charter and Nuremberg principles, and higher moral law regarding the sacredness of all creation. They hoped to draw attention to and begin to dismantle what Dr. King called “the triple evils” of racism, militarism, and extreme materialism.

— Kings Bay Plowshares press release, May 4, 2018

As darkness fell on April 4, the Plowshares Seven were setting out to commit a classic act of civil disobedience, breaking laws that they saw as unjust in light of a higher law. The description of events that follows here is based on the government indictment (signed by five lawyers), the Kings Bay Plowshares account, and a conversation with one of the Plowshares Seven, Martha Hennessy, a retired occupational therapist, at her home in Vermont, where she is confined with an ankle bracelet while awaiting trial.

After penetrating the perimeter fence as a group, the seven split up into three groups, headed for three different destinations on the base, and arrived unchallenged.

The nuclear weapons storage bunkers are in a shoot-to-kill zone. McAlister, Kelly, and Trotta managed to unfurl a banner without getting shot, but were quickly arrested. The banner read: “Nuclear weapons: illegal/immoral.”

The second group, Grady and Hennessy, went to the Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic Administration, two large, one-story office buildings out of sight and hearing range from the weapons storage bunkers. Here the scene was more surreal: lights were on in the building, people were working inside, but it was very quiet. Grady and Hennessy were alone in the dark outside for almost an hour. That gave them time to post the Plowshares indictment on the door and rope off the area with yellow crime scene tape. They poured blood on the door and the sidewalk. They spray-painted the sidewalk with “Love One Another” and “Repent” and “May Love Disarm Us All.”

When they were done, they joined the third group, Colville and O’Neill, at the Trident D5 Monuments, a sculptural, phallic celebration of nuclear weapons delivery systems. There the Plowshares splashed blood on the base logo and the Navy seal. They draped the monument in yellow crime scene tape. They pried brass letters off the monument. They hung a banner paraphrasing Martin Luther King’s admonition that “the ultimate logic of racism is genocide.” The banner read: “The Ultimate Logic of Trident is Omnicide.” People drove by as they worked, but no one stopped. After about an hour, security officers arrived and very politely, full of Southern good manners, handcuffed the four and took them into custody at a base facility sometime after midnight.

In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised about the hills. All nations shall stream toward it….  He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares; and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”

— Book of Isaiah, 2:2-4

According to Kings Bay Base spokesman Scott Bassett, the Plowshares Seven were quickly transferred to the civilian county jail. Bassett said there were no injuries and that no military personnel or “assets” were in danger. He said the incident was still under investigation, but “At no time was anybody threatened.”

Mainstream media seem to have treated the blooding of the submarine missiles as a one-day story of little import, or ignored it entirely. The Navy was treating it as a trivial case of trespass and vandalism. Georgia officials filed charges along the same lines. But by the time the Plowshares Seven had been in county jail for a month, someone had decided to make a federal case of it.

The federal indictment of May 2 is a squalid bit of legalism at its most dishonest. The seven-page charge tries to have it both ways, making out a trespass/vandalism case while suppressing what makes it actually worthy of federal prosecution (albeit not of these defendants). No wonder it took five lawyers to conjure up a redundantly iterated charge of conspiracy to trespass and “willfully and maliciously destroy and injure real and personal property” of the US Navy. The charge is naked of any hint of a motive, and for good, sordid, corrupt prosecutorial reason. The motive calls into question the legality of the base, the submarines, the nuclear weapons, and the right of the US to keep the rest of the world under perpetual threat of annihilation. The feds have a long history of keeping that argument out of court by any means necessary.

Prosecutorial deceit is further illustrated by the indictment’s corrupt selection of the alleged overt acts by the defendants. The indictment charges all seven with acts some of them could not possibly have committed. And for all their wordy whining about property being damaged or defaced, the lawyers conspire not to mention any yellow crime tape, or banners, or – most importantly – the defendants’ blood. “A True Bill” the document is called on the page where five federal lawyers signed, if not in contempt of court, surely in contempt of truth and justice.

But that’s where this case is headed, down the rabbit hole of police state justice, if the government has its way. The Plowshares Seven, all presently proceeding without attorneys of their own, will attempt to argue a necessity defense – that whatever illegal actions they have taken were necessary to prevent a greater harm, in this case nuclear destruction. That case is so patently obvious, the government has never dared to let it be argued (in other countries it has led to some acquittals). Mostly miscarriages of justice like this go on in the shadows, without media attention, without regard to who is president or which party is in power. Anyone who looks carefully soon realizes this is true. In late 2008, Martha Hennessy wrote from Ireland:

I can’t write about my journey coming here to participate in the Catholic Worker Farm community without considering the context of our current world situation. The global financial markets teeter on the brink of chaos, and the US presidential race nears Election Day. It feels as though those who are aware of what is happening are holding their collective breath while others toil on in pain and oblivion. I completed early voting before leaving the States but I am always left with a feeling of having blood on my hands, trying to be a “responsible” citizen in a so-called democracy. The recent American bailout of the corporate criminals is a theft from the people who need housing, healthcare, and education. The horrific war that has been visited on the Iraqi people has turned on its perpetrators. And now people of faith who mount nonviolent protest to these atrocities are being branded as “terrorists” by the domestic security apparatus. How to maintain faith, hope and love with such dark times ahead?

Hennessy and two others are out on bail, but electronically shackled. The other four remain in federal prison in the usually appalling conditions the US justice system deems appropriate, or at least profitable. The prosecutors opposed any bail for any of them. A motions hearing is scheduled for early August, when all seven will seek release to allow them to prepare for trial, representing themselves. No trial date has yet been set. The defendants face potential sentences of 5 to 20 years each. They used their own blood to symbolize redemption and repentance in the shadow of nuclear holocaust. For that, these seven nonviolent Catholics have put themselves at the mercy of a “Christian” nation whose deepest belief is in its own exceptionalism, immersed in a permanent war economy heading toward omnicide, which can’t come soon enough for apocalyptic dominionoids who figure their souls are saved so let’s get it on. In a sane world, wouldn’t that be enough for jury exclusion?

