* Anti-war activist
* Co-founder of Global Exchange, Code Pink for Peace, & Iraq Occupation Watch
* Has said that living in Castro’s Cuba made her feel “like [she] died and went to heaven.”
* Views America as a militaristic nation replete with white racism
* Greatly admired the late Fidel Castro & Hugo Chavez
* Supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement
* Pro-Hamas, anti-Israel
Born on September 10, 1952 as Susan Benjamin, Medea Benjamin was raised as a self-described “nice Jewish girl from Long Island,” New York. During her freshman year at Tufts University, she renamed herself after the Greek mythological character Medea, an enchantress/witch who killed her own children. Also during her time at Tufts, Benjamin joined the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). As she would later recall in a 2018 interview: “Through SDS, I saw the importance of synthesizing anti-war activism and community activism. Besides protesting the Vietnam War, my chapter of SDS operated both a breakfast program and an afterschool program for children in poor neighborhoods.”
After one semester at Tufts, Benjamin dropped out of school and spent the next four years traveling—sometimes by means of hitchhiking—throughout Europe and parts of Africa. During this period, she supported herself by teaching English, working in African refugee camps, and doing a variety of other odd jobs. Benjamin thereafter returned to New York, passed some undergraduate equivalency tests, and went on to earn master’s degrees in public health (from Columbia University) and economics (from the New School for Social Research).
From 1979-83, Benjamin lived in Fidel Castro’s Cuba with her first husband (a black, pro-Castro Cuban), who was the coach of that country’s national basketball team. There, Benjamin found work as a writer for Cuba’s Communist Party newspaper. “It was all about what Fidel Castro did every day,” Benjamin would later say in her description of that publication. “And I was translating Fidel Castro’s speeches. I must say, he’s brilliant. And the fact that anybody could talk for five hours without a note and put facts and figures and all kinds of things, I mean, I was just amazed by this guy’s brain.”
Benjamin’s initial impressions of Cuba were overwhelmingly positive. Years later she would recall how, upon moving to the island nation, she had felt “like I died and went to heaven.” “There were no hungry kids in Cuba,” Benjamin said in a 2014 interview, “because there was a ration system, and the ration system meant that every person in Cuba had enough to feed themselves. So I saw some really positive things in Cuba, like the ration system, like a health care system that gave health care to everyone. It was during the years when the Soviet Union was economically strong and was giving a lot of money to Cuba, so things were pretty good in Cuba in those days.”
Over time, however, Benjamin’s feelings regarding Cuba evolved into what she described as a “love-hate relationship.” “I must say it didn’t last a long time for me to be very content living in Cuba,” she recalled in the aforementioned 2014 interview, “because I saw the other side as well. I saw the side that you couldn’t form independent organizations, you couldn’t speak out very forcefully. You could speak out–everybody complains in Cuba about everything. But when you start really trying to do something about it, you get in trouble.” When Benjamin herself wrote a piece critical of the Cuban government’s restrictions on free speech, she was jailed and then promptly deported to the United States.
By Benjamin’s telling, when she and her husband relocated to America following her deportation from Cuba in 1983, the husband was psychologically destroyed by the racism he allegedly encountered in the United States. And consequently, she said, their marriage was likewise torn apart by that experience:
“When I was 26, I met a Cuban while I was living in Africa. He was a coach for the [Cuban] national basketball team. He was charming, fun, gregarious, curious, handsome, well-educated and a great dancer. We fell in love, got married and went to live in Cuba. It was 1980. After a few years, I fell afoul of the government and had to leave. With my husband and our baby, we migrated to California.
“I am a white woman. In Cuba, my husband was considered mulatto, or mixed race. In the U.S., he was simply black. In horror, I watched how U.S. society — particularly racism — took a well-adjusted man with a healthy dollop of self-worth and crushed him. Searching for work was humiliating. He was turned down at interview after interview until he finally took a job cleaning floors at a hotel, a job where people barely acknowledged his existence. He lost all sense of his own dignity and started hanging out with similar black men, men who unfortunately used drugs to dull their pain. He got addicted to crack and ended up in prison, where over 90 percent of the other prisoners were black.
“Our family fell apart, and it took him many years to recover from the addition…. With our nation’s wealth inequalities growing and the epidemic of mass incarceration of young black men, the wounds of racism continue to be deep and festering. I’m an optimist by nature, but when it comes to race, as long as we refuse to address the issue honestly and radically through a massive redistribution of wealth and privilege, we will continue to be a racist nation that diminishes all of us.”
