Susan Sontag on resistance

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The following remarkable speech for our embattled times was made by Susan Sontag at an award ceremony honoring Ishai Menuchin and the Israeli refusniks. She considers in sober and moving terms what it means to resist, to refuse your service to your own state, to oppose the mainstream opinions of your own society, and while it is directed at the situation in Israel today, it is — and clearly was meant to be — no less applicable to our own situation, to a country that “has made patriotism equivalent to consensus.” As you might expect of Sontag, it is clear-eyed as to the grim nature of our present moment and what it means to resist when success is hardly at hand, no less in sight — and yet, for me at least (and I hope for all of you), it also offers a modicum of hope and a sense of heart. It was first printed up in the May 5 issue of the Nation magazine and is reprinted here in full with her kind permission and with the award documentation attached.

She comments: “You won’t be surprised to learn that the award was not covered or reported
by a single newspaper or television station in the whole country. The local
paper, the Houston Chronicle, refused to send a reporter. And look at what
this award has been and who has been involved in it! Had I not chosen to send my text to the Nation and the Guardian (which will be printing it this week), no one would even know the award was ever given.”

For those of you who, having read this speech, might want another kind of glimpse into the desperate world where Israel and Palestine meet, consider a recent piece, Cameraman under the streetlamp by Amira Hass, the Ha’aretz journalist, who lives in and reports from Ramallah and the occupied territories. She offers a kind of resistance that’s all her own. Tom

Keynote Speech on the occasion of the presentation of The Rothko
Chapel OSCAR ROMERO AWARD to Ishai Menuchin, Chairman of Yesh
Gvul (There is a Limit), the Israeli soldiers’ movement
for selective refusal.

By Susan Sontag
Houston, Texas
March 30, 2003

Allow me to invoke not one but two, only two, who were heroes — among
millions of heroes. Who were victims — among tens of millions of

The first: Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, murdered in
his vestments, while saying mass in the cathedral on March 24, 1980 —
twenty-three years ago — because he had become “a vocal advocate of a just
peace, and had openly opposed the forces of violence and oppression.” (I am
quoting from the description of the Oscar Romero Award, being given today to
Ishai Menuchin.)

The second: Rachel Corrie, a twenty-three-year-old college student from
Olympia, Washington, murdered in the bright neon-orange jacket with Day-Glo
striping that “human shields” wear to make themselves quite visible, and
possibly safer, while trying to stop one of the almost daily house
demolitions by Israeli forces in Rafah, a town in the southern Gaza Strip
(where Gaza abuts the Egyptian border), on March 16, 2003 — two weeks ago.
Standing in front of a Palestinian physician’s house that had been targeted
for demolition, Corrie, one of eight young American and British human-shield
volunteers in Rafah, had been waving and shouting at the driver of an
oncoming armored D-9 bulldozer through her megaphone, then dropped to her
knees in the path of the super-sized bulldozer … which did not slow down.

Allow me to invoke not one but two, only two, who were heroes — among
millions of heroes. Who were victims — among tens of millions of

The first: Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, murdered in
his vestments, while saying mass in the cathedral on March 24, 1980 —
twenty-three years ago — because he had become “a vocal advocate of a just
peace, and had openly opposed the forces of violence and oppression.” (I am
quoting from the description of the Oscar Romero Award, being given today to
Ishai Menuchin.)

The second: Rachel Corrie, a twenty-three-year-old college student from
Olympia, Washington, murdered in the bright neon-orange jacket with Day-Glo
striping that “human shields” wear to make themselves quite visible, and
possibly safer, while trying to stop one of the almost daily house
demolitions by Israeli forces in Rafah, a town in the southern Gaza Strip
(where Gaza abuts the Egyptian border), on March 16, 2003 — two weeks ago.
Standing in front of a Palestinian physician’s house that had been targeted
for demolition, Corrie, one of eight young American and British human-shield
volunteers in Rafah, had been waving and shouting at the driver of an
oncoming armored D-9 bulldozer through her megaphone, then dropped to her
knees in the path of the super-sized bulldozer … which did not slow down.