Beating the US “Veto”: Palestinians Need Urgent Protection from Israel

What is taking place in Palestine is not a ‘conflict’.  We readily utilize the term but, in fact, the word ‘conflict’ is misleading. It equates between oppressed Palestinians and Israel, a military power that stands in violation of numerous United Nations Resolutions.

It is these ambiguous terminologies that allow the likes of United States UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, to champion Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’, as if the militarily occupied and colonized Palestinians are the ones threatening the security of their occupier and tormentor.

In fact, this is precisely what Haley has done to counter a draft UN Security Council Resolution presented by Kuwait to provide a minimum degree of protection for Palestinians. Haley vetoed the draft, thus continuing a grim legacy of US defense of Israel, despite the latter’s ongoing violence against Palestinians.

It is no surprise that out of the 80 vetoes exercised by the US at the UNSC, the majority were unleashed to protect Israel. The first such veto for Israel’s sake was in September 1972 and the latest, used by Haley, was on June 1.

Before it was put to the vote, the Kuwaiti draft was revised three times in order to ‘water it down’. Initially, it called for the protection of the Palestinian people from Israeli violence.

The final draft merely called for “The consideration of measures to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in the Gaza Strip.”

Still, Haley found the language “grossly one-sided.”

The near consensus in support of the Kuwait draft was met with complete rejection of Haley’s own draft resolution which demanded Palestinian groups cease “all violent provocative actions” in Gaza.

The ‘provocative actions’ being referred to in Haley’s draft is the mass mobilization by tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, who have been peacefully protesting for weeks, hoping that their protests will place the Israeli siege on Gaza back on the UN agenda.

Haley’s counter draft resolution did not garner a single vote in favor, save that of Haley’s own.  But such humiliation at the international stage is hardly of essence to the US, which has wagered its international reputation and foreign policy to protect Israel at any cost, even from unarmed observers whose job is merely to report on what they see on the ground.

The last such ‘force’ was that of 60 – later increased to 90 – members of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).

TIPH was established in May 1996 and has filed many reports on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian city, especially in Area H-2, a small part of the city that is controlled by the Israeli army to protect some of the most violent illegal Jewish settlers.

Jan Kristensen, a retired lieutenant colonel of the Norwegian army who headed TIPH had these words to say, following the completion of his one-year mission in Hebron in 2004:

The activity of the settlers and the army in the H-2 area of Hebron is creating an irreversible situation. In a sense, cleansing is being carried out. In other words, if the situation continues for another few years, the result will be that no Palestinians will remain there.

One can only imagine what has befallen Hebron since then. The army and Jewish settlers have become so emboldened to the extent that they execute Palestinians in cold blood with little or no consequence.

One such episode became particularly famous, for it was caught on camera. On March 24, 2015, an Israeli soldier carried out a routine operation by shooting in the head an incapacitated Palestinian.

The execution of Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif, 21, was filmed by Imad Abushamsiya. The viral video caused Israel massive embarrassment, forcing it to hold a sham trial in which the Israeli soldier who killed al-Sharif received a light sentence; he was later released to a reception fit for heroes.

Abushamsiya, who filmed the murder, however, was harassed by both the Israeli army and police and received numerous death threats.

The Israeli practice of punishing the messenger is not new. The mother of Ahed Tamimi, Nariman, who filmed her teenage daughter confronting armed Israeli soldiers was also detained and sentenced.

Israel has practically punished Palestinians for recording their own subjugation by Israeli troops while, at the same time, empowering these very soldiers to do as they please; it is now in the process of turning this everyday reality into actual law.

A bill at the Israeli Knesset was put forward late May that prohibits “photographing and documenting (Israeli occupation) soldiers”, and criminalizing “anyone who filmed, photographed and/or recorded soldiers in the course of their duty.”

The bill, which is supported by Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, demands a five-year imprisonment term for violators.

The bill practically means that any form of monitoring of Israeli soldiers is a criminal act. If this is not a call for perpetual war crimes, what is?

Just to be sure, a second bill is proposing to give immunity to soldiers suspected of criminal activities during military operations.

The bill is promoted by deputy Defense Minister, Eli Ben Dahan, and is garnering support at the Knesset.

“The truth is that Ben Dahan’s bill is entirely redundant,” wrote Orly Noy in the Israeli 972 Magazine.

Noy cited a recent report by the Israeli human rights organization ‘Yesh Din’ which shows that “soldiers who allegedly commit crimes against the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories enjoy near-full immunity.”

Now, Palestinians are more vulnerable than ever before, and Israel, with the help of its American enablers, is more brazen than ever.

This tragedy cannot continue. The international community and civil society organizations, – independent of the US government and its shameful vetoes – must undertake the legal and moral responsibility to monitor Israeli action and to provide meaningful protection for Palestinians.

Israel should not have free reign to abuse Palestinians at will, and the international community should not stand by and watch the bloody spectacle as it continues to unfold.

The Colonization of Palestine: Rethinking the Term ‘Israeli Occupation’

June 5, 2018 marks the 51st anniversary of the Israeli Occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

But, unlike the massive popular mobilization that preceded the anniversary of the Nakba – the catastrophic destruction of Palestine in 1948 –  on May 15, the anniversary of the Occupation is hardly generating equal mobilization.

The unsurprising death of the ‘peace process’ and the inevitable demise of the ‘two-state solution’ has shifted the focus from ending the Occupation, per se, to the larger and more encompassing problem of Israel’s colonialism throughout Palestine.

The grass-root mobilization in Gaza and the West Bank, and among Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Naqab Desert are, once more, widening the Palestinian people’s sense of national aspirations. Thanks to the limited vision of the Palestinian leadership, those aspirations have, for decades, been confined to Gaza and West Bank.

In some sense, the ‘Israeli Occupation’ is no longer an occupation as per international standards and definitions. It is merely a phase of Zionist colonization of historic Palestine, a process that began over a 100 years ago, and carries on to this date.

“The law of occupation is primarily motivated by humanitarian consideration; it is solely the facts on the ground that determine its application,” states the International Committee of the Red Cross website.

It is for practical purposes that we often utilize the term ‘occupation’ with reference to Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land, occupied after June 5, 1967. The term allows for the constant emphasis on humanitarian rules that are meant to govern Israel’s behavior as the Occupying Power.