Before long, Benjamin parted ways with her husband and took a job in San Francisco as a project coordinator for Food First, a.k.a. the Institute for Food and Development Policy, which commissioned her to help write a book about the food system in Cuba. Food First reportedly sent aid to Daniel Ortega’s repressive, Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaraugua, a regime that Benjamin strongly supported. Years later—in her 2000 book, I, Senator — Benjamin boasted that she had “fought Ronald Reagan’s illegal and immoral war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua” during the ’80s.
In the mid 1980s, Benjamin met the left-wing activist Kevin Danaher, who became her second husband. In 1988 the couple co-founded the anti-war, anti-capitalist organization Global Exchange. Benjamin recounts the founding of that organization as follows:
“We realize[d] that people needed to get out of their U.S.-only perspective and see the rest of the world. So we created what we called ‘reality tours’ and took people to see things from the perspective of peasants and union organizers and go into the coffee plantations and see what conditions were like. Because you drink this coffee every day, you should know who’s growing it and how they’re being paid or not being paid. And we would take people to get other perspectives on U.S. policies. So we started traveling all over the Caribbean, Latin America, started taking groups to Asia, to Africa. And that was a big part of Global Exchange.
“The other part of it was that we brought the Fair Trade label that had been developed in Europe, that hadn’t come to the United States, to the U.S. So the labels that you’d see on coffee and tea and chocolate, we helped get that started in the U.S. […]
“[T]he most fun that we had was the Nike campaign. That was really great, because it was, I think, when Nike had really reached the point where people started paying things like $150 for a pair of shoes because of the brand name. And so I went to Indonesia. Actually, I went to Indonesia because it was part of our work around U.S. policy, and it was during the days of Suharto, where U.S. was supporting a dictatorship. Learning about Nike was a totally separate thing. It just happened that during that trip the union people said, do you know what your companies are doing, and took us to meet with workers who were making these shoes.
“That’s how we came back and said, we’ve got to do something about that. And we brought workers from Indonesia to the U.S. And it was some of the most spectacular work that we’ve done, because we would take them to Nike headquarters and try to get a meeting with the CEO. And they would treat us like we were a bunch of tourists. Here we were, like, all five-foot-tall women, trying to literally walk up into their campus to get a meeting.
“Or we’d take them to the Nike–where they sell the shoes, and try to bring the worker in with press to try on a pair of shoes. And Nike would go crazy. You know, the worker can’t go in and try on shoes! And she would say that it would take her three months to ever be able to afford a pair of sneakers, and in making hundreds of them every day, she’d never had a chance to actually try on a pair. And we got that onto national television, a worker, for the first time in their life, putting on a pair of sneakers. And it really had a huge impact. […]
“So we forced Nike to start opening up its factories to outside monitors. We forced them to change the way workers were treated. I would say we got rid of the worst of the abuses. The physical conditions of the workers’ quarters were better. There was now–started to pay them overtime. They started to–we forced them to stop using some of the toxic chemicals, like the glues that were being used. So I think we had a tremendous impact.”
In July 1992, Benjamin endorsed a National Conference which the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)—an outgrowth of the Communist Party USA—held in Berkeley, California. The theme of this event was “Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the ’90s.”
In a July 2002 Committees of Correspondence National Conference and Convention at San Francisco State University, Benjamin participated in a “Plenary Panel and Discussion on Electoral Reform and the Struggle for Democracy.”
Throughout the decade of the ’90s, Benjamin and likeminded leftwing feminists focused their energies on organizing sometimes-violent protests against free trade across the globe, targeting large corporations with high-profile campaigns and lawsuits that cost consumers and companies like The Gap, Nike, and Starbucks millions of dollars.
The apex of this movement occurred in 1999 in Seattle, where Benjamin was one of the principal leaders and organizers of the infamous protests that escalated into riots where rampaging anti-globalization activists burned cars, smashed windows, and destroyed millions of dollars worth of property in a failed bid to shut down a World Trade Organization (WTO) conference. Benjamin hailed the riots as a signal that even bigger things were possible. “Seattle was this kind of battle cry,” she told the San Jose Mercury News in 2000. “We now know we can mobilize hundreds of thousands of people.”
In 2005, Benjamin spoke at the annual Left Forum conference, successor to the Socialist Scholars Conferences. Among the other featured speakers were Ralph Nader, Tariq Ali, Barbara Ehrenreich, Lynne Stewart, Manning Marable, Frances Fox Piven, Michael Hardt, and Stanley Aronowitz. Benjamin subsequently spoke at Left Forum gatherings in 2011 and 2012 as well.
