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Thich Quang Duc was the Buddhist monk who self-immolated to protest the Diem regime during South Vietnam’s so-called Buddhist crisis of 1963. The AP’s Malcolm Browne won the World Press Photo of the Year in 1963 with the famous photograph of Duc on fire. Ray Boomhower’s forthcoming book about it is titled The Ultimate Protest.

Air Force senior airman Aaron Bushnell replayed the scene outside the Israeli embassy in Washington this past Sunday afternoon. He called it “an extreme act of protest, but compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it’s not extreme at all.” He posted a video online saying he did not want to be “complicit in genocide.” He repeatedly shouted “Free Palestine” as he burned. He died later that night, apparently of the injuries he sustained lighting himself up.

It’s a bizarre story. The New York Post reported on it here and here, the Washington Post here, and the Daily Mail here (with video before Bushnell doused himself). The Washington Post reports that Bushnell’s “suicidal protest instantly won him praise among some antiwar and pro-Palestinian activists…”

The New York Post unsuccessfully sought comment from the Israeli embassy. However, Brendan O’Neill comment in his Spiked column here.

Anyone contemplating self-harm or suicide should get help. Bushnell needed a friend to urge him to reconsider. Mental illness runs deep.

Bushnell might have helped himself by applying critical thought to what he reads in newspapers like the Washington Post and figuring out who’s zoomin’ who in “Palestine.” Israel is not committing “genocide.” It is the victim of those who expressly sought to commit “genocide.” And Bushnell wasn’t “complicit” in Israel’s effort to defend itself against genocide. A combination of political witlessness and mental illness appears to have rendered Bushnell impervious to the reality principle.