However, Israel has already, and repeatedly, violated most conditions of what constitute an ‘Occupation’ from an international law perspective, as articulated in the 1907 Hague Regulations (articles 42-56) and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.

According to these definitions, an ‘Occupation’ is a provisional phase, a temporary situation that is meant to end with the implementation of international law regarding that particular situation.

Military occupation’ is not the sovereignty of the Occupier over the Occupied; it cannot include transfer of citizens from the territories of the Occupying Power to Occupied land; it cannot include ethnic cleansing; destruction of properties; collective punishment and annexation.

It is often argued that Israel is an Occupier that has violated the rules of Occupation as stated in international law.

This would have been the case a year, two or five years after the original Occupation had taken place, but not 51 years later. Since then, the Occupation has turned into long-term colonization.

An obvious proof is Israel’s annexation of Occupied land, including the Syrian Golan Heights and Palestinian East Jerusalem in 1981. That decision had no regard for international law, humanitarian or any other.

Israeli politicians have, for years, openly debated the annexation of the West Bank, especially areas that are populated with illegal Jewish settlements, which are built contrary to international law.

Those hundreds of settlements that Israel has been building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are not meant as temporary structures.

Dividing the West Bank into three zones, areas A, B and C, each governed according to different political diktats and military roles, has little precedent in international law.

Israel argues that, contrary to international law, it is no longer an Occupying Power in Gaza; however, an Israel land, maritime and aerial siege has been imposed on the Strip for over 11 years. With successive Israeli wars that have killed thousands, to a hermetic blockade that has pushed the Palestinian population to the brink of starvation, Gaza subsists in isolation.

Gaza is an ‘Occupied Territory’ by name only, without any of the humanitarian rules applied. In the last 10 weeks alone, over 120 unarmed protesters, journalists and medics were killed and13,000 wounded, yet the international community and law remain inept, unable to face or challenge Israeli leaders or to overpower equally cold-hearted American vetoes.

The Palestinian Occupied Territories have, long ago, crossed the line from being Occupied to being colonized. But there are reasons that we are trapped in old definitions, leading amongst them is American political hegemony over the legal and political discourses pertaining to Palestine.

One of the main political and legal achievements of the Israeli war – which was carried out with full US support – on several Arab countries in June 1967 is the redefining of the legal and political language on Palestine.

Prior to that war, the discussion was mostly dominated by such urgent issues as the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees to go back to their homes and properties in historic Palestine.

The June war shifted the balances of power completely, and cemented America’s role as Israel’s main backer on the international stage.

Several UN Security Council resolutions were passed to delegitimize the Israeli Occupation: UNSCR 242, UNSCR 338 and the less talked about but equally significant UNSCR 497.

242 of 1967 demanded “withdrawal of Israel armed forces” from the territories it occupied in the June war. 338, which followed the war of 1973, accentuated and clarified that demand. Resolution 497 of 1981 was a response to Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. It rendered such a move “null and void and without international and legal affect.”

The same applied to the annexation of Jerusalem as to any colonial constructions or any Israeli attempts aimed at changing the legal status of the West Bank.

But Israel is operating with an entirely different mindset.

Considering that anywhere between 600,000 to 750,000 Israeli Jews now live in the ‘Occupied Territories’, and that the largest settlement of Modi’in Illit houses more than 64,000 Israeli Jews, one has to wonder what form of military occupation blue-print Israel is implementing, anyway.

Israel is a settler colonial project, which began when the Zionist movement aspired to build an exclusive homeland for Jews in Palestine, at the expense of the native inhabitants of that land in the late 19th century.

Nothing has changed since. Only facades, legal definitions and political discourses. The truth is that Palestinians continue to suffer the consequences of Zionist colonialism and they will continue to carry that burden until that original sin is boldly confronted and justly remedied.

Today’s Poor People’s Campaign: Too Important Not to Criticize

On the progressive website OpEdNews (OEN), I recently posted a QuickLink to an article published in Black Agenda Report by its managing editor Bruce Dixon. Seeking to get Dixon’s piece maximal attention, I titled my framing introduction to it “The Most Important Political Article in Ages.” Despite the appearance of advertising puffery, I was not exaggerating.

To grasp why I find Dixon’s timely piece so hefty, readers must understand my constant political perspective—as an activist analyst intensely focused on strategy and organizing. Like Karl Marx in his Theses on Feuerbach, I’m inclined to say, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” If the world we desperately wish to change is the hellhole of U.S. politics, nothing remotely rivals in importance the current attempt to revive Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign (PPC).

But as we support that campaign, nothing is more crucial than keeping it true to the spirit—and depth of underlying political analysis—of Dr. King. Rightly conducted, today’s PPC could be (pun intended) just what the doctor ordered. This is why principled PPC critics like Dixon (who shares King’s race and radical socialist leanings, if not his religion) deserve our close and serious attention.

PPC’s Enormous Potential: To Lead Us from Our Political Desert

For a movement having, in King’s day and now, roots in U.S. black churches, religious allusions and metaphors are, of course, highly appropriate. So in saying today’s PPC could lead us out of our political desert, I am implying it could lead us into the Promised Land. Not, of course, that anyone acquainted with the nightmare of human history should expect the PPC to establish the millennium. But as a climate justice activist deeply influenced by Naomi Klein, I do think addressing humanity’s climate emergency will require a level of rapid-fire moral maturation unprecedented in human history. Our stark choice is between maturation and climate catastrophe, perhaps even between maturation and climate Armageddon. As a broad movement crying out for moral maturation—across an interrelated spectrum of issues including climate—today’s PPC is the closest approach anyone has made to a viable climate justice movement. It’s also the first movement—unlike Democrats’ pussy-hatted, Russophobic “McResistance”—offering a potentially deep response to the ghastly symptom of bipartisan disease known as Trump.

Provided, of course, today’s PPC attacks the bipartisan disease. Since doubts on that score are what I find most compelling in Dixon’s critique, I’ll say much more on that soon. But first I must dispose of the points—few but crucial—where I disagree with Dixon.