When a San Francisco Chronicle reporter in 2001 asked Benjamin why she had repeatedly supported the enemies of U.S. foreign policy—including the Communist Viet Cong and the Communist Sandinistas—she replied: “There’s no one who will talk about how the other side is good.”
In April 2002, Benjamin condemned America’s military response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, asserting that President George W. Bush had imprudently launched “a war in Afghanistan … that included dropping over 20,000 bombs, many of which missed their targets and led to the killing and maiming of thousands of civilians.” “We must insist that governments stop taking innocent lives in the name of seeking justice for the loss of other innocent lives,” she added.
In October 2002, Benjamin spoke at a Washington “peace” rally organized by the Workers World Party, a Communist organization proudly dedicated to “fight[ing] against capitalism” in America’s “racist, sexist society.”
Also in 2002, Benjamin exhorted Americans to examine “the root causes of resentment against the United States in the Arab world—from our dependence on Middle Eastern oil to our biased policy towards Israel.” “We [Benjamin and her fellow activists] are … determined,” she said, “to stop the U.S. government from unilaterally dictating to other people—be they Palestinian, Iraqi or Venezuelan—who their leaders should be. This is for the people themselves to decide.”
In late 2002, Benjamin led a group of Americans, each of whom had lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks, in an anti-American propaganda trip to Afghanistan to meet people whose relatives had perished in the U.S. bombing campaign there.
In 2002-2003, Benjamin was a signatory to the widely publicized Not In Our Name (NION) anti-war statement, which asserted that America’s war on terror posed “grave dangers to the people of the world” in the form of “[w]ar and repression” that “has been loosed on the world by the Bush Administration … [in] a spirit of revenge.” The NION project was initiated on March 23, 2002 by the longtime Maoist activist and Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) member C. Clark Kissinger.
In April 2003, The Nation published an essay by Benjamin titled “Toward a Global Movement,” which laid out a skeletal blueprint for the military defeat that Benjamin wanted the U.S. to suffer in the Middle East. “Working with local communities where U.S. troops are based,” she wrote, “let’s start a ‘Bring All the Troops Home’ campaign to stop the expansion of U.S. bases and start dismantling some of the hundreds of existing bases overseas.” Benjamin also: (a) denounced the recent U.S. invasion of Iraq as a symptom of the nation’s unbridled militarism, writing that “military spending robs our schools, hospitals and housing programs”; (b) stressed the importance of “making common cause with immigrant and ethnic groups that have found themselves under attack in the wake of September 11 … [and countering] the erosion of our civil liberties”; and (c) exhorted “grassroots teams” to “link up with appropriate local and regional groups” in terrorist states.
In late 2003, Benjamin—along with Institute for Public Accuracy founder Norman Solomon—served as a consultant for actor Sean Penn‘s second propaganda trip to Iraq. Penn coordinated his trip with Benjamin, who, under the auspices of Global Exchange, was leading a contingent of military families to Iraq to: (a) meet with their American relatives who were serving there, and (b) try to persuade them to become conscientious objectors and lay down their arms. Echoing Benjamin’s repeated references to America’s “corporate invasion” of Iraq, Penn said: “The alienation bred by war on a people doesn’t stop with armies, but instead continues with corporations and privatization dominating and shaping the very culture and economic participation that freedom might otherwise express.”
In 2004 Medea Benjamin and Leslie Cagan co-founded the organization Iraq Occupation Watch, whose express mission was to encourage widespread desertion by “conscientious objectors” in the U.S. military.
Benjamin was a signatory to an October 26, 2004 statement circulated by 911Truth.org demanding that the U.S. Government investigate the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a possible “inside job.” The statement said, in part: “[W]e have assembled 100 notable Americans and 40 family members of those who died to sign this 9/11 Statement, which calls for immediate public attention to unanswered questions that suggest that people within the current [Bush] administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.” Among the other high-profile signers were: Ed Asner, Jodie Evans, Kevin Danaher, Richard Falk, Stan Goff, Randy Hayes, Van Jones, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Cynthia McKinney, Mark Crispin Miller, Ralph Nader, and Howard Zinn.
