Principles for an Effective Anti-War Movement
On July 12, 25,000 people in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and other cities took part in protests against the Israeli/American war. These protests showed the Arab world, and specifically our brothers and sisters in Lebanon and Gaza that there is opposition to our government’s policies. They are a good start. But you have to ask the question: why after a month of Israeli war on Lebanon and three-and-a-half years of US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan did so few people come out to protest? Where was MoveOn.org? Where were the “anti-war” Democratic leaders? While 60% of the American population opposes the endless occupation of Iraq, the anti-war movement itself still accepts many ideas that weaken it. These ideas will not be overcome quickly, but they must be openly raised and debated.
The United States dominates the Middle East. It occupies Iraq, funds Arab client states and arms Israel to the teeth. In this situation, the US and Israel are brutally oppressing the majority via military power and economic robbery. Basic democratic principles require Americans to oppose our government’s actions and to stand squarely for self-determination for Arab people. It is not the American anti-war movement’s job to lecture the people the Middle East on how to conduct their resistance. You do not have to agree with all of Hezbollah’s ideas to support their resistance to Israel. Condemning “both sides” in the Middle East is just like condemning “both sides” in the American Civil War.
Democrats and Republicans alike vilify Islam. Bush’s latest phrase is “Islamic fascists.” Too many anti-war activists have bought into the lie that Islam is a danger. The idea that Islam’s ideas are more “conservative” than Christianity or Judaism is ridiculous. The media-created myth that Arabs and Muslim’s aren’t “ready for democracy” or that they “just like to kill each other” are racist to the core. Muslims and Arabs in the US bare the brunt of the “war on terror.” The anti-war movement needs to shake off its Islamophobia and make sustained and aggressive efforts to reach out to Arabs and Muslims in the United States to bring them into the heart of the anti-war movement.
Israel is a racist state. It has separate laws for Arabs and Jews. The leader of the South African trade union COSATU recently stated that he thinks that the Palestinians face worse conditions than Blacks faced during South African Apartheid. There will never be peace in the Middle East as long as the Zionist state is given a blank check from the United States to treat the Palestinian people as less than human. Israel is part of the American empire and is key to US plans for permanent domination of the Middle East. If we ever want to see our troops come home from Iraq, then the anti-war movement must fight to cut off all American aid to Israel.
Waiting for Hilary
As outlined above, the Democratic Party continues to exercise a profound influence on the anti-war movement. Just as in 2004, when the movement demobilized to get behind John “I’ll send more troops to Iraq” Kerry, today, the movement is paralyzed waiting for Hilary Clinton, or some other savior, like Russ Feingold, to “end the Bush regime.” Bush is a problem, but he is not the problem. Of course, no serious anti-war person believes the Democrats will bring peace to the world; however, too many anti-war people still believe that the Democrats will bring us closer to peace. This idea has a real impact on political organizing. That is why fighting to keep the Green Party absolutely independent of the two-party system is so vital.
The anti-war movement must put itself on a new footing. We must build a movement that stands for self-determination, rejects vilification of Islam and openly embraces Arabs and Muslim forces, fights to cut ties with Israel and severs its allegiance to the Democratic Party. The people of Lebanon and Gaza have paid too high a price in their own blood for us to not take these lessons to heart here in the belly of the beast. The Million Votes for Peace campaign is a small contribution to this effort.