Religion and Morality: Where Dixon Seems Off Base

Any close reader of Dixon’s piece, and of my words so far, might have guessed (correctly) that my differences with him relate to religion and morality. Indeed, my previous section strongly hints that I’m comfortable with the PPC’s religious origins and morality-based language in ways that Dixon is not. In fact, I find in the PPC’s religious origins and moral language unique sources of effectiveness where Dixon sees only defects. But before elaborating on my two chief differences with Dixon, I wish to emphasize that they’re far outweighed by debt we owe him for his gutsiness in criticizing the PPC. I imagine that for many supporters, today’s PPC has already reached such iconic status that its critics must seem as perverse as detractors of Mom and apple pie would have seemed to characters in early 1960s sitcoms. Dixon honestly stuck his neck out for urgent public purposes, and even where his critiques seem mistaken, they’re hardly shallow or ill-willed, but instead rooted in realities clear-sighted people must acknowledge.

Now, anyone reading Dixon’s piece will instantly notice its snarky tone toward religion. As a frequent reader of Black Agenda Report (a black leftist publication, after all), I find this par for the course and hardly unjustified; how often, after all, has religion—especially U.S. Christianity—been used to buttress the powers that be? Or, in other words, to provide respectable support—even God’s sanction—for a ruthless capitalist or militarist establishment or even Nazis? Much more often, I’d venture, than it’s been used for the vastly more Christian purpose of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.”  And that’s above all true when the comfort and affliction were to be offered in this-worldly terms; religion’s notorious postponement of any reckoning to the afterlife, of course, underlies Marx’s famous jibe at religion as “the opiate of the masses“.

For those who know Marx’s context (see the link just provided), not even Marx is as purely hostile toward religion as he’s typically portrayed. But given humanity’s vastly improved capacity to alleviate human misery via science, technology, and democratic institutions—resources that didn’t exist when religions like Christianity were founded—no religious voice should now be trusted that hasn’t come to terms with Marx. Dixon’s snarkiness is totally appropriate to shallow religion, whereas the religion behind the PPC, in its vigilance about universal human sinfulness, is capable of critiquing shallow establishment religion in terms as scathing as anything found on the Marxist left. A fact driven home for me by recent readings in The Radical King and some works by prominent Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, a significant influence on King.  Given the scholar-activist backgrounds of Revs. William Barber and Liz Theoharis (Theoharis is actually on the faculty of Union Theological Seminary, Niebuhr’s long-time home), leadership of today’s PPC seems in good, uncompromising hands.

And no one cognizant of the role churches played in the civil rights movement, as well as earlier social movements like abolitionism and woman’s suffrage, should doubt their immense value as community bases for political organizing. This seems especially true in a society that increasingly isolates individuals, and where labor unions, formerly powerful resources for organizing, have been decimated by successful political attacks. Now embracing Unitarian Universalism, that least dogmatic of religious faiths, I personally can (from an organizing standpoint) only regret I hadn’t been “churched” in my incarnations as an anti-fracking, and later Bernie or Bust, organizer.  Belonging to a church gives one special access not only to members of one’s own church, but to interfaith political organizing—a powerful weapon wielded by today’s PPC.

To close (very willingly) my criticisms of Dixon, morality seems the area where he’s most off base. To berate the PPC for its emphasis on political issues as moral ones is probably to attack its greatest strength—a strength quite evident in King. Dixon rather amazingly overlooks the crucial role moral appeals played in eliminating such societal horrors as slavery, dueling, public torture, family vendettas, child labor—and in the civil rights movement itself. What’s more, he flies in the face of cognitive scientist George Lakoff’s important advice to liberals and progressives: that we need to start articulating the moral foundations of our political positions with the same dedication that conservatives, through their well-funded foundations and think tanks, have.

But even in his biggest misstep, Dixon is neither shallow nor ill-willed; his mistake is intertwined with valid, important concerns. On the one hand, Dixon contrasts the PPC’s insistence on morality with a class struggle analysis he (unsurprisingly for a leftist) rightly finds missing. In its efforts at broad-based coalition building, the PPC, which never hesitates to give moral criticism, is unduly chary of giving political criticism based on unjust imbalances of economic (and thereby, of political) power. A strange stance indeed for a movement seeking to eliminate poverty and racism—and a radical neglect of crucial insight from Niebuhr, who saw such unjust imbalances as brutal instances of collective immorality. Class and power balance issues are moral issues, and Niebuhr saw collective immorality as even more pernicious for societies than the individual kind.

Finally, even Dixon’s off-kilter criticism of PPC’s moral language veils an extremely valid related concern. When Dixon (mistakenly) says “labeling your political opponents, their leaders, their misguided values and their persons as ‘immoral’ is never a persuasive political tactic” (ignoring the numerous social evils defeated by precisely moral critiques), his words do suggest a totally legitimate concern about the targets of such critiques. The powerful are in a radically different position of responsibility from the powerless; almost needless to say, Trump supporters—generally victims of propaganda in a system that offers few valid choices (Clinton was hardly a good alternative)—bear considerably less moral responsibility than Trump and the staffers of his thuggish regime. In politics, we should always fire our moral weaponry at the powerful; the powerless, rather like bystanders of armed conflict, should be left to infer the implications of associating closely with parties rightly under moral assault. Creating shame by proxy, without the resentment provoked by personal blame, is the needed moral tactic.

Democrats, Russiagate, and Third-Party Voices: What Dixon Gets Crucially Right

Given the great value I find in Dixon’s courageous article, I regret the amount of space I had to use for specifying my criticisms; if anything, that was because I had to disentangle even his weaknesses from intimately related strengths. Praising his unalloyed merits is a much more gratifying task.

Now, in splitting claims of merit between the PPC and Dixon, I’m inclined to say the PPC (as a movement with religious roots making moral criticisms) has a better toolkit for doing the needed political job than Dixon actually realizes. But on the existing evidence, I’d credit Dixon with a better understanding of what the job actually is. So I’d strongly urge the PPC to enlist Dixon (or someone with a similar perspective) as an adviser on its project, lest it botch that project by misapplying its powerful tools—or failing to use others it may need.

