At an event where she was honored by the Philadelphia-based Shalom Center, the California woman – best known for pitching camp outside President George W. Bush's Texas ranch this past August – seemed to go even further, offering a moral pass to the insurgents who fired on Army Spc. Casey Sheehan and his unit back in April 2004.
"My son was killed by an Iraqi person who wanted him out of his country. We have to recognize the right of people to resist an occupation," she said. "The real people who killed Casey are sitting in Washington."
She repeatedly referred to Bush as a war criminal, and said that American troops were committing genocide in Iraq. She also said that "not one Iraqi meant any harm to the United States of America."
Sheehan has been arrested several times in connection with her protests, where she calls for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Just last month she was arrested in the Capitol Building before the start of the president's State of the Union address; she was caught wearing a button displaying the number of troops killed so far in Iraq.
The 48-year-old Californian has also said she's considering a run against California Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein.
Roughly 250 people attended the fundraiser for the Shalom Center, which counts opposition to the Iraq war as part of its mission. The event – called "Sing Shalom! New Prophetic Voices!" – was held Sunday afternoon inside Congregation Mishkan Shalom, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Roxborough, and featured four honorees and a number of musical performances focusing on themes of peace and social justice.
Sheehan, wearing a picture of her son around her neck, was greeted by a standing ovation and sustained cheers from the audience.
"I don't want anybody to look at me and not see him," she said.
In introducing her, Shalom Center founder Rabbi Arthur Waskow described Sheehan as a modern-day Nathan, referring to the biblical prophet who castigated King David for knowingly sending a man to his death in battle in order to marry his wife.
Early in her speech, Sheehan alluded to the fact that she was addressing a largely Jewish audience, and said she had spoken during High Holiday services at Beyt Tikkun in San Francisco.
"The neo-cons like to label me as anti-Semitic," said Sheehan, referring to a controversy dealing with comments widely attributed to her claiming that her son died to protect Israel.
While she's denied those comments, she's also said on several occasions that she opposes Israel's presence in the West Bank.
"It isn't anti-Semitic to question some of the policies of the Israeli government," she said. "I question almost all of the policies of our government, and that doesn't make me anti-American. We are a human race – Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Iraqis. Our love of fellow human beings does not stop at the border."
The program's other honorees were Celeste Zappala, a Philadelphian whose son was also killed in Iraq; Judy Wicks, the owner of the White Dog Cafe in University City; and Jeffrey Dekron, senior vice president of the Jewish Funds for Justice.
By way of explanation, Zappala, a member of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, said "the loss of a child to violence makes that encounter with violence one's own," echoing the more visible honoree.