When 100,000 people marched on Pennsylvania Avenue April 20 to protest George W. Bush’s war on the people “at home and abroad,” the most urgent, immediate demand was that Bush stop his double talk and throw full U.S. support behind Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and the creation of a Palestinian state.

Furious that Bush had described Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a “man of peace” even as Israeli tanks massacred scores of Palestinian civilians, the crowd chanted, “Stop the killing, stop the crime, long live Palestine.”

While outrage at the genocide in the West Bank was a dominant theme, it was only one of many issues reflected in the banners, placards and chants. This protest brought together the grassroots movements in a “convergence,” that flowed together like a river on the capital’s widest avenue.

Bush exploited Sept. 11 to throw the people on the defensive. But the April 20 mobilization proved that these movements have roared back stronger than ever.

This demonstration was twice, even three times, larger than the organizers had anticipated. Just as impressive as the content was the disciplined, non-violent and unified tone of the demonstration, the ranks swelled by thousands of students, workers and by many Arab-American men, women and children. A contingent of Orthodox Jews also marched, calling for peace in the Middle East.

I was on assignment for the World and watched the crowd flow past full of pageantry and drama. It reminded me of those springtime marches in the early 1970s against the Vietnam War. We learned then that only a movement of millions could force the U.S. to end its atrocious war.

As I observed this march thirty years later, I said to myself: “This is the way out of the quagmire! This is the way to build a movement strong enough to defeat the warmakers and the warmongers!”

It is also the answer for those so hopeless that they embrace “martyrdom” and “suicide” as their only weapon to struggle against an enemy armed to the teeth by the United States. That is a counsel of despair. That way we cannot win.

These acts of desperation, some of them committed by children against other children, have given Bush and Sharon just the pretext they needed to attack the people in the name of a “war on terrorism.” Bush and Sharon, the war demagogues, have exploited the death of Israeli non-combatants to justify their own acts of terrorism in which a hundred times more Palestinians have died.

They use terrorism to isolate the progressive and left forces while mobilizing pro-war sentiment both in this country and in Israel. Yet only a few months ago, a clear majority in Palestine, Israel and the U.S. supported a comprehensive peace based upon “two states for two peoples.” The more the cycle of violence continues, the more this solution seems unreachable.

Terrorism is so useful to imperialism, they have employed agent provocateurs to stage deadly provocations and then frame peace activists as the perpetrators in order to discredit the movement. Terrorism serves to disorganize, demobilize and divide the peoples’ movements.

That too was a bitter lesson learned by the movement to end the Vietnam War.

April 20, by contrast, was a textbook example of the power of mass strategy and tactics. This demonstration united people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, men and women, youth and seniors, students and workers.

It also brought together people of diverse political and religious persuasion, including Muslims, Jews and Christians. Such a peaceful, life-affirming, democratic outpouring is proof positive that the movement for peace and justice stands on the moral high ground.

As we learned in those years struggling for passage of landmark civil rights legislation and for an end of the Vietnam War, we had to “keep our eyes on the prize.” That prize is to win to our side the overwhelming majority of the people.

I hasten to acknowledge that the Palestinian people have a right to defend themselves. But this is a situation that requires clear distinctions. There is a difference between Palestinians defending their homes in the Jenin refugee camp and a terrorist blowing himself up, killing 25 innocent people at a Passover Seder in Netanya, Israel.

The first is an act of self defense. The second was claimed by Hamas as a deliberate attempt to derail the Arab League’s peace initiative based on Arab recognition of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state.

The goal is clear. Israel must withdraw from all the territory it occupied in 1967 and the Palestinian people must gain statehood. The only option is coexistence, hard as it may be to achieve. Bush’s war abroad and here at home must end.

Whether we are Palestinians in the ruins of Jenin or peace workers here in the “belly of the beast,” this much is clear: Victory is impossible without the active support of a majority of the peoples of the world for peace. In that struggle, the tactics we choose can make all the difference.

Tim Wheeler is the editor of the People’s Weekly World. He can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com

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