Setting tool and job metaphors aside, the existing evidence suggests Dixon’s diagnosis of our political woes is nearly identical to mine: the deep corruption, by plutocratic and militarist interests, of both parties in a structurally two-party system, with Republicans as the more straightforwardly extremist party and Democrats as their insincere, ineffective, and, in fact, enabling “opposition.” If it’s true, as Noam Chomsky states, that U.S. Republicans are “the most dangerous organization in human history“, it’s likewise true that Democrats like it that way, for only contrast with such a vile party could justify to voters corruption as deep as Democrats’ own. Dixon obviously prefers the Green Party to either (as do I), and if we face simple facts, Greens are almost infinitely closer to Dr. King’s values—and almost infinitely more willing to fight the PPC’s “four evils”—than either party with a prospect of actually holding power. Finally, any accurate diagnosis of our political woes must acknowledge that both major parties use every dirty trick in the book to keep intraparty reformers, let alone reformist third parties, from ever gaining power; and that both command vast media resources, likewise corrupted by plutocratic and militarist interests, that serve as propaganda organs to keep legitimate criticisms and political issues inconvenient to both parties from ever being aired.

While the PPC is quite willing to denounce the vile moral consequences stemming from this diagnosis—and to use civil disobedience to spread the message that those consequences are intolerable—they seem utterly unwilling to spread (by civil disobedience or any other means) the message of the underlying diagnosis.

If my political instincts (and Dixon’s) are correct, the PPC’s denouncing of the consequences of the diagnosis—without daring to pronounce the diagnosis itself—risks reducing the PPC to the role of ineffectual moral scolds, no matter how much civil disobedience they engage in. Why this is so is tellingly explained in terms of one of Dixon’s most spot-on criticisms: the PPC’s unlikelihood ever to denounce Democrats’ pernicious Russiagate narrative.

Taking matters at face value, the PPC would have more stake than anyone in being skeptical of Russiagate. After all, if Russia really is a dangerous enemy hellbent on destroying U.S. democracy, a considerable portion of U.S. military expenditure—such as updating our nuclear arsenal—is fully justified. Ditto for whatever vast new expenditures are required to ward off Russian cyberattacks. And since nuclear weapons are unusable (having value only as deterrence), countering Russian global aggression will likewise require vast spending on conventional defense. So, accepting the premise that Russia is our determined enemy means kissing goodbye to the domestic spending required for the PPC’s cherished aims, such as fighting poverty or rebuilding our infrastructure to address climate change. And speaking of addressing climate change, we can likewise kiss goodbye to cooperation with Russia—a petrostate whose close collaboration we desperately need—in arresting climate catastrophe.  And beyond all this, the clampdown on civil liberties that comes with an active state of war merits mentioning; in a wartime state, the civil liberties of a dissenting movement advocating peace (like the PPC) are most apt to be curtailed.

All in all, a pretty chilling blow to the PPC’s aspirations. Unless Russiagate is the overblown hysteria narrative—the self-serving Democratic propaganda narrative—Bruce Dixon and numerous other principled progressives are virtually certain it is. It’s curious—to say the least—that the PPC doesn’t amplify their voices (as only a movement can) in denouncing a narrative that thwarts its every aim.

But for fear of offending its Democratic Party supporters, the PPC seems content to let stand Democratic propaganda narratives—lies of fact or omission—that sabotage its own noble aims.  So again, Dixon is totally justified in criticizing the PPC for accepting Greens and other left-of-Democrats progressives in its ranks provided they’re kept off stage and placed under a gag order about uttering certain “inconvenient truths.” Like, say, that Green Party principles and policies are infinitely closer to Dr. King’s than those of Democrats. Or, say, that the Democratic National Committee defended its right to rig primaries in court and has subsequently shown its determination to continue suppressing party progressives (see here and here).

Perhaps, ultimately, the PPC shares Chomsky’s view of Republicans as “the most dangerous organization in human history” and fears telling the ugly truth about Democrats will cause the election of Republicans.  But can’t a disciplined, tightly knit movement simultaneously tell the truth about Democrats while imposing the view that Republicans are worse and are under no circumstances to be voted for? I think of Adolph Reed’s “support” for Hillary Clinton in his superb piece “Vote for the Lying Neoliberal Warmonger: It’s Important”; this piece seems especially appropriate, since “lying neoliberal warmonger” seems to fit Democrats’ controlling leadership and not just Hillary Clinton. Thus portraying the Democratic Party seems much better preparation for practicing civil disobedience against—or issuing ultimatums to—corrupt Democrats the PPC had elected for purely defensive reasons. Like, say, the ultimatum of having its vast membership work to build the Green Party for 2020 if Democrats don’t seize the chance to shape up the PPC offered them in 2018.

If the PPC refuses to use its movement bully pulpit to tell hard truths about Democrats, Dixon’s words about its “lack of any political endgame” will prove prophetic: what good does it do to “vote like never before” when there’s no candidate in either major party worth voting for?

Why Israel Feels Threatened by Popular Resistance in Palestine

Why did Israel kill many unarmed Gaza protesters and wound over 2,000 on Friday, March 30 and on the following days, when they clearly posed no threat to Israeli soldiers?

Hundreds of Israeli soldiers, many of them snipers, were deployed to the deadly buffer zone that the Israeli army has created between besieged Gaza and Israel, as tens of thousands of Palestinian families held mass rallies at the border.

“Yesterday we saw 30,000 people,” tweeted the Israeli army on March 31. “We arrived prepared and with precise reinforcements. Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”

The tweet, which was captured by the Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, was soon deleted. The Israeli army must have realized that killing children and bragging about it on social media is too cruel, even for them.

Palestinian popular mobilization deeply concerns Israel, partly because it is a PR nightmare. By killing and wounding this number of Palestinians, Israel had hoped that the masses would retreat, the protests would subside and, eventually, end. This was not the case, of course.

But there is more to Israeli fear. The power of the Palestinian people, when united beyond factional allegiances, is immense. It disrupts Israel’s political and military tactics entirely, and places Tel Aviv wholly on the defensive.

Israel killed those Palestinians precisely to avoid this nightmarish scenario. Since the cold-blooded murder of innocent people did not go unnoticed, it is important that we dig deeper into the social and political context that led tens of thousands of Palestinians to camp and rally at the border.

