Complicity and Resistance in a Time of Genocidal Agony

by | Mar 8, 2024 | Featured, Uncategorized

What to Do?

I am writing especially thinking about Palestinian women. They have suffered so immeasurably and grotesquely while they have tried to care for their children and their pregnancies, while being malnourished, dehydrated, starved, and heartbroken while death surrounds them and enters them.

One mother just cried as she spoke of her two-month-old twins, who were murdered and found dead along with their father in the rubble. Make sure you comprehend that if they were two months old, she was pregnant and delivered them during this abominable war. So as we, living in the U.S., try to take responsibility for what is done with our bombs, feel the pain of Palestinian women who are more invisible given the misogyny that structures colonialism and imperialism.

Normalize none of this.

I write to think. I am writing without any of the answers that I and so many pro-Palestinian activists here and across the planet are desperate to find. We must think newly with more urgency than ever because it is our government that makes this genocide possible. Ours is the lone country in the U.N. Security Council to refuse to vote for a ceasefire. And although Vice President Kamala Harris called for a ceasefire this week, she did not change our U.N. vote, nor did she promise consequences.

Normalize none of this.

The genocide in Gaza and the torture of hunger and desperation; the millions suffering the ravages and displacement and rape of war in Sudan; the excruciating lives of Afghan women and girls as they are pushed into the crevices of life of a gender apartheid; sexual violence in Congo; the continuance of COVID; the climate terrors of floods and deadly fires. These crises makes it almost impossible to imagine beyond to the collective surprise of radical humanity. But we must.

How do you write when you do not have the answers? Why demonstrate publicly when you know that these millions of demonstrators across the globe are being ignored by Netanyahu and Biden alike? Maybe because out of each attempt a new possibility may emerge.

In the U.S., all women — trans, bi, gender fluid, Black, white, middle class and poor — have lost rights to their bodies with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. This is a form of fascism for lack of better word, and a total undermining of democracy. The Supreme Court, with at least three Justices appointed through deceit and manipulation, is an illegitimate institution and yet it is this body that now oversees our bodies and the viability of Trump as a candidate for President.

Normalize none of this.

So many of us have said we do not want Biden to run again for President and he retorts: “watch me.” Many of these same people, and many Republicans as well, do not want Trump either. And yet, this is what exists. Such exposure of discontent is a crisis in and of itself. There is little support for politics as it now exists. This crisis has been evolving for almost half a century, as capital has taken over the globe. Maybe nations have become impediments to the new global ruling classes.


Love and Genocide

Aaron Bushnell engulfed himself in flames on February 25, to speak of the collusion he felt for the war in Gaza and his wish for Palestinian freedom. He felt that there was no other way to speak this truth because no condemnation was working to end the suffering. He would help others see that until we find a new way to resist the killing, we should not pretend that we are. His individual act was rooted in Palestinian camaraderie and the hopes of collective action.

I attended a Zoom memorial for Aaron organized by Vets for Palestine and heard his friends speak about who he was and how deeply he cared about the people of Palestine. He felt there was nothing more he could do to shine a light on the travesty than to offer himself as a kind of proof that complicity is too easy to hide from. He exposed his own heart for the world to take notice and Free Palestine. He wrote a will and left his money to a Palestinian children’s Fund. He asked friends to share his message: to make sure that the U.S. complicity ends, somehow.

With this courage and energy, we need to push as far as we can to see, imagine, and demand an end to this Israeli massacre. Together we might be able to do this.

Aaron’s death reverberated across the globe. Vigils were held in his honor and for his purpose, in Egypt, and Tunisia. He was sharing that a new kind on non-complicity is needed. With all the new ways to make most of us complicit in exploitation and others oppression there must be a new clarity to coalesce a new revolutionary humane politics. Nothing of the old way will work here. What are the new extreme, extraordinary, extra-legal protests that we must create?


The New (Ab)Normal

The world is exploding. There are more and more right-wing takeovers in more and more countries. The rulers are getting more ferocious and uncontrolled. And in response, many of us ordinary people are becoming more and more committed to a humane democracy demanding a healthy planet. But what to do?

One wakes up each day to new and old catastrophes. Alongside Gaza and the slaughter and genocide of Palestinians is the more silenced but still brutal and deadly war in Ukraine. Putin makes sure that Alexei Navalny dies and bullies are in charge in Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Hungary, and Turkey. And let us not forget the U.S. with its millions of gun owners and Trump thugs.

Navalny knew that Putin would end his life. He fought back and he did what he did anyway.

Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of Alexei Navalny, rightly scoffs at those who do so little against Putin. “If you really want to defeat Putin, you must become an innovator. You must stop being boring. You cannot hurt Putin with another resolution, or another set of sanctions that is no different from the previous ones.” (I heard this week that Yulia has refused an invitation to Biden’s State of the Union address.)

And I am thinking: if we want to end the genocide in Gaza we cannot continue with the same resistance, the same demonstrations, the same indictments. It is time to stop Biden and his cohorts.