In late December 2004, Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans participated in a delegation to Iraq that also included representatives of Global Exchange, International Occupation Watch, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Families for Peace. These delegates delivered more than $600,000 in cash and medical supplies — many of which were donated by the Middle East Children’s Alliance and Operation USA — to the families of the insurgents who were fighting American troops in Fallujah. Said Benjamin, “I don’t know of any other case in history in which the parents of fallen soldiers collected medicine … for the families of the ‘other side.’ It is a reflection of a growing movement in the United States … opposed to the unjust nature of this war.” Senator Barbara Boxer, Rep. Raul Grijalva, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Rep. Henry Waxman provided diplomatic courtesy letters to help facilitate the transport of this aid through Customs. The organizations sponsoring the delegation were Code Pink, Global Exchange, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Project Guerrero Azteca for Peace, United for Peace and Justice, and Voices in the Wilderness.
Among the others who took part in the mission were:
In January 2006, Benjamin traveled to Caracas with Jodie Evans and Cindy Sheehan for a friendly visit with Venezuela’s Communist president, Hugo Chavez. Following the visit, Benjamin described Chavez as a “doll” and said that “George Bush—and John Kerry for that matter—could learn a thing or two from Hugo Chavez about winning the hearts and minds of the people.” By Benjamin’s telling, Chavez’s economic policies had placed his country at “the center of a new, progressive model of socioeconomic development that is shaping Latin America’s future.” “There are few countries,” she said, “where everyday people actually receive the benefits of cooperation with multinationals: a redistribution of oil profit, a guarantee for healthcare written into the constitution, and record-breaking achievements in education.… Venezuela has embarked upon some of the most innovative regional programs that Latin America has ever seen.”
In March 2006, Benjamin and other members of Code Pink brought a delegation of six Iraqi Muslim women to the United Nations in New York and to the Capitol in Washington, D.C., where they lobbied senators and congressional representatives, met with the leaders of NGOs and think tanks, and delivered a petition (with more than 100,000 signatures from people around the world) calling for an end to the Iraq War.
In August 2006, Benjamin was part of a twelve-person delegation of American radicals who traveled to Jordan to meet with several members of the Iraqi parliament. Those parliamentarians had invited Benjamin and her allies to the meeting after hearing about Code Pink for Peace‘s 28-day “fast” in protest of the U.S. war effort. The goal of the meeting in Jordan, said Benjamin, was “for the U.S. peace movement to meet directly with Iraqi parliamentarians working on a peace plan,” and to then “return to the U.S. to build support for their plan.” Notably, the trip may well have been illegal, violating the Logan Act‘s prohibition against private citizens conducting their own foreign policy.
Other notable members of Benjamin’s delegation included:
Among the Iraqi representatives with whom Benjamin and the other aforementioned American leftists negotiated were:
By the time the discussions in Jordan were finished, Benjamin and her cohorts had accepted nearly the entire platform of their Iraqi counterparts. Said Code Pink: “The common thread among this diverse group of Iraqis and Americans was a desire to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, ensure no permanent bases in Iraq, and secure a U.S. commitment to pay for rebuilding Iraq. Other issues that emerged in two-days of intensive talks include the need to dismantle militias, provide amnesty for prisoners and the various armed groups, compensate victims of the violence, revise the Constitution and preserve the unity of Iraq, and reverse U.S.-imposed de-Baathification and economic policies. We left this historic meeting with a commitment to make sure that the voices of these Iraqi parliamentarians are heard here in the U.S., and we will bring a group of them to the U.S. in the Fall.”
In November 2006, Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan together led an 18-person delegation to South Korea to publicly denounce a U.S. government plan for expanding an American military base near Seoul. The Benjamin/Sheehan visit was strongly supported by pro-North Korean groups, hard-left student movements and labor organizations, and Communist sympathizers. Also in the delegation were members of members of the Working Families Party, Veterans for Peace, the Service Employees International Union, Code Pink, Global Exchange, and Gold Star Families for Peace.
In January 2007, Benjamin and Sheehan traveled jointly to Cuba to publicly call for the closing of America’s Guantanamo Bay Detention Center there.
In September 2008, Evans and Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin were among some 150+ “peace group representatives” who met with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York, where he was slated to address the United Nations. During their meeting, Evans and her cohorts presented Ahmadinejad with a plan for the construction of a “peace park” in Tehran, and offered to invest money in Iranian businesses “that produce green and sustainable products, such as bicycles.”