Gaza is being suffocated. Israel’s decade-long blockade, combined with Arab neglect and a prolonged feud between Palestinian factions, have all served to drive Palestinians to the brink of starvation and political despair. Something has to give.

Last week’s act of mass mobilization was not just about underscoring the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees (as enshrined in international law), nor about commemorating Land Day, an event that has united all Palestinians since the bloody protests of 1976. The protest was about reclaiming the agenda, transcending political infighting and giving voice back to the people.

There are many historical similarities between this act of mobilization and the context that preceded the First Intifada (or ‘uprising’) of 1987. At the time, Arab governments in the region had relegated the Palestinian cause to the status of ‘someone else’s problem’. By the end of 1982, having already been exiled to Lebanon, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) along with thousands of Palestinian fighters, were pushed even further away to Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen and various other countries. This geographic isolation left the traditional leadership of Palestine irrelevant to what was happening on the ground.

In that moment of utter hopelessness, something snapped. In December 1987, people (mostly children and teenagers) took to the streets, in a largely non-violent mobilization that lasted over six years, culminating in the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993.

Today, the Palestinian leadership is in a similar state of increasing irrelevance. Isolated, again, by geography (Fatah holding the West Bank, Hamas Gaza), but also by ideological division.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah is rapidly losing its credibility among Palestinians, thanks to long-standing accusations of corruption, with calls for the PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to resign (his mandate having technically expired in 2009). Last December, US President Donald Trump compounded the isolation of the PA, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in defiance of international law and UN consensus. Many see this act as the precursor designed to further marginalize the PA.

Hamas – originally a grassroots movement born out of the refugee camps in Gaza during the First Intifada – is now similarly weakened by political isolation.

Recently, there seemed to be a ray of hope. After several failed initiatives towards reconciliation with Fatah, a deal was signed between both rival parties in Cairo last October.

Alas, like previous attempts, it began to falter almost immediately. The first hurdle came on March 13, when the convoy of PA Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah, was the target of an apparent assassination attempt. Hamdallah was en-route to Gaza through an Israeli border crossing. The PA quickly blamed Hamas for the attack which the latter vehemently denied. Palestinian politics went back to square one.

But then, last week happened. As thousands of Palestinians walked peacefully into the deadly ‘buffer zone’ along the Gaza border into the sights of Israeli snipers, their intention was clear: to be seen by the world as ordinary citizens, to show themselves as ordinary human beings, people who, until now, have been made invisible behind the politicians.

Gazans pitched tents, socialized and waved Palestinian flags – not the banners of the various factions. Families gathered, children played, even circus clowns entertained. It was a rare moment of unity.

The Israeli army’s response, using the latest technology in exploding bullets, was predictable. By shooting dead 15 unarmed protesters and wounding 773 people on the first day alone, the aim was to discipline the Palestinians.

Condemnations of this massacre flooded in from respected figures around the world, like Pope Francis and Human Rights Watch.  This glimmer of attention may have provided Palestinians with an opportunity to elevate the injustice of the siege up the global political agenda, but is, sadly, of little consolation to the families of the dead.

Aware of the international spotlight, Fatah immediately took credit for this spontaneous act of popular resistance. Deputy Chairman, Mahmoud Al-Aloul, said that the protesters mobilized to support the PA “in the face of pressure and conspiracies concocted against our cause,” undoubtedly referring to Trump’s strategy of isolation towards the Fatah-dominated PA.

But this is not the reality. This is about the people finding expression outside the confines of factional interests; a new strategy. This time, the world must listen.

The Hollow Ethics of Israel’s Liberals

Human rights abuses by their government have so outraged prominent liberal Israelis that, in an unprecedented move, they have launched a campaign of civil disobedience.

Many hundreds have responded to a call by rabbis, pledging to hide victims in their own homes to protect them from Israel’s security services.

With the mood rapidly turning sour, academics and professionals, including doctors, pilots, school principals and lawyers have refused to collude in Israel’s policy of oppression.

This month a raft of respected literary figures, including Amos Oz and David Grossman, reminded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it was imperative to “act morally, humanely and with compassion worthy of the Jewish people. … Otherwise, we will have no reason to exist.”

Outside Israel, Jewish organisations have uncharacteristically sounded the alarm as well, warning that Israel’s actions “betray the core values that we, as Jews, share”.

But none of this outpouring of moral concern has been voiced on behalf of Palestinians. Instead the consciences of Israeli liberals have been pricked by the exceptional plight of some 40,000 African asylum seekers, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea.

The Israeli government initiated a programme this month to expel these refugees, who gained sanctuary in Israel from war zones before Israel managed to complete a fence across the Sinai in 2013 keeping them out.

Deep shame

The asylum seekers are now being offered a “choice” between being deported back to Africa, on the one hand, with the attendant dangers of persecution, torture and possible death, and indefinite imprisonment in Israel, on the other.

The destination country, Rwanda, is being paid $5,000 for each asylum seeker it accepts. But reports show that Rwanda is reneging on promises to give them residency status, forcing the refugees either to return to the regions from which they originally fled or make a perilous sea crossing to Europe.

Their treatment has indeed been shocking and is in flagrant violation of the international conventions on refugees’ rights Israel has ratified.

In an indication of how little official sympathy there is for the refugees, only 10 have been awarded asylum – a minuscule fraction of applicants. That compares with more than 80 per cent of Sudanese and Eritreans gaining refugee status in many European countries.

Meanwhile, Israeli government ministers have repeatedly incited against the Africans, calling them a “cancer” and a “sanitation hazard”, which in turn has fuelled public hate campaigns and a lynch-mob mentality.

It is understandable why liberal Israelis would feel deep shame at this behaviour. The explicit rationale behind Israel’s creation, after all, was as a sanctuary for Jewish refugees from rampant race hatred and persecution in Europe that culminated in the Holocaust.

Israel often describes itself as a country of refugees. The conventions Israel is flouting were drafted precisely out of recognition of the plight of Jews fleeing Europe.

Public relations catastrophe

The backlash in Israel has been led by religious leaders. Rabbis have urged Israelis to shame the government by promising to hide the Africans in their cellars and attics to foil the deportations.