Two emblematic figures of sacrifice, killed by the forces of violence
and oppression to which they were offering non-violent, principled,
dangerous opposition.


Let’s start with risk. The risk of being punished. The risk of being
isolated. The risk of being injured or killed. The risk of being scorned.

We are all conscripts in one sense or another. For all of us, it is
hard to break ranks; to incur the disapproval, the censure, the violence of
an offended majority with a different idea of loyalty. We shelter under
banner-words like justice, peace, reconciliation that enroll us in new, if
much smaller and relatively powerless communities of the like-minded. That
mobilize us for the demonstration, the protest, the public performance of
acts of civil disobedience — not for the parade ground and the

To fall out of step with one’s tribe; to step beyond one’s tribe into a
world that is larger mentally but smaller numerically — if alienation or
dissidence is not your habitual or gratifying posture, this is a complex,
difficult process.

It is hard to defy the wisdom of the tribe: the wisdom that values the
lives of members of the tribe above all others. It will always be unpopular
— it will always be deemed unpatriotic — to say that the lives of the
members of the other tribe are as valuable as one’s own.

It is easier to give one’s allegiance to those we know, to those we see,
to those with whom we are embedded, to those with whom we share — as we
may — a community of fear.

Let’s not underestimate the force of what we oppose. Let’s not
underestimate the retaliation that may be visited on those who dare to
dissent from the brutalities and repressions thought justified by the fears
of the majority.

We are flesh. We can be punctured by a bayonet, torn apart by a suicide
bomber. We can be crushed by a bulldozer, gunned down in a cathedral.

Fear binds people together. And fear disperses them. Courage inspires
communities: the courage of an example — for courage is as contagious as
fear. But courage, certain kinds of courage, can also isolate the brave.

The perennial destiny of principles: while everyone professes to have
them, they are likely to be sacrificed when they become inconveniencing.
Generally a moral principle is something that puts one at variance with
accepted practice. And that variance has consequences, sometimes unpleasant
consequences, as the community takes its revenge on those who challenge its
contradictions — who want a society actually to uphold the principles it
professes to defend.

The standard that a society should actually embody its own professed
principles is a utopian one, in the sense that moral principles contradict
the way things really are — and always will be. How things really are —
and always will be — is neither all-evil nor all-good but deficient,
inconsistent, inferior. Principles invite us to do something about the
morass of contradictions in which we function morally. Principles invite us
to clean up our act; to become intolerant of moral laxity and compromise and
cowardice and the turning away from what is upsetting: that secret gnawing
of the heart that tells us that what we are doing is not right, and so
counsels us that we’d be better off just not thinking about it.

The cry of the anti-principled: “I’m doing the best I can.” The best
given the circumstances, of course.


Let’s say, the principle is: it’s wrong to oppress and humiliate a whole
people. To deprive them systematically of lodging and proper nutrition; to
destroy their habitations, means of livelihood, access to education and
medical care, and ability to consort with one another.

That these practices are wrong, whatever the provocation.

And there is provocation. That, too, should not be denied.


At the center of our moral life and our moral imagination are the great
models of resistance: the great stories of those who have said No. No, I
will not serve.

What models, what stories? A Mormon may resist the outlawing of
polygamy. An anti-abortion militant may resist the law that has made
abortion legal. They, too, will invoke the claims of religion (or faith)
and morality — against the edicts of civil society. Appeal to the
existence of a higher law that authorizes us to defy the laws of the state
can be used to justify criminal transgression as well as the noblest
struggle for justice.

Courage has no moral value in itself, for courage is not, in itself, a
moral virtue. Vicious scoundrels, murderers, terrorists may be brave. To
describe courage as a virtue, we need an adjective: we speak of “moral
courage” — because there is such a thing as amoral courage, too.

And resistance has no value in itself. It is the content of the
resistance that determines its merit, its moral necessity.