Evans and Benjamin were subsequently invited to meet with Ahmadinejad again, in Iran, two months later. Said Benjamin at that time: “We hope the Obama administration will begin direct talks with Iran — without preconditions. On this visit to Iran, we are modeling the policy we would like to see. We’re meeting with pro- and anti-government groups. With religious and secular people. With environmentalists, women’s groups — a wide swath of the Iranian people. We hope to take their messages back to the US, and find creative ways to expand people-to-people ties. Our motto is ‘Let’s talk!’ which has tremendous resonance among Iranians, who are all anxious to promote dialogue and avoid war.”
Praising Hamas for Its “New Face”
When Benjamin and Code Pink headed a 66-person delegation to Gaza in June 2009, Hamas officials handed Benjamin a letter calling on President Barack Obama to use his influence to help the Palestinian people in their struggle against alleged Israeli abuses. Benjamin delivered the letter personally to the U.S. embassy in Cairo, where Obama was visiting at the time. Benjamin subsequently penned an article in the Huffington Post praising Hamas for what she called its commitment to “mutual respect and adherence to international law.” The letter, she added, “represents a significant development in an effort by Hamas to present a new face to the Western world”—on behalf of a Palestinian population that, according to Benjamin, had been victimized by “vicious” Israeli attacks in the recent Operation Cast Lead conflict.
Supporting the Free Gaza Movement
Benjamin is a member and supporter of the Free Gaza Movement, a pro-Hamas initiative that seeks to “break” Israel’s “siege of Gaza.” Turning a blind eye to Palestinian terrorism, she has repeatedly condemned Israel for visiting “massacre[s],” “bloodshed,” and “destruction” on the Gazan Palestinians.
Member of the International Solidarity Movement
Benjamin is a member of the International Solidarity Movement, which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, and blames the Jewish state entirely for the ongoing conflicts of the Middle East.
Condemning Israel & U.S. for Israeli Response to Hamas Terror Attack of 2021
In May 2021, Israel and Hamas engaged in a major military conflict that lasted for 11 days. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) gives the following synopsis of the events that transpired:
“On May 10, 2021, a multifaceted security crisis exploded on the ground in Israel, Gaza and the region, much of it building upon long-term tensions and dynamics. In the weeks prior to the outbreak, there were growing tensions across Jerusalem, including a number of violent clashes between Palestinian protestors and Jewish extremists as well as with Israeli police. The clashes were sparked by a number of issues, including discontent over Israeli control over … access to religious sites during Ramadan, videos of attacks by Arabs against Jews in Jerusalem and Jaffa that were posted on social media, the Palestinian Authority’s cancellation of planned elections, and widespread anger over a pending [Israeli] Supreme Court ruling about the evictions of Palestinians from certain properties in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem.
“Further violence then erupted related to significant clashes in and around the Temple Mount/Holy Sanctuary in Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israeli police, including Israeli police entering the Al-Aqsa compound, reportedly in response to stone throwing at Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall.
“On May 10, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), two Gaza-based Palestinian U.S.-designated terrorist organizations, claiming to be ‘defending Al-Aqsa,’ began launching rockets and missiles into Israel. For eleven consecutive days, over 4,300 rockets and missiles were fired from Gaza towards Israeli civilian centers, throughout the south and central parts of the country, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Millions of Israelis were forced to take cover in bomb shelters….
“Israel’s military estimates that as many as 90 percent of these projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, saving an untold number of lives. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) also reported that scores of missiles launched by Hamas fell short of their intended targets in Israel and landed inside Gaza itself.
“In response to the near-constant barrage of rockets, the Israeli military launched what it called ‘Operation Guardian of the Walls’ targeting Hamas and PIJ sites and operatives throughout Gaza via airstrikes and artillery fire. This included a number of high-rise buildings that the IDF asserted were being used by the leadership of these terrorist organizations as well as underground tunnels, where Hamas moves forces, stores weapons and prepares attacks.
“Following 11 days of fighting, on May 21st, a ceasefire was announced between Israel and Hamas that was facilitated by Egypt, Qatar, the U.S. and other diplomatic engagement. All told, 13 people were killed in Israel by Hamas/PIJ rockets, and at least 248 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including many children.”
“The world is reeling in horror at the latest Israeli massacre of hundreds of men, women and children in Gaza. Much of the world is also shocked by the role of the United States in this crisis, as it keeps providing Israel with weapons to kill Palestinian civilians, in violation of U.S. and international law, and has repeatedly blocked action by the UN Security Council to impose a ceasefire or hold Israel accountable for its war crimes. […]
“We [Benjamin and Davies] have both spent many years protesting the violence and chaos the United States and its allies inflict on millions of people around the world by violating the UN Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of military force, and we have always insisted that the U.S. government should comply with the rules-based order of international law.