It is intended to echo the way Europeans once bravely tried to save Jews from the Nazis – most famously in the case of child diarist Anne Frank, who later perished in a concentration camp.

Pilots for Israel’s national carrier El Al and airport staff have publicly refused to fly the asylum seekers back into danger, joining in the public defiance of psychologists, lawyers, professors and many others.

A group of 350 doctors, including heads of hospital departments, this week said they were speaking out because the deportations would do “harm among the most severe known to humanity”.

And, in a move that was a public relations catastrophe for Netanyahu and his cabinet, Holocaust survivors and their organisations loudly denounced the policy this week too. They quoted Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s address to the UN in 2005: “Will the world ever learn?”

The shock and indignation from liberal Israelis – while welcome and gratifying – has nonetheless exposed the ethical hollowness at the heart of this unprecedented campaign of civil resistance.

Easy generosity

It looks suspiciously like liberal Israelis are prepared to stand in solidarity with asylum seekers only because it is a relatively easy generosity – an act of humanitarianism they dare not extend to Palestinians.

Many Palestinians are also refugees, spawned by Israel’s creation as a self-proclaimed Jewish state on their homeland and by the campaign of ethnic cleansing in 1948 that enabled it – what Palestinians term their Nakba, or Catastrophe.

Israel refused to allow these Palestinians to return home. Many millions have lived for decades in abject conditions in refugee camps across the Middle East.

Palestinians in the occupied territories, meanwhile, face appalling human rights abuses – in their case not via a third party in Africa, but directly from the state of Israel.

Where has been the solidarity, the campaigns of civil disobedience on behalf of these Palestinians after 70 years of suffering? Only a tiny number of far-left Israelis – mostly anarchists – have ever stood alongside Palestinians.

They have joined Palestinians, for example, on demonstrations in West Bank farming communities like Bilin and Nabi Saleh, facing down armed and often violent Israeli soldiers, as they struggle against the theft of their lands to feed the expansion of Jewish settlements.

In fact, far from showing solidarity with Palestinians, many liberal Israelis have been demanding ever harsher treatment.

The overwhelming majority of Israelis celebrated the recent imprisonment of Ahed Tamimi, the 16-year-old child from Nabi Saleh who slapped a soldier after he had invaded her home. Moments earlier his unit had shot her 15-year-old cousin in the face, after he peeked over a wall.

Palestinian children throwing stones now face up to 20 years in jail, and their parents risk being fired from their jobs. Two-thirds of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli security services report being beaten or tortured.

But Ahed and these other children are not Palestinian Anne Franks in the eyes of liberal Israelis. They are “terrorists”.

Israel’s ‘Trump moment’

The wave of indignation at the asylum seekers’ predicament looks suspiciously like Israel’s “Trump moment”, echoing the recent outpouring of rage from American liberals at the easy hate-figure of US President Donald Trump.

These same Americans stood silent as Trump’s predecessors waged aggressive wars around the globe and tore up international law with programmes of extra-judicial executions, rendition and torture.

Similarly, liberal Israelis appear to be engaging in a kind of displacement activity: focusing on one grave but isolated outrage to avoid dealing with a far larger, far longer-running one they are personally implicated in.

Underscoring this paradox, Rabbis for Human Rights has called on the kibbutz and moshav agricultural communities to offer moral leadership in the campaign to hide African refugees.

These same communities were established over the destroyed homes of Palestinian refugees forced into exile in 1948. These same agricultural communities have barred any of the state’s Palestinian citizens – one in five of the population – from living in them. All have remained ethnically “pure”.

In their inconsistent moral defence of human rights, liberal Israelis have inadvertently revealed that they are not so far removed from the right-wing government they publicly abhor.

Much of the support for the African asylum seekers, including from Israel’s most famous writers, has highlighted how insignificant their numbers are, now that a wall across Sinai blocks further entry by refugees. If all 40,000 were allowed to stay, it is routinely pointed out, they would comprise less than 0.5 percent of Israel’s population.

A demographic demon

Contrast that with Palestinians. A fifth of Israel’s citizens are Palestinian, those Israel failed to expel in 1948. Combined with Palestinians living under belligerent Israeli military rule in the occupied territories – in the Greater Israel Netanyahu is carving out – they comprise half the region’s population.

When it comes to Palestinians, liberal Israelis sound little different from Netanyahu’s supporters. Both are concerned about maintaining Israel as a fortress Jewish state. Both want walls to keep out non-Jews, whether Palestinians in the occupied territories or refugees from Africa.

Both characterise Palestinians, either Israeli citizens or victims of the occupation, as a “demographic demon” and the Jewish state’s “Achilles’ heel”. Both fear a dilution of Israel’s Jewishness.

In short, both Israeli liberals and right-wingers are obsessed with demography – the numbers of Jews versus non-Jews – and with preserving Jewish privilege. Both are laying the groundwork for future outrages against Palestinians and for further incremental waves of ethnic cleansing.

But educated, liberal European Israelis – those who dominate academia and the professions now leading the revolt – can afford to salve their consciences over a population of Africans who will remain small and marginal. These refugees are unlikely to rise above sweeping the streets or cleaning dishes in restaurants in liberal Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu and the right, however, rely on the support of much poorer Israelis, often Jews who immigrated from Arab countries and face overt discrimination from Israeli liberals.

Right wing politicians need constantly to create (non-Jewish) bogeymen to shore up their political power base among these poor communities. It has been easy for the right to whip up fears of African refugees as freeloaders and here to “steal our jobs and women”.

Pragmatic humanitarianism

In a fearmongering tactic reminiscent of those used against Palestinians, Netanyahu warned in 2012 that 60,000 Africans – the number then in Israel – “could become 600,000 and possibly even jeopardise Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish democracy”.

Netanyahu’s government routinely describes the African refugees as “illegal infiltrators” – a much more sinister term than may be apparent to outsiders.

“Infiltrators” are what the Palestinians were called when they tried to return to their homes after their expulsion in 1948. An early Israeli law effectively gave Israeli security officials carte blanche to shoot these “infiltrators”.

The government’s comparing of African refugees to these Palestinians is intended as a clear form of incitement.

