by Girard Mariano Lopez

Photo Credit: Yang Kang

FORTY PROTESTERS assembled near the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) in Taipei to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and mourn the self-immolation of US air force personnel Aaron Bushnell last Thursday, March 7, 2024.

Participants, headed by the Taiwan Action Front for Palestine, bore a portrait of Aaron together with chrysanthemum flowers along with a banner containing pictures of 200 Palestinian kids who have been killed within the last decade of Israeli apartheid.

Aaron Bushnell was a member of the US airforce when he set himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. last month to protest the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Participants held a brief kowtow ceremony to show reverence for his act of protest.

Photo credit: Yang Kang

“AIT is a war broker that coerces and lures Taiwan to its war supply chain so that we will gradually rely on [the] U.S. military production chain to make money from the war,” a spokesperson for the action group stated.

While participants originally intended to lay flowers for Aaron in front of AIT itself, police barred all protesters from approaching the embassy, and only allowed one representative to momentarily lay a flower and Aaron’s portrait in front of the de-facto embassy. AIT staff then demanded the flower and portrait be removed immediately moments after.

“Over 60% of American voters support a permanent ceasefire, and a majority want to end or reduce military aid to Israel. Thousands of people are calling their representatives every day,” Mo, a member of the Taiwan Action Front for Palestine, said.

The group issued three demands: that the US should immediately cease military aid to Israel, the US must support humanitarian ceasefire resolutions in the United Nations Security Council, and that AIT must cease facilitating cooperation between American and Israeli arms dealers with Taiwanese businesses.

The event ended with participants dipping the chrysanthemums in red to signify the massive bloodshed in Gaza, and throwing such flowers towards the direction of AIT.

As of writing, much of the Taiwanese public and institutions still show strong support for Israel’s military operations in Gaza. The Taiwanese Economic and Cultural Office in Tel Aviv just gave half a million dollars in donations to Tel Aviv ‘for security needs of local authorities in Israel’. Taiwan also has a prolonged history with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), wherein historically Israel has contributed to Taiwan’s defense industry and military.

Photo credit: Yang Kang

Indeed, in many cases, Taiwan reflexively sided with Israel. Taipei 101, for example, lit up in the colors of the Israeli flag in October. Much of Taiwan’s understanding of global politics is filtered through the US and this extends to the ongoing events in Gaza. Even as international condemnation of Israel’s actions is on the rise, there has been a relative lack of awareness of this in Taiwan.

This takes place at a time when Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan are increasingly linked issues for hawkish American Republicans in policymaker positions. This proves ironic, in that Taiwan has frequently drawn parallels between itself and Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion that began two years ago, yet has historically aligned itself with Israel rather than Palestine. The contradictions of this position should be self-evident, yet there will be more public discourse in Taiwan needed before there will be a rethinking of this reflexive siding with Israel.

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