“But even as the United States’ illegal wars and support for allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia have reduced cities to rubble and left country after country mired in intractable violence and chaos, U.S. leaders have refused to even acknowledge that aggressive and destructive U.S. and allied military operations violate the rules-based order of the United Nations Charter and international law.”
Condemning Israel for Its Response to Hamas Terror Attack of 2023
At daybreak on October 7, 2023 — which was the major Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah — the Islamic terror group Hamas carried out a massive, multi-front, surprise attack against Israel, firing thousands of rockets from Gaza into the Jewish state, while dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated the Israeli border in a number of locations by air, land and sea. The attack had been planned in conjunction with officers from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, along with agents of three other Iran-sponsored terrorist groups. “In an assault of startling breadth,” reported CBS News, “Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 locations outside the Gaza Strip, including towns and other communities as far as 15 miles from the Gaza border. In some places they gunned down civilians and soldiers as Israel’s military scrambled to muster a response.” By October 8, at least 600 Israelis had been killed and 1,800 wounded, making it the bloodiest day Jews had experienced since the Holocaust. Moreover, Hamas took more than 240 Israelis hostage, including dozens who were American citizens, and moved them to the Gaza Strip. The terrorists also paraded Israelis’ mutilated bodies in Gaza, to cheering crowds of Palestinians. By October 19, the official casualty toll in Israel had reached more than 1,400 dead (including at least 32 Americans) and 4,500 injured.
On November 29, 2023, Benjamin approached Republican Senator Marco Rubio in the hallway of a Washington, D.C. building and asked him, with her cameras rolling: “Senator Rubio, will you call for a ceasefire in Gaza?”
“No I will not,” Rubio replied. “On the contrary — are you filming this? I want you guys to get this. I want them [the Israelis] to destroy every element of Hamas they can get their hands on,” he said. “These people are vicious animals who did horrifying crimes, and I hope you guys post that, because that’s my position.”
“And what about the civilians that are being killed every day?” Benjamin retorted.
“I blame Hamas for that,” said Rubio. “Hamas should stop hiding behind civilians, putting civilians in the way. Hamas knew that this was going to lead to this. So Hamas must stop building their military installations underneath hospitals, underneath civilian –”
Citing figures put out by Hamas’ Gaza Ministry of Health, Benjamin then said, “So you don’t care that 15,000 [Palestinian] have died? You don’t care about the babies that are getting killed every day?”
“Absolutely I do,” Rubio said. “I care, I think it’s horrifying, I think it’s terrible, and I think Hamas is a hundred percent to blame. That’s what I think.”
In 2012, Kevin Danaher, seeking to dissolve his marriage with Benjamin, filed for divorce.
In a February 2012 interview, Benjamin gave voice to her underlying awareness of the fact that to openly acknowledge her socialist/communist ideals would be politically counterproductive for the radical cause: “We have such a reactionary population and such a lack of a broad spectrum of dialogue, that even talking about socialism in the context of the United States marginalizes you to such an extent that your voice is barely heard. So I prefer, at this point of our evolution in the US, to talk about basic needs, to talk about our responsibility to the planet, to the next generations, to have businesses that are held responsible for their actions.”
In the same interview, Benjamin said that “capitalism has generated a system in which corporations have a voice that drowns out the voice of the majority of the people.”
“I used to think I was a socialist,” Benjamin added, “and travelled the world looking for utopia. I lived in countries that called themselves socialist but I found that they stifled the entrepreneurial spirit of people. I do believe that there is something to be said for having the strong commons [collectively-controlled spaces or goods], where people have places that are public places. There should be things that are basic rights that include health care, that include the right to clean water, the right to a clean environment. But I also think that people should have the right to be individually enterprising. I have yet to see the society that I would like to live in, but I see pieces of it, bits and pieces of it here and there. Rather than labelling it, I would rather help create it and not give it a label.”
In August and September 2012, Benjamin and other Code Pink activists sought to promote “respect” for women’s health and abortion rights by wearing large costumes representing female reproductive organs. “We are … focusing on the issue of the GOP’s war on women and trying to take away women’s reproductive rights, so we have been going around in our vagina costumes,” said Benjamin. “We were the dancing vaginas. One of the things we have found is the surest way to make the police go away is try to get your picture in front of them wearing a vagina. They will blush and disappear.”