Let’s say: resistance to a criminal war. Let’s say: resistance to the
occupation and annexation of another people’s land.

Again: there is nothing inherently superior about resistance. All
our claims for the righteousness of resistance rest on the rightness of the
claim that the resisters are acting in the name of justice. And the justice
of the cause does not depend on, and is not enhanced by, the virtue of those
who make the assertion. It depends first and last on the truth of a
description of a state of affairs which is, truly, unjust and unnecessary.


Here is what I believe to be a truthful description of a state of
affairs that has taken me many years of uncertainty, ignorance, and anguish,
to acknowledge.

A wounded and fearful country, Israel is going through the greatest
crisis of its turbulent history, brought about by the policy of steadily
increasing and reinforcing settlements on the territories won after its
victory in the Arab war on Israel in 1967. The decision of successive
Israeli governments to retain control over the West Bank and Gaza, thereby
denying their Palestinian neighbors a state of their own, is a catastrophe
— moral, human, and political — for both peoples. The Palestinians need
a sovereign state. Israel needs a sovereign Palestinian state. Those of us
abroad who wish for Israel to survive cannot, should not, wish it to survive
no matter what, no matter how. We owe a particular debt of gratitude to
courageous Israeli Jewish witnesses, journalists, architects, poets,
novelists, professors —among others — who have described and documented
and protested and militated against the sufferings of the Palestinians
living under the increasingly cruel terms of Israeli military subjugation
and settler annexation.

Our greatest admiration must go to the brave Israeli soldiers,
represented here by Ishai Menuchin, who refuse to serve beyond the 1967
borders. These soldiers know that all settlements are bound to be evacuated
in the end. These soldiers, who are Jews, take seriously the principle put
forward at the Nuremberg trials in 1946: namely, that a soldier is not
obliged to obey unjust orders, orders which contravene the laws of war —
indeed, one has an obligation to disobey them.

The Israeli soldiers who are resisting service in the Occupied
Territories are not refusing a particular order. They are refusing to enter
the space where illegitimate orders are bound to be given — that is, where
it is more than probable that they will be ordered to perform actions that
continue the oppression and humiliation of Palestinian civilians. Houses
are demolished, groves are uprooted, the stalls of a village market are
bulldozed, a cultural center is looted; and now, nearly every day, civilians
of all ages are fired on and killed. There can be no disputing the mounting
cruelty of the Israeli occupation of the 22 percent of the former territory
of British Palestine on which a Palestinian state will be erected. These
soldiers believe, as I do, that there should be an unconditional withdrawal
from the Occupied Territories. They have declared collectively that they
will not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders “in order to dominate,
expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.”

What the refuseniks have done (there are now around eleven hundred of
them, more than two hundred and fifty of whom have gone to prison) does
not contribute to tell us how the Israelis and Palestinians can make peace
— beyond the irrevocable demand that the settlements be disbanded. The
actions of this heroic minority cannot contribute to the much needed reform
and democratization of the Palestinian Authority. Their stand will not
lessen the grip of religious bigotry and racism in Israeli society or reduce
the dissemination of virulent anti-Semitic propaganda in the aggrieved Arab
world. It will not stop the suicide bombers.

It simply declares: enough. Or: there is a limit. Yesh gvul.

It provides a model of resistance. Of disobedience. For which there
will always be penalties.

None of us has yet to endure anything like what these brave conscripts
are enduring, many of whom have gone to jail.

To speak for peace at this moment in this country is merely to be jeered
(as in the recent Academy Awards ceremony), harassed, blacklisted (the
banning by the most powerful chain of radio stations of the Dixie Chicks);
in short, to be reviled as unpatriotic.

Our “United We Stand” or “Winner Takes All” ethos … the United States
is a country which has made patriotism equivalent to consensus.
Tocqueville, still the greatest observer of the United States, remarked on a
unprecedented degree of conformity in the then new country, and a hundred
and sixty-eight more years have only confirmed his observation.