That may not wash with liberal Israelis, but also it has not opened their eyes to their own hypocrisy. Theirs is a pragmatic humanitarianism, not a principled one.

Is the terrible suffering Israel is now inflicting on African refugees not also the moment for liberal Israelis to appreciate that Palestinians have been enduring similar abuses for seven decades?

Has the time not finally arrived when liberal Israelis need to mount a campaign of civil disobedience on behalf not just of Africans but of Palestinians too?

• First published in Middle East Eye

The “Last Martyr”: Who Killed Kamal Al-Assar?

When I learned of the death of Kamal al-Assar, a few years ago, I was baffled. He was only in his 40s. I remember him in his prime, a young rebel, leading the neighborhood youth, armed with rocks and slingshots, in a hopeless battle against the Israeli army. Understandably, we lost, but we won something far more valuable than a military victory. We reclaimed our identity.

Kamal al-Assar’s mother, Nuseirat Refugee Camp

At every anniversary of the First Palestinian Intifada, a popular uprising that placed the Palestinian people firmly on the map of world consciousness, I think of all the friends and neighbors I have lost, and those I have left behind. The image of Ra’ed Mu’anis, in particular, haunts me. When an Israeli sniper’s bullet plunged into his throat, he ran across the neighborhood to find help before he collapsed at the graffiti-washed walls of my house.

“Freedom. Dignity. Revolution,” was written in large red letters on the wall, a pronouncement signed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Only later I learned that Kamal was the one who carried Ra’ed out of the firing zone. But it was too late. Ra’ed, a skinny and feeble teenager, with a distinct black mark on his forehead had bled alone at the steps of my home. When he was buried, hundreds of refugees descended on the Martyrs Graveyard. They carried Palestinian flags and chanted for the Intifada and the long-coveted freedom. Ra’ed’s mother was too weakened by her grief to join the procession. His father tried to stay strong, but wept uncontrollably instead.

Kamal was revitalized by the Intifada. When the uprising broke out, he emerged from his own solitude. Life made sense once again.

For him, as for me and many of our generation, the Intifada was not a political event. It was an act of personal – as much as collective – liberation: the ability to articulate who we were at a time when all seemed lost. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) languished in Tunisia after being forced to leave Lebanon in 1982. Arab governments seemed to have lost interest in Palestine altogether. Israel emerged triumphant and invincible.

And we – those living under protracted military occupation – felt completely abandoned.

When, on December 8, 1987, thousands took to the streets of Jabaliya Refugee Camp, the Gaza Strip’s largest and poorest camp, the timing and the location of their uprising was most fitting, rational and necessary. Earlier on that day, an Israeli truck had run over a row of cars carrying Palestinian laborers, killing four young men. For Jabaliya, as with the rest of Palestine, it was the last straw.

Responding to the chants and pleas of the Jabaliya mourners, the refugees in my refugee camp – Nuseirat – marched to the Israeli military barracks, known as the ‘tents’, where hundreds of soldiers had tormented my camp’s residents for years.

In the morning of December 9, thousands of Nuseirat youth took to the streets and vowed to avenge the innocent blood of the Jabaliya victims of the previous day. They swung large flags made of silky fabric that swayed beautifully in Gaza’s salty air and, as the momentum grew and they became intoxicated by their own collective chants, they marched to the ‘tents’ where the soldiers were uneasily perched on the tops of watchtowers, hiding behind their binoculars and automatic machine guns.

Within minutes, a war had started and a third generation of refugee-camp-born fellahin peasants stood fearlessly against a well-equipped army that was visibly gripped by fear and confusion. The soldiers wounded many that day and several children were killed.

Kamal was on the front lines. He waved the largest flag, chanting the loudest, threw rocks the furthest and incessantly urged young men not to retreat.

Kamal hated school as well as his teachers. To him they seemed so docile, adhering to the rules of the occupier which decreed that Palestinians not teach their own history, so that the fellahin were denied even the right to remember who they were or where they came from. The Intifada was the paradigm shift that offered an alternative – however temporary, however chaotic – to the methodical humiliation of life under occupation.

Within hours, Kamal felt liberated. He was no longer tucked away in a dark room reading the works of Marx and Gramsci. He was in the streets of Nuseirat fashioning his own utopia.

The Intifada was that transformational period that saved a generation from being entirely lost, and Palestine from being forgotten. It offered a new world, that of solidarity, camaraderie and wild youth who needed no one to speak on their behalf.

Within weeks of bloody clashes in which hundreds of youth fell dead or wounded, the nature of the Intifada became clearer. On one hand, it was a popular struggle of civil disobedience, mass protests, commercial and labor strikes, refusal to pay taxes and so on. On the other hand, militant cells of refugee youth were beginning to organize and leave their mark, as well.

The militancy of the Intifada did not become apparent until later, when the repression by the Israeli government grew more violent. Under the banner of the ‘Iron Fist’ campaign, a new Israeli stratagem was devised, that of the ‘broken bones’ policy. Once captured, youth had their hands and legs broken by soldiers in a systematic and heartless manner. In my neighborhood, children with casts and crutches seemed to outnumber those without.

Kamal was eventually detained from his home. He attempted to escape but the entire neighborhood was teeming with soldiers, who arrived at night as they always do. They commenced the torturous rite in his living room, as his mother – the resilient, Tamam – shoved her body between him and the ruthless men.

When Kamal regained consciousness, he found himself in a small cell, with thick, unwashed walls that felt cold and foreign. He spent most of his prison time in the torture chamber. His survival was itself nothing less than a miracle.

When the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, officially ending the Intifada, Kamal’s generation felt betrayed. Nothing good came out of that ‘peace’, except that a few rich Palestinians grew even richer.

Kamal died a few years ago. I learned that his revolution never ceased. He became a teacher, laboring to reconstruct the history of his people at a local Gaza university. His mother, now an old refugee in Nuseirat, is still heartbroken over her son’s death. She told me that Kamal’s wounds and physical ailments from prison never healed.

Kamal was a martyr, she told me. Perhaps the last martyr in an uprising that was not meant to liberate land, but liberate people from the idea that they were meant to exist as perpetual victims; and it did.