During a February 2013 radio interview, Benjamin was asked whether she believed that President Barack Obama’s use of drone warfare to kill suspected terrorists was an impeachable offense. She replied: “Sure. Just like I called for President Obama and George Bush to be taken to the International Criminal Court for war crimes, but it’s not going to happen.”
In March 2014, Benjamin and Code Pink were on their way to Gaza when they were stopped by Egyptian authorities at Cairo airport. After spending one night in a Cairo detention cell, Benjamin was deported to Turkey, where she was promptly hospitalized in Istanbul. In a Twitter post, she claimed that Egyptian authorities had “broke[n]” her arm during her detainment. And in a later press release, Benjamin said: “I was brutally assaulted by Egyptian police, who never said what I was being accused of. When the authorities came into the cell to deport me, two men threw me to the ground, stomped on my back, pulled my shoulder out of its socket and handcuffed me so that my injured arm was twisted around and my wrists began to bleed. I was then forced to sit between the two men who attacked me on the plane ride from Cairo to Istanbul, and I was (and still am) in terrible pain the whole time.”
In an October 2018 interview, Benjamin articulated her views on both the causes and the ramifications of the mass movements of migrants from country to country across the globe. She placed most of the blame on the United States and its various political, economic, and environmental policies:
“The global migrant crisis has led to a substantial conservative backlash. But what are the root causes that drive people to abandon their homes, communities, and families in search of a better life? One driver is war—whether in the Middle East, where the US has been directly involved for more than a decade, or in Central America, where the consequences of past wars linger to this day.
“Further, US economic policies, including NAFTA, enabled by the broader effects of economic globalization, have impoverished many Mexicans and Central Americans.
“The drug war, another driver of migration, is fueled by US consumption of drugs and domestic policies that often criminalize certain relatively benign drugs.
And, of course, climate change disrupts the livelihoods of the poor worldwide and is exacerbated by the regressive policies of the Trump administration.
“All these demonstrate the link between US policy and massive migration flows which, in turn, have empowered the white supremacy movement and, more broadly, anti-immigrant sentiment. It is a moment for the progressive movement to ask how we can create a more humane immigration policy that keeps families together, offers expeditious due process for asylum seekers, and, most importantly for the long term, reverses economic and military policies that fuel migration in the first place.”
Benjamin is a strong supporter of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. In June 2020 — approximately three weeks after the infamous death of George Floyd had triggered a flood of violent BLM race riots across the United States — Benjamin and Code Pink researcher Nicolas Davies co-authored an opinion piece titled “Black Lives Matter Everywhere: It’s Time to Defund the U.S. Military.” In that piece, they drew a parallel between the hateful racism and the unbridled militarism that they viewed as central to the American character. They also lamented what they portrayed as serious U.S. transgressions against hostile enemy nations such as Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. Some excerpts:
“On June 1, President Trump threatened to deploy active-duty U.S. military forces against peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in cities across America. Trump and state governors eventually deployed at least 17,000 National Guard troops across the country. In the nation’s capital, Trump deployed nine Blackhawk assault helicopters, thousands of National Guard troops from six states, and at least 1,600 Military Police and active-duty combat troops from the 82nd Airborne Division, with written orders to pack bayonets.
“After a week of conflicting orders during which Trump demanded 10,000 troops in the capital, the active-duty troops were finally ordered back to their bases in North Carolina and New York on June 5th, as the peaceful nature of the protests made the use of military force very obviously redundant, dangerous and irresponsible. But Americans were left shell-shocked by the heavily armed troops, the tear gas, the rubber bullets and the tanks that turned U.S. streets into war zones. They were also shocked to realize how easy it was for President Trump, single-handedly, to muster such a chilling array of force.
“But we shouldn’t be surprised. We have allowed our corrupt ruling class to build the most destructive war machine in history and to place it in the hands of an erratic and unpredictable president. As protests against police brutality flooded our nation’s streets, Trump felt emboldened to turn this war machine against us—and may well be willing to do it again if there is a contested election in November.
“Americans are getting a small taste of the fire and fury that the U.S. military and its allies inflict on people overseas on a regular basis from Iraq and Afghanistan to Yemen and Palestine, and the intimidation felt by the people of Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and other countries that have long lived under U.S. threats to bomb, attack or invade them.
“For African-Americans, the latest round of fury unleashed by the police and military is only an escalation of the low-grade war that America’s rulers have waged against them for centuries. From the horrors of slavery to post-Civil War convict leasing to the apartheid Jim Crow system to today’s mass criminalization, mass incarceration and militarized policing, America has always treated African-Americans as a permanent underclass to be exploited and ‘kept in their place’ with as much force and brutality as that takes.