Sometimes, given the new, radical turn in American foreign policy, it
seems as if it was inevitable that the national consensus on the greatness
of America, which may be activated to an extraordinary pitch of triumphalist
national self-regard, was bound eventually to find expression in wars like
the present one, which are assented to by a majority of the population, who
have been persuaded that America has the right — even the duty — to
dominate the world.


The usual way of heralding people who act on principle, is to say that
they are the vanguard of an eventually triumphant revolt against injustice.

But what if they’re not?

What if the evil is really unstoppable? At least in the short run. And
that short run may be, is going to be, very long indeed.

My admiration for the soldiers who are resisting service in the Occupied
Territories is as fierce as my belief that it will be a long time before
their view prevails.

But what haunts me at this moment — for the obvious reason — is
acting on principle when it isn’t going to alter the obvious distribution of
force, the rank injustice and murderousness of a government’s policy that
claims to be acting in the name not of peace but of … security.

The force of arms has its own logic. If you commit an aggression and
others resist, it is easy to convince the home front that the fighting must
continue. Once the troops are there, they must be supported. It becomes
irrelevant to question why the troops are there in the first place.

The soldiers are there because “we” are being attacked; or menaced.
Never mind that we may have attacked them first. They are now attacking
back, causing casualties. Behaving in ways that defy the “proper” conduct
of war. Behaving like “savages,” as people in our part of the world like to
call people in that part of the world. And their “savage” or “unlawful”
actions give new justification to new aggressions. And new impetus to
repress or censor or persecute citizens who oppose the aggression which the
government has undertaken.


Let’s not underestimate the force of what we are opposing.

The world is, for almost everyone, that over which we have virtually no
control. Common sense and the sense of self-protectiveness tell us to
accommodate to what we cannot change.

It’s not hard to see how some of us might be persuaded of the justice,
the necessity of a war. Especially of a war that is formulated as a small,
limited military action which will actually contribute to peace or improved
security; of an aggression which announces itself as a campaign of
disarmament — admittedly, disarmament of the enemy; and, regrettably,
requiring the application of overpowering force. An invasion which calls
itself, officially, a liberation.

Every violence in war has been justified as a retaliation. We are
threatened. We are defending ourselves. The others, they want to kill us.
We must stop them.

And from there: we must stop them before they have a chance to carry out
their plans. And since those who would attack us are sheltering behind
non-combatants, no aspect of civil life can be immune to our depredations.

Never mind the disparity of forces, of wealth, of firepower — or
simply of population. How many Americans know that the population of the
Iraq is 24 million, half of whom are children? (The population of the
United States, as you will remember, is 290 million.) Not to support those
who are coming under fire from the enemy seems like treason.

It may be that, in some cases, the threat is real.

In such circumstances, the bearer of the moral principle seems like
someone running alongside a moving rain, yelling “Stop! Stop!”

Can the train be stopped? No, it can’t. At least, not now.

Will other people on the train be moved to jump off and join those on
the ground? Maybe some will, but most won’t. (At least, not until they have
a whole new panoply of fears.)

The dramaturgy of “acting on principle” tells us that we don’t have to
think about whether acting on principle is expedient, or whether we can
count on the eventual success of the actions we have undertaken.

Acting on principle is, we’re told, a good in itself.

But it is still a political act, in the sense that you’re not doing it
for yourself. You don’t do it just to be in the right, or to appease your
own conscience; much less because you are confident your action will achieve
its aim. You resist as an act of solidarity. With communities of the
principled and the disobedient: here, elsewhere. In the present. In the

Thoreau’s going to prison in 1846 for refusing to pay the poll tax in
protest against the American war on Mexico hardly stopped the war. But the
resonance of that most unpunishing and briefest spell of imprisonment
(famously, a single night in jail) has not ceased to inspire principled
resistance to injustice through the second half of the twentieth century and
into our new era. The movement in the late 1980s to shut down the Nevada
Test Site, a key location for the nuclear arms race, failed in its goal; the
operations of the test site were unaffected by the protests. But it
directly inspire the formation of a movement of protesters in far away Alma
Ata, who eventually succeeded in shutting down the main Soviet test site in
Kazakhstan, citing the Nevada antinuclear activists as their inspiration and
expressing solidarity with the Native Americans on whose land the Nevada
Test Site had been located.

The likelihood that your acts of resistance cannot stop the injustice
does not exempt you from acting in what you sincerely and reflectively hold
to be the best interests of your community.

Thus: It is not in the best interests of Israel to be an oppressor.

Thus: it is not in the best interests of the United States to be a
hyperpower, capable of imposing its will on any country in the world, as it

What is in the true interests of a modern community is justice.

It cannot be right to systematically oppress and confine a neighboring
people. It is surely false to think that murder, expulsion, annexations,
the building of walls — all that has contributed to the reducing of a whole
people to dependence, penury, and despair — will bring security and peace
to the oppressors.

It cannot be right that a president of the United States seems to
believe that he has a mandate to be president of the planet — and
announces that those who are not with America are with “the terrorists.”

Those brave Israeli Jews who, in fervent and active opposition to the
policies of the present government of their country, have spoken up on
behalf of the plight and the rights of Palestinians, are defending the true
interests of Israel. Those of us who are opposed to the plans of the
present government of the United States for global hegemony are patriots
speaking for the best interests of the United States.

Beyond these struggles, which are worthy of our passionate adherence, it
is important to remember that in programs of political resistance the
relation of cause and effect is convoluted, and often indirect. All
struggle, all resistance is — must be — concrete. And all struggle has
a global resonance.

If not here, then there. If not now, then soon: elsewhere as well as

To Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero.
To Rachel Corrie.
And to Ishai Menuchin and his comrades.


The Announcement of the award sent out by the press office of the Rothko Chapel follows:

The Rothko Chapel Oscar Romero Award
March 30, 2003, 5:30 p.m.
at The Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas

Recipient: Ishai Menuchin

Chairman of Yesh Gvul (There’s a limit)

Keynote speaker: Susan Sontag
Author and human rights activist

The Board of Directors of the Rothko Chapel announced that the Board of
Directors decided to reinstate the Rothko Chapel Oscar Romero Award for
Commitment to Truth and Freedom. Dominique de Menil established the Rothko
Chapel Oscar Romero Award in 1986 to commemorate the martyrdom of Archbishop
Oscar Romero of San Salvador who was murdered in 1980. This human rights
award honors those who, like Monseñor Romero, are willing to risk their
lives to promote human rights for all people. This year the award will be
presented to Ishai Menuchin, Chairman of Yesh Gvul, the Israeli soldiers’
movement for selective refusal.

Upon graduating from high school, Ishai Menuchin joined the Israeli
paratroop brigade and achieved the rank of lieutenant. He became politically
active during the war on Lebanon by joining ³Peace Now² and subsequently
helped found Yesh Gvul. Since that time, he has played a central role in
Yesh Gvul as a leading activist and spokesman for the movement.

Yesh Gvul (there’s a limit) means “that there’s a limit to what we are
willing to do, whether as citizens or as soldiers.” It is an Israeli peace
group that has shouldered the task of supporting soldiers who refuse
assignments of a repressive or aggressive nature. “The role of the Israel
Defense Forces (IDF), in subjugating the Palestinian population, places
numerous servicemen in a grave moral and political dilemma, as they are
required to enforce policies they deem illegal and immoral.”

