Who is Aaron Bushnell, the US airman who burnt himself outside Israel's embassy to protest Gaza genocide?

Who is Aaron Bushnell, the US airman who burnt himself outside Israel's embassy to protest Gaza genocide?
The world has commended a US Air Force member for his show of solidarity with Gaza after he took away his own life outside the Israeli embassy in Washington.
3 min read
26 February, 2024
Bushnell livestreamed the incident outside the Israeli embassy in Washington on social media [Getty]

A member of the US military set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington on Sunday afternoon in protest of the genocide in Gaza.

Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old active duty airman, was pronounced dead later Sunday after being rushed to hospital.

Authorities extinguished the fire, and Israeli embassy spokeswoman, Tal Naim, said no staff were hurt.

In uniform, Bushnell live-streamed the incident on the social media platform Twitch, introducing himself as he approached the gates of the embassy.

The video has been widely shared on other social media platforms.

"I am an active-duty member of the United States Air Force, and I will no longer be complicit in genocide," he says, before revealing that he was going to carry out an "extreme act of protest".

He still played down the act of self-immolation, saying it did not compare to the suffering being experienced by Palestinians, battered by months of Israeli bombardment.

Bushnell sets his phone down, stands in front of the embassy gates and pours a flammable substance over himself before sparking a fire.

"Free Palestine, free Palestine!" he shouted while engulfed in flames.

Sirens could be heard only seconds later as authorities rushed to extinguish the fire.

One security guard in the video is seen pointing a gun toward Bushnell, despite the latter being on the ground. Some people on X alleged that the man holding the gun was an Israeli agent, but The New Arab could not verify the claims.

Notes of sympathy and solidarity poured in for Bushell on social media.

Who was Aaron Bushnell?

A Washington D.C. native, Bushnell specialised in software engineering and computer science attending the University of Maryland Global Campus from where he graduated in 2023, according to his profile on LinkedIn.

He was still at the Southern New Hampshire University where he was expected to earn a Bachelor of Science degree next year.

The Washington native joined the US Air Force in May 2020, gradually working his way to become a DevOps Engineer three years later.

He describes himself on LinkedIn as an "aspiring software engineer" and that he has "a talent and a passion for solving complex problems with code".

Growing frustration

At the start of December, another woman protested the war on Gaza and set herself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Georgia.

There has been growing anger at Joe Biden’s administration for his unwavering support for Israel since it began its unprecedented air and ground campaign in Gaza, killing close to 30,000 people since 7 October.

Health authorities in Gaza say most of the victims are women and children.

Despite criticism of the Israeli government for the colossal death toll, the US has continued to veto resolutions at the United Nations Security Council calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, most recently a proposal put forward by Algeria.

Washington is expected to send Israel weapons including MK-82 bombs and KMU-572 Joint Direct Attack Munitions that add precision guidance to bombs, and FMU-139 bomb fuses, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.

The growing backlash against Biden is especially noticeable in Arab-American communities, particularly states like Michigan which has a sizeable Middle Eastern population.