“Today, Black Americans are at least four times as likely to be shot by police as white Americans and six times as likely to be thrown in prison. Black drivers are three times more likely to be searched and twice as likely to be arrested during traffic stops, even though police have better luck finding contraband in white people’s cars. All of this adds up to a racist policing and prison system, with African-American men as its prime targets, even as U.S. police forces are increasingly militarized and armed by the Pentagon.
“Racist persecution does not end when African-Americans walk out of the prison gate. In 2010, a third of African-American men had a felony conviction on their record, closing doors to jobs, housing, student aid, safety net programs like SNAP and cash assistance, and in some states the right to vote. From the first ‘stop and frisk’ or traffic stop, African-American men face a system designed to entrap them in permanent second-class citizenship and poverty.
“Just as the people of Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela suffer from poverty, hunger, preventable disease, and death as the intended results of brutal U.S. economic sanctions, systemic racism has similar effects in the U.S., keeping African-Americans in exceptional poverty, with double the infant mortality rate of whites and schools that are as segregated and unequal as when segregation was legal. […]
“Just as we are exposing the rot in U.S. police forces and calling for defunding the police, so we must expose the rot in U.S. foreign policy and call for defunding the Pentagon. U.S. wars on people in other countries are driven by the same racism and ruling class economic interests as the war against African-Americans in our cities. […]
“The double standard that sanctifies the lives of U.S. troops over those of the people whose countries they bomb and invade is as cynical and deadly as the one that values white lives over black ones in America. As we chant ‘Black Lives Matter,’ we should include the lives of black and brown people dying every day from U.S. sanctions in Venezuela, the lives of black and brown people being blown up by U.S. bombs in Yemen and Afghanistan, the lives of people of color in Palestine who are tear-gassed, beaten and shot with Israeli weapons funded by U.S-taxpayers. We must be ready to show solidarity with people defending themselves against U.S.-sponsored violence whether in Minneapolis, New York and Los Angeles, or Afghanistan, Gaza and Iran. […]
“[T]he U.S. lies at the heart of a racist political and economic international order that still dominates the world 60 years after the formal end of Western colonialism…. [W]e must seize this moment to move from incremental reform to real systemic change, not just within the U.S. but throughout the racist, neocolonial world that is policed by the U.S. military.”
On August 13, 2020, Benjamin and Code Pink denounced the new peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that President Donald Trump had announced earlier that day. Under the terms of the deal, Israel and UAE would establish “full normalization” in exchange for Israel suspending the extension of its sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. “The ‘historic deal’ with the UAE and Israel does not move the Middle East any closer to peace,” said Benjamin. “On the contrary. It strengthens the Israel-U.S.-Gulf alliance against Iran, which will further inflame tensions and cause more death and suffering, while maintaining Israel’s status quo of occupation and apartheid.”
Though Benjamin has long been a bitter critic of capitalism, she herself is a very wealthy woman. The Capital Research Center (CRC) reports that she is “a trust fund baby, that is to say, a one-percenter, who uses a family endowment to foment hatred, division, and revolution.”
Benjamin has authored or co-authored numerous books, including: No Free Lunch: Food and Revolution in Cuba Today (1986); Don’t Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart (1987); Bridging the Global Gap: A Handbook to Linking Citizens of the First and Third Worlds (1989); The Peace Corps and More: 175 Ways to Work, Study and Travel at Home & Abroad (1991); Cuba: Talking about Revolution (1996); Benedita Da Silva: An Afro Brazilian Woman’s Story of Politics and Love (1997); I, Senator: How, Together, We Transformed the State of California and the United States (2000); The Greening of the Revolution: Cuba’s Experiment with Organic Agriculture (2002); Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism (2005); Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control (2012); Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.–Saudi Connection (2017); Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran (2021); and War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict (2022).
Medea Benjamin is the president of the Benjamin Fund (BF), a family-run philanthropy which her parents established in 2003 to finance a variety of leftwing groups and causes. The two main beneficiaries of BF grants are Code Pink and Global Exchange. A third leading beneficiary is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). BF’s original funder was Medea Benjamin’s late father, Long Island real-estate developer Alvin Benjamin. More recently, BF has been funded chiefly by the estate of Medea’s late mother, Rose Benjamin. Medea’s two daughters, Maya Danaher and Arlen Gomez, have served as the foundation’s treasurer and secretary, respectively.
Over the years, Benjamin has served variously on: