Palestinians mourn “heroic” Aaron Bushnell

Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old serving member of the US Air Force, self-immolated outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, on 25 February.


On Sunday afternoon, a man dressed in a US military uniform walked slowly to the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, calmly articulating his motives on camera before setting himself on fire.

Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old serving member of the US Air Force, introduced himself with composure.

“I will no longer be complicit in genocide,” he declared, his gaze fixed away from the camera.

“I’m about to engage in an extreme act of protest,” he continued, “but compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it is not extreme at all.”

Bushnell added, “This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal.”

One minute into the video, Bushnell arrives at the embassy gates and sets the camera down in a position to film himself.

He can be seen standing at the gate of the embassy as he douses himself with flammable liquid from a bottle he had been carrying, dons his uniform hat and ignites the flames.

All the while, even as he goes up in flames, he fervently chants: “free Palestine.”

An officer can be seen brandishing a gun and pointing it at Bushnell as he burns and collapses to the ground. Another officer brings a fire extinguisher.

As the first officer continues to point his gun at Bushnell, the second officer exclaims, “I don’t need guns, I need a fire extinguisher.”

Hours before Bushnell’s self-immolation, he posted on Facebook a link to video live-streaming service Twitch where he would be live-streaming his protest.

“Many of us like to ask ourselves, ‘What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or the Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide?” he wrote.

“The answer is, you’re doing it. Right now.”

Bushnell succumbed to his wounds later that day.

The video was removed by Twitch, but reporter Talia Jane posted a blurred version with the blessings of Bushnell’s loved ones.

Media coverage

Bushnell had prepared a will that some were able to view.

“He took all the steps he needed to make sure that everything he had would be cared for, like his cat, he designated that to his neighbor,” Lupe Barboza of the Care Collective, told Texas Public Radio after he viewed the will.

“So yeah, that to me is all the sense of someone who was measured and knew what he was doing.”

Bushnell reportedly notified several reporters and news websites about his upcoming protest.

Mainstream media pathologized Bushnell’s act of protest and attempted to obscure his motivations despite the clarity of his message.

The Washington Post labeled Bushnell’s self-immolation as an “Israel-Hamas war protest,” despite his explicit intention to protest the genocide of Palestinians perpetrated by their colonizers.

Several reports, including from the BBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post, reported no injuries at the embassy. However, Bushnell neither attempted to attack embassy members nor did he endeavor to enter the embassy.

A protester self-immolated outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, in December and was transferred to the hospital in critical condition. While a Palestinian flag was found at the scene, authorities have kept the incident hushed and did not release many details. The person remains unidentified.

“Heroic” act

A vigil was held on Monday in the exact spot Bushnell had self-immolated the day before:

Other vigils are scheduled to take place across the nation, including near Israeli embassies, including in New York City and Chicago and Portland, Oregon.

Bushnell’s protest was hailed by Palestinian and Yemeni resistance groups as a “heroic” act of honor.

Hamas published a statement mourning Bushnell and held the Biden administration fully accountable for his death, “due to its policy that supported the Nazi Zionist entity in its war of extermination against our Palestinian people.”

The group continued, “The heroic pilot, Aaron Bushnell, will remain immortal in the memory of our Palestinian people and the free people of the world, and a symbol of the spirit of global human solidarity with our people and their just cause.”

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a leftist political party and resistance organization, also mourned Bushnell’s death.

The group expressed its “full solidarity with the soldier’s family and with all American solidarity activists who took an honorable position and did not stop their struggle and pressure to stop the genocidal war on the Strip.”

The group added: “As tragic and painful as it may be, it is regarded as the highest sacrifice, accolade, and the most poignant message conveyed to the US administration.”

Palestinians in Gaza mourned Bushnell and welcomed his act of solidarity.

Yemenis resistance organization Ansarallah mourned Bushnell and welcomed his act of protest. Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti, member of Ansarallah’s political bureau, described Bushnell as “a brave, noble and conscientious human being.”

Al-Bukhaiti said Bushnell’s message “has awakened the global conscience,” as he “proved that his conscience’s ability to bear the scenes of dead and wounded Palestinian children was weaker than his ability to bear the pain of fire burning his body.”

Hamas evoked the killing of Rachel Corrie, the young American woman who was crushed to death with an Israeli bulldozer as she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family home in Rafah, the southernmost area of the occupied Gaza Strip, in March 2003.

Rafah is “the same city that Bushnell paid with his life for putting pressure on his country’s government to prevent the criminal Zionist army from attacking it and committing massacres and violations there,” Hamas said.

In one of her last letters to her mother, written weeks before she was killed by the Israeli army, Corrie’s words ring similarly to Bushnell’s.

“I will say that I think the vast majority of us who are in some way passively supporting this genocide are unaware of what it is,” Corrie writes.

“It is my own selfishness and will to optimism that wants to believe that even people with a great deal of privilege don’t just idly sit by and watch. What we are paying for here is truly evil. The largest evil I have witnessed directly.”

She continues, “This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore.”

In November 2006, American musician and human rights activist Malachi Ritscher self-immolated in Chicago to protest the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.

“To the rest of the world we are cowards – demanding Iraq to disarm, and after they comply, we attack with remote-control high-tech video-game weapons. And then lie about our reasons for invading. We the people bear complete responsibility for all that will follow, and it won’t be pretty,” he wrote in a statement explicitly stating his motives.




Rest in power, Aaron. I hold you up to the light. Your courage and compassion makes me even more determined to fight for a free Palestine. I send love to your family and all who care.


Unfortunately, the media will not highlight the supreme sacrifice of these honourable men. Their names and the reasons for their acts should be remembered not just today and tomorrow but year after year. The very least that society owes them.


Thank you Tamara for honouring Aaron Bushnell’s supreme sacrifice to put the Genocide of the Palestinian people to the front and centre stage of the eyes of the world. This is what he wanted, he wasn’t bothered about accolades of bravery, he wanted to address the inhumanity of the US and Western Leaders and their allies,
towards the Palestinian people. As did Rachel Corrie and Malachi Ritscher. If only the Western media had one iota of your integrity and theirs.


I will never forget you, Aaron. We live in such a selfish world that actions like yours are one of a kind. They say Jesus gave his life to save us, well, you did the same. How many can say this? You are in heaven now, being granted with the gratest rewards of all: the eternity in peace. You are a hero, someone you should all look up to. I will never forget you, Aaron. We will free Palestine for you. 🇵🇸✊🏼 All the love to you, from Spain. Free Palestine!!


... I would not be alive today. I live on in cowardice, like many around me.
May our living be of some service, however much less than his death is.


This was a very beautifully written piece. Also, wondering, who is working to know more of the first American to perform this act of sacrifice since the new nakba? Why was the US media allowed to be muzzled in learning who she is or was, and also is she alive now? Who will give her a platform in the way that Aaron was? If she wishes to be anonymous now we should honor this but I feel she has been deeply insulted and dishonored up to this time. We were lately told that she is/was Black. Aaron was likely conscious that as a white male in a uniform it is harder to ignore him. His immolation in a sense also burns up the military, that is part of the meaning. If anyone at EI has the means to follow up and learn more about the Atlanta saint I think many of us yearn to understand her more.

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.