Honoring active nonviolence, from the U.S. to the Middle East
This month marks the ten-year anniversary of the start of the U.S. war on Iraq, in which worldwide grassroots anti-war campaigns, while unsuccessful in preventing the war, were acknowledged as “the other world superpower.”
Tomorrow also marks the ten-year anniversary of the murder of Rachel Corrie, a U.S. civilian activist killed in Gaza, Palestine, protesting the demolition of homes by the Israeli military occupation. Rachel, who was participating with the International Solidarity Movement, was building on some of the nonviolent strategies developed in the First Intifada 25 years ago.
As we mark these events, let’s recommit our work in active nonviolence, taking both principled and strategic nonviolent direct action on behalf of justice and peace.
Photos from FOR’s Iraq Photo Project
Working to prevent war
FOR members across the country organized against the Iraq War, as seen in pictures from the Iraq Photo Project at right.
In 2002, FOR friend and contributor Kathy Kelly organized the Iraq Peace Team, delegations of people from the U.S. who went to Iraq in advance of the U.S. war there — similar to delegations FOR itself organized (photo from one such delegation at the top of this post).
“Rather than take sides in a military confrontation,” the Iraq Peace Team wrote, “we would aim to make the strong moral statement that ordinary human beings should not be sacrificed for any government’s military goals and purposes.” Kathy and members of Voices in the Wilderness (later Voices for Creative Nonviolence) were still present in Iraq when the United States’ “shock and awe” campaign began in March 2003:
When the bombing campaign was over, Kelly emerged from the hotel as American troops, many of them not much older than the children in the shelter, rolled into the conquered city. She and several members of Voices greeted them at a dusty intersection with water, dates and a banner, “Courage For Peace, Not For War.”
It must have been the last thing in the world the soldiers expected to see: a band of American and international peaceniks in the middle of Baghdad, protesting the war with one hand and handing out refreshments with the other.
On Feb. 15, 2003, 15 million people marched around the world against the war on Iraq. I was in Philadelphia, organizing a march with a regional anti-war network, and later a student walkout that shut down a recruitment center. I was part of an interfaith group called Unite for Peace, which in March 2003 was pushing the city of Philadelphia to officially call for the repeal of the USA-PATRIOT Act. (In May, we succeeded.) And I was part of the student group Why War?, which was exploring new tactics for nonviolent direct action.
The Iraq Pledge of Resistance was strong in Philadelphia, and later that year several activists were sentenced to federal prison because of their nonviolent actions at the start of the war.
Working to end occupation
Despite popular Western beliefs about the First Intifada, it was most notable for its massive nonviolent social mobilization. Nonviolence has long played a role in Palestinian movements for self-determination and justice.
Into this history stepped the International Solidarity Movement, “a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli apartheid in Palestine by using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles.” Ten years ago, Rachel Corrie was working with ISM in defending Palestinian homes from demolition when she was killed.
In memory of Rachel, activists are calling on Caterpillar, the manufacturer of armored bulldozers for the Israeli occupation, to end its participation in Palestinian home destruction. For more information about the destruction of Palestinian houses, which continues to this day, see the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
After Rachel Corrie’s death, Rachel’s parents published a collection of her writings, Let Me Stand Alone. As described in the book’s introduction by Rachel’s parents, she was inspired by Olympia FOR organizer Glen Anderson, who would vigil for peace every week in downtown Olympia, no matter the weather or if anyone was with him.
Many of FOR’s Christian members are a part of historic peace churches. Christian Peacemaker Teams, with participation and support from many of these churches, has had a presence in Palestine since the mid-90s, practicing its method of faith-based third-party nonviolent intervention. In their words, they are “getting in the way” of violence, allowing local activists to work more freely. Christian Peacemaker Teams provided the model for Muslim Peacemaker Teams, now working in Iraq. In other parts of the world, notable practitioners of third-party nonviolent intervention include Peace Brigades International, Nonviolent Peaceforce, and of course FOR’s own presence in Colombia.
Have you participated in active nonviolence in support of ending the occupation in Palestine? Leave a comment below — we’d love to hear about it!