Kathy Kelly

Shipment of U.S. arms to Israel would require a tunnel the size of Grand Canyon: Activist

A resident of Chicago, Kathy Kelly is an American peace activist, an author, a founding member of Voices in the Wilderness and co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She has worked as a peace activist in various countries including Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. Kathy has organized domestic peaceful protests against U.S. aggressive policies both at home and abroad. Because of her activism, she has been detained over sixty times inside and outside the United States. Kelly has written about her experiences working and living among targets of U.S. military bombardment as well as prisoners in U.S. jails.
In an interview with Khamenei.ir, Kathy Kelly talks about what she observed in Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan and how the U.S. has been excessively arming Israel against the Palestinian people.


How does the situation in Palestine and for the Palestinians differ from other countries where you have worked as an activist?

I believe that tactics used by the Israeli Defense Forces in order to subjugate Palestinians have been adopted by police and military forces in other countries I have visited. For instance, Andrew Bacevich , in _America’s War for the Greater Middle East_,  describes a typical night raid and then notes that “Methods employed by U.S. forces invited comparison with the tactics of intimidation that Israeli troops used in policing the West Bank.” I think that Palestinians have felt deep anguish and frustration when IDF forces and Israeli police humiliate, imprison, displace, maim, and kill them. I have deeply admired the efforts of numerous Palestinian groups to document human rights abuses and to organize nonviolent resistance.  In Iraq, the U.S. invasion and occupation created widespread chaos and mayhem.  It was exceedingly difficult for Iraqis to organize nonviolent resistance. They were “outgunned” and “outmaneuvered” by the U.S. Asymmetrical or guerilla warfare was often met with overwhelming force by the U.S. military. Plus, they had been punished by brutal, lethal economic sanctions since August of 1990. 

In Afghanistan, impoverishment and lack of infrastructure make it quite difficult for people to develop civil society, education, and capacity to communicate with people beyond Afghanistan regarding the consequences of wars they’ve suffered.

Again, I feel deep admiration for Palestinians who have maintained relatively high levels of communication and who have paid such careful attention to communication with sympathizers and supporters beyond the West Bank and Gaza.

On the other hand, being in Gaza reminds me that people are trapped and exceedingly vulnerable to future attacks, even though they haven’t yet rebuilt following the most recent Israeli attack. 

Gaza is the only place I’ve lived in where people depended so significantly on the tunnel infrastructure and industry to import needed goods.  It’s likely that Hamas has used the tunnels to send weapons into Gaza.  I think it’s worthwhile to imagine what kind of tunnel would be needed to accommodate shipments of U.S. weapons to Israel.  I think it would require a tunnel the size of the U.S. Grand Canyon to enable shipment of Patriot missiles systems, Apache Helicopters, Hellfire missiles, Raytheon bunker busters, Caterpillar bulldozers, and numerous other weapons and weapon systems the U.S. has sold or given to the Israeli government.


Why does the U.S. government arrest peaceful protesters? 

The U.S. government does not want protesters to enter into their military installations, and, depending on the area of the country where a protest is held, a predictable punishment will include three to six months in prison if the person who crosses into the military base has a previous record of similar actions.  I think the U.S. prison system constitutes a type of war against impoverished people.  Those who have been least served by the U.S. systems for education, health care, and shelter face difficulties finding jobs that will pay the bills.  Sometimes the only lucrative jobs in poorer neighborhoods are related to the drug trade.  People get caught up in buying, selling and using drugs and, once apprehended, they face enormous sentences if they refuse to plead guilty.  Their cases never go to court.  And once people have been imprisoned it’s extremely difficult to engage in a “normal” lifestyle upon release from prison.  Impoverished people are demonized rather than assisted by the systems in the U.S. and then they are punished mercilessly when convicted of crimes.  Peaceful protesters who go to prison have an unusual opportunity to write about experiences inside of prison.  Upon release, one can help answer questions about who goes to jail and why.  This summer, I and my companions will walk from Chicago to Thomson, IL where a supermax prison is being constructed.  I’ve been “a prisoner on purpose,” but after discovering that the women’s correctional facilities are a world of imprisoned beauty, I feel a strong responsibility to speak up about conditions inside of U.S. prisons.  I surely don’t regret any time that I’ve spent as a prisoner.


Why don’t international organizations show more concern for Palestinian children held in captivity?

Since 1996, I have been sadly amazed that the international community could be so tolerant of brutal, lethal punishment of children.  I’m thinking of the economic sanctions against Iraq, which the U.N. estimated to have contributed toward the deaths of a half million children under age five.  Children should never be held accountable for the actions of their governments.  And if children possess or use weapons, they should be invited into counseling and community health care rather than condemned to jails or prisons.  You are right to expect a stronger response from international human rights organizations.  It would be helpful for countries that have a record of respecting the human rights of all children to take the lead in speaking up about these issues.


Why would a western citizen be anti-Israel?

I favor nonviolent anarchism.  I don’t want state institutions anywhere in the world to raise funds for the development, sale, storage and use of weapons.  I oppose any state that wages military or economic warfare.  I would not single Israel out as a regime to oppose.  I will continue to oppose every regime and group that resorts to murder, destruction, threat and force to accomplish its objectives.


Why is there a double standard toward terrorism, such that some are labeled “terrorists” while others would be called “freedom fighters”?

It’s important to resist the label “freedom fighter” when people are using weapons to kill other people, no matter how noble their cause.  What’s more, the greatest terror we all face is the terror of what we’re doing, worldwide, to our own environment, to our air, our ground and our water.  We need to muster or “marshal” our resources and energies to cope with threats of climate change and global warming and stop peddling the notion that people can acquire freedom by killing other people.

I am not in favor of imposing economic sanctions because once one calls for economic sanctions in one context it becomes difficult to oppose usage of economic sanctions in other situations.  I strongly favor boycotting Israeli products and organizing divestment from any entities that support Israeli institutions.  Several states in the U.S. have already issued legislation banning boycotts of Israel.  Organizers face stark challenges in educating their neighbors, colleagues, media, faith-based institutions, and other groups in civil society about the vital importance of boycotting Israeli products and organizing divestment from Israeli institutions.  Methods of necessary education include walks, vigils, fasts, nonviolent sit-ins, teach-ins, and participation in imaginative efforts like the Women’s’ Flotilla to Gaza – 2016.


  • 2016-05-30 22:12
    Israelis are digging tunnels under Al Aqsa, I would not doubt if their weapons are under it. They know no one but themselves would ever threaten Al Aqsa. That is one of two places.