After the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 1985, members of Yesh Gvul
decided to channel their activities back into protests against the
government’s policy of occupation and annexation in the Occupied
Territories. “We in Yesh Gvul regard occupation, in itself, as immoral by
definition, even without its ‘unavoidable’ consequences: beatings,
tear-gassing, deportations, demolitions of homes, and shooting unarmed

Monseñor Romero has been symbolized as “the voice not silenced in the midst
of oppression, death, torture, militarism and intimidation of many kinds.”
Ishai Menuchin took the risk of punishment by the authorities and
condemnation by fellow citizens, and had the courage to voice nationally and
internationally the moral concerns of many Israeli civilians and members of
the armed forces about violations of human rights in the Occupied

* His Excellency Michael D. Higgins, T.D., Minister for Arts, Culture and
the Gaeltacht, Ireland, Keynote speaker in Vienna, Austria on the occasion
of the fifth Rothko Chapel Oscar Romero Award

Addendum 1

Archbishop Oscar Romero lived his life amid poverty, injustice and
repression in El Salvador. As Archbishop of San Salvador he became the
leader of the church of his native land, an advocate of the poor and the
“voice of the voiceless,” demanding justice and respect of human rights for
all. He was murdered while saying Mass on March 24, 1980.

“As archbishop of San Salvador, I call on the consciences and hearts of
those responsible not to continue their unyielding and intransigent
position, but to yield and seek a way to break as soon as possible this
endless chain of bloody deeds. What matters now is not to show the nation
and the world who is stronger or the winner, but who is the more responsible
and humane, capable of stopping this growing spiral of violence.”

– Archbishop Oscar Romero

Susan Sontag is one of America¹s best known and most admired writers. Her
books have been translated into twenty-six languages and have given her
worldwide recognition.

Ms. Sontag has written and directed four feature-length films and several
plays. Staging Beckett¹s Waiting for Godot in the summer of 1993 in besieged
Sarajevo won her the respect and admiration of all and the recognition of
honorary citizen of the City of Sarajevo. She has received many honors,
including the 2001 Jerusalem Prize, the National Book Award and the National
Book Critics Circle Award. In addition, she has received the Malaparte Prize
in Italy and was named a Commandeur de l¹Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by
the French government.

Ms. Sontag has been a human rights activist for more than twenty years
openly criticizing human rights violations. She has also led a number of
campaigns on behalf of persecuted and imprisoned writers.

“I believe the doctrine of collective responsibility as a rationale for
collective punishment is never justified, militarily or ethnically. And I
mean of course the disproportionate use of fire power against civilians, the
demolition of their homes, the destruction of their orchards and groves, the
deprivation of their livelihood and access to employment, to schooling, to
medical services, or as a punishment of hostile, military activities in the
vicinity of those civilians.”

– Susan Sontag

Ishai Menuchin has earned a M.A. degree in psychology and is currently
working on a Ph.D. thesis on Moral Obligations Justification and Civil
Disobedience in a Democratic Society. He is a lecturer at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, Department of Political Science, and at the Center
for Educational Technology. After the three-year compulsory military service
and a further eighteen months as a regular (career) officer, Ishai Menuchin
performs the annual service as an officer in infantry units.

Ishai Menuchin is married and has three children.

“I and others who serve in the defense forces cannot by our actions alone
change government policies or make peace negotiations more likely. But we
can show our fellow citizens that occupation of the territories is not just
a political or strategic matter. It is also a moral matter. We can show them
an alternative — they can say no to occupation.”

– Ishai Menuchin

Addendum 2


Menuchin, Ishai and Menuchin, Dina (Eds.) (1985), The Limits of Obedience,
The Yesh Gvul Movement & Siman Kri a Books. The first anthology that was
published in Hebrew on issues of civil disobedience, selective refusal and
the meaning of democracy in the context of the war in Lebanon. The
contributors are: Asa Kasher, Noam Chomsky, Hanan Hever, Meir Pa il, Richard
Popkin, Joseph Raz, Michael Walzer, Adi Zemach and others (Hebrew).

Menuchin, Ishai (Ed.) (1990), On Democracy and Obedience, The Yesh Gvul
Movement & Siman Kri a Books. An anthology in Hebrew on issues of democracy,
selective refusal and conscience and political disobedience in the context
of the Palestinian Intifada. The contributors are: David Hyed, Yeshayahu
Leibowitz, Ishai Menuchin, Amos Oz, Joseph Raz, Itzhak Zamir and others

Menuchin, Ishai (1992), Occupation Protest, and Selective Refusal , In-
Hurwitz Deena (Ed.), Walking The Red Line – Israelis in Search of Justice
for Palestine, New Society Publishers, pp. 77 – 83 (English).

Menuchin, Ishai (1999), Who is Afraid of Freedom (of Information), Shatil. A
popular guide for the new Israeli freedom of information law (Hebrew).

Menuchin, Ishai (2002), Freedom of Information as Necessary Condition for
Public Participation , In — Cherchman, Arza and Sadan, Elisheva (ed.),
Issues of Public Participation, Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House

Menuchin Ishai (2002), “Saying No to Israel’s Occupation”, In- Carey Roane,
Shainin Jonathan (Eds.), The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent,
The New Press, pp. 123 — 125 (English).

Menuchin, Ishai and Yovel, Yirmiyahu (forthcoming), Can Tolerance Prevail?
Moral Education in a Diverse World. An anthology in English on issues of
moral philosophy and education, the challenges of plural societies,
religious roots of tolerance and new approaches to tolerance (the anthology
will also be published in Hebrew). The contributors are: Mohammed Arkoun,
Daniel Bell, Marcel Dubois, Agnes Heller, Will Kymlicka, Ishai Menuchin,
Martha Nussbaum, Bikhu Parekh, Bassam Tibi, Yirmiyahu Yovel and others

Addendum 3

The Rothko Chapel Oscar Romero Award

This award¹s name commemorates the sacrifice of Oscar Arnulfo Romero,
Archbishop of El Salvador, murdered on March 24, 1980. Monseñor Romero had
become a vocal advocate of just peace and had openly opposed the forces of
violence and oppression. It is hoped that the Award will serve as reminder
of his integrity and courage.

The Rothko Chapel Oscar Romero Award was first given in 1986 and since then
given every two to three years. Anyone of any nationality, race or creed who
is distinguished by courage and integrity and may be willing to risk life
itself to promote human rights, is eligible. The award may be presented to
an individual or an organization. Occasionally, the award may be shared. The
award carries an unrestricted gift of twenty thousand dollars.

Past Recipients

1986: Bishop Proaño Villalba, Ecuador
Keynote Speaker: The Most Reverend Desmond M. Tutu
Presenter: Mrs. Dominique de Menil
(Presented at The Rothko Chapel)

1988: Paulo Evaristo Cardinal Arns, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Keynote Speaker: Mrs. Rosalynn Carter
Presenter: Mrs. Dominique de Menil and The Reverend Thompson L. Shannon
(Presented at The Rothko Chapel)

1990: Bishop Medardo E. Gómez Soto, El Salvador and
María Julia Hernandez, El Salvador
Keynote Speaker: Congressman Joe Moakley
Presenters: Sen. Mark O. Hatfield and Sen. George J. Mitchell
(Presented in Washington, DC)

1991: Monseñor Rodolfo Quezado Toruño, Guatemala
Keynote Speaker: Nelson Mandela
Presenter: Former President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Dominique de Menil
(Presented at The Rothko Chapel)

1993: Oslobodjenje (Liberation), fifty year old independent Bosnian
published by a multi-ethnic team of journalists
Keynote Speaker, The Honorable Michael D. Higgins, TD
Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Ireland
Presenter: Monsenõr Arturo Rivera Damas, Archbishop of San Salvador and Mrs.
Dominique de Menil
(Presented in Vienna, Austria)

1997: Salima Ghezali, Editor of La Nation, stood against censorship, Algeria
Abdennour Ali-Yahia, attorney and former Minister, and a human rights
advocate, Algeria
Keynote Speaker: The Honorable Ibrahima Fall
Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, The United Nations
Presenter: Mrs. Dominique de Menil
(Presented at The Rothko Chapel)