Make Levees, Not War, The Giant DC Demo

by Stanley Heller, MECC Chairperson

The Washington Post said 200,000 of us demonstrated in DC on the 24th. I can believe it. The protest march around the White House started around 1:30 and it wasn't finished 2 hours later by the time we had to leave for the New Haven bus.

The Left pulled it off, pushing the UFPJ and ANSWER coalitions to abandon their ideas for separate demos and getting them to plan one giant effort [or was it two demos one after the other in the same location? They each had separate sections of the speaking program with their own banners behind them.] The UFPJ had Cindy Sheehan. ANSWER introduced George Galloway. After about an hour of speeches I left with the TSVN news crew to video the march and program in the Palestine tent so we missed many of the last speeches including Nader.


Criticism

No one said a word about Iran even though the Administration daily raises the specter of its supposed program to build nuclear weapons. Scott Ritter has been warning for months that the neo-cons remain determined to launch a military attack on Iran which in their diseased immiginations will result in a popular uprising and an end to the Iranian government.

As far as I could tell no one, not even the ANSWER speakers talked about Israel's connection to Iraq. This is bizarre. They talked about Bush. They talked about oil, but they couldn't take a second to talk about a foreign power that constantly pushes us to beat up on Arab countries that maintain a little independence. And it didn't occur to them to connect this the Palestinian situation.

To my mind there was way, way too much Bush bashing. Not that I'm not worried about his sensitivities, but the war on Arabs and Muslims is a ruling class project not some eccentricity of a frat-boy. There was a criticism of "Congress", but not a word about the Democratic leadership which supports this war and even wants to send more troops. There was much talk of love of "our troops", but no talk about the military-industrial complex of officers and corporate big shots who profit from war.

I was appalled that they included two speakers, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Ramsey Clark. Jackson was Bill Clinton's last defender, you remember Bill Clinton who killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi human beings with the sanctions. Did the reverend ever say one word to Clinton about murdering all those kids? If he did I never heard about it.

Ramsey Clark. Ramsey Clark was just Saddam Hussein's lawyer! As he was the lawyer for Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb whose forces massacred hundreds of thousands of Muslim Bosnians, as he was for Qaddafi [who expelled masses of Palestinian refugees from Libya], etc, etc.. Why the hell do we need an apologist for dictators and killers speaking to us at peace demonstration?


But the People were Awesome

Getting back to the positive. It was wonderful seeing all the signs, banners and floats. Loved the Raging Grannies and their anti-war ditty. To my mind the best slogan on a sign was "Make Levees not War". Of course the big accomplishment was all the ex-soldiers and military families on the program and in the crowd.

What impact will it all have? The usual media downplaying occurred. The Saturday New York Times didn't have a word about the upcoming demo. Of course, concern about Hurricane Rita also took it toll in our expected share in publicity. So that's where you come in. Write to your local paper (or national paper) and tell about your experiences at the rally. Demand our voices be heard!

What did you think of the rally? Looking for your comments whether they're a few paragraphs or just a simple sentence.

Apology


In an earlier version of this page I criticized a speech that I heard about second hand. It was given by Musa al-Hindi of the national leadership of al-Awda. I've obtained a copy of the actual speech and it does not include things that had been reported to me. I apologize for my mistake. The entire speech is printed below. I also was wrong saying UFPJ didn't have speakers about the Palestinian situation. What I assumed was that UFPJ's program ended when ANSWER came on. What I understand now is that the two groups alternated and that UFPJ had more of a program later on including an excellent speech on divestment by Mohammad Abed. Well, that's why keyboards have backspace keys.


Speech in DC by Musa al-Hindi, Al-Awda


Sisters and Brothers,

It is an honor to be with you on this historic day.

As you know, there were attempts to exclude Palestine from today's events, even though the role played by Israel and its US-based functionaries in the destruction of Iraq is well known.

The developments of the past few months in Palestine had made the understanding of the Palestinian Arab-Zionist conflict difficult. This difficulty was made worse by the lack of clarity in the discourse of some in the anti-war movement, especially those who insist on defining the conflict with Israel in terms of its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, to the exclusion of other components of the Palestinian national struggle, namely:

1. The struggle by Palestinians in 1948 Palestine to assert their national Arab identity in the face of attempts to "Israelize" them. Their resolute efforts to preserve their organic unity with the reminder with their brethrens in exile are an integral part of the Palestinian national movement for liberation.

2. The struggle by Palestinian refugees to return to their original towns and villages in areas of Arab Palestine occupied in 1948. It is of utmost importance to keep in mind that while our people in the West Bank and Gaza are the vanguards of the Palestinian national movement, the refugee camps in exile are its strategic depth. It was the refugees who nourished the seeds of the modern Palestinian Revolution with their tears and blood. It was the refugees who turned their wretched camps and bodies in Jordan and Lebanon into barriers to protect the national movement whenever it came under< attack.

Palestine is the refugees and the refugees are Palestine.

These are not mere slogans. Rather, they are principles that ought to guide our work, both as Arab as well as solidarity activists. Our work ought to be based on an analysis that simultaneously addresses all components of the Palestinian struggle rather than parts of it.

Our discourse and analysis ought to be consistent with the Palestinian narrative, rather than on a selective reading of it. Only when the Zionist State is exposed for what it actually is (a settler-colonial entity that came into being as a result of a systematic campaign of murder and ethnic cleansing) would we be able to move forward.

Simultaneously, we ought to advance a progressive and humanist vision of a democratic, secular state over the entirety of Palestine in which all enjoy equality of rights and duties.

The establishment of such a state would not only allow for the repatriation of the Palestinian refugees and free the 1948 Palestinians from the tentacles of occupation and Apartheid, but would also ensure a lasting peace in the region. Anything less is destined to be temporary and short-lived.


See the video of speeches of Cindy Sheehan, George Galloway and other remarks.