It is not enough to accept the parameters that are being offered us, especially in terms of the 2024 election. Stopping Trump is not enough if it means that the winner must be Biden. Our government is broken. Democracy is in full disarray. There are no secrets left. The emperors have no clothes.

So, we must stop pretending that we are saving democracy when there is not enough democracy left to save. Laws and legal maneuvers are already compromised. We need extra-legal tactics and extra-legal democratic visions.

Trump is a known rapist and a thief, as well as a former President. And the Court protects him in their latest decisions to make sure he can run and possibly win again. And as though this is not bad enough, large numbers of Democrats also say they do not want Biden to run again. He has lost critical support because of his role in Netanyahu’s war. And yet, this is the choice?


There Is Another Way

The people of Michigan have offered another way. Over 100,000 voters chose “uncommitted” in their primary. They refused to accept that Biden is the only way. They refused the blackmail that if we did not stand with Biden that we would be assisting Trump. They refused the fear and chose courage. And, it seems that maybe this will take hold. Several other states — Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, and Tennessee — used the strategy of uncommitted to a mix of results. Maybe Biden will have to end this war if he wants to win. But at the time of this writing this remains unclear.

And if Biden will not end the support for Netanyahu he must offer another candidate. I think the uncommitted are supporting Aaron’s call to free Palestine. I wish we had more in our vision but maybe this is a strategic start. What do you do when nothing has worked so far to end the bloodshed? You do something, which is better than nothing. Because we are complicit if we allow Biden to continue the war.

We must match the excessiveness of genocide with an excessive love of humanity. What would that be? Excessive courage. We must be excessively courageous to deny any further assist and dare this country to continue this path.

I do not want to romanticize the concept of courage or make it bigger than it is. Courageous acts may be daunting, but bravery is simply the willingness to be present and accountable to or for someone other than yourself even if there is risk. Courage means you are not hiding. It means you are looking to see what can be done. You are not looking for reasons to do nothing, but rather reasons why you should do something.

I am reminded of a favorite statement by Navalny: “Don’t worry that you will do too little. Worry that you will do nothing.” This moment when people are starving and dying horrible deaths I do not think it should be hard to face the risks to make the carnage end. Do not use Trump to make us fearful. Resistance and defiance is needed to openly stand against Biden in these fraught times. Obedience to injustice is forbidden. There is no middle ground or compromise left.

The very global system with all its ferocious profit-making, women-hating, and white supremacy has also enabled and forged a new global resistance against Zionism, and for Palestine. There is new history in the making. And this is how political hope and activism is forged — in the crevices of new seeing and thinking with new practices.

Hopefully we will see old cracks and fissures in the empire to be exacerbated in new ways through disobedience. And new cracks that should be challenged in a mix of old and new forms of defiance. We will use the ballot for now to organize against Biden and for peace now. But this is not enough. We need a new set of ballots and boxes.


De-Normalize it All

Keep looking to see the suffering and the pain and we will not turn away. We will not be terrorized by Biden, nor forced to obey his genocidal regime in Israel. There is no bargain to be made. There is no middle ground. There are no balanced options. Not now.

As we focus on pushing hard against Biden, also look to enlarge your groupings of comrades. Reproductive Justice Rights activists have a particular commitment to women’s health in Gaza. Unions and all working people can pool their power by a general strike to demand peace. Black and Brown and Asian civil rights activists can coalesce for humanity’s freedom here.

The U.S. supported genocide of Palestinians must be a moment of singularity when nothing that came before is good enough for now. And our government must be convinced by us that we will disobey. We will not accept their non-choices and pretend this is ok. Expose the voting system for its cruel non-choices. It is better than obedience to genocide.

We should not get ahead of ourselves. We have no idea what will happen in the next weeks and months. We do know that the genocide if not stopped will be more and more deadly and exposed for all to see. That is why it is so important in our thinking and doing to not let fear get in the way of our possibilities. Never choose fear.

I have said elsewhere that we need to be alert because a fabulous global revolution could be in the making, and we could miss it if we think we already know what it will look like. As well, if you do not think you have power, or enough power, then you do not, because you have already given it away. It is why it is crucial to never give it away however small it may seem.

So for now, make it clear, in whatever way we can, that we will not vote for Biden if he does not stop this atrocious and unforgiveable massacre of Palestinians. We demand other choices. And, who knows, we might actually make voting matter again.



Zillah Eisenstein is a noted international feminist writer and activist and Professor Emerita, Political Theory, Ithaca College.  She is the author of many books, including “The Female Body and the Law” (UC Press, 1988), which won the Victoria Schuck Book Prize for the best book on women and politics; “Hatreds” (Routledge., 1996), “Global Obscenities” (NYU Press, 1998),  “Against Empire” (Zed Press, 2004), and most recently, “Abolitionist Socialist Feminism” (Monthly Review Press, 2019).

Header image by Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash.


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