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International Solidarity Movement (ISM): Profile

By Stand4Facts.org


Overview

ISM is one of the most high profile, active and controversial of the anti-Israel groups. Reportedly formed and led by Palestinians and composed of international activists, ISM takes a three-pronged approach against Israel. It organizes “non-violent” resistance in the Territories to obstruct Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, publicizes Israel’s misdeeds in the world media, and arranges speaking tours, lectures and events on campuses and in communities across America. Its goal is to rouse world sympathy for the Palestinians and to dramatize the “brutality” and “illegality” of Israel’s origin, “occupation” and counter-terrorism policies. It has turned three of its members, who were accidentally killed or wounded while demonstrating in the Territories, into poster children for its cause.

ISM proclaims its commitment to humanitarian values and to the principle of non-violence. Nonetheless, it endorses the Palestinians’ right to use “armed resistance,” has been willing to work with terrorist groups such as Hamas and has demonstrated its support for Yasser Arafat. Israel banned ISM foreigners in April 2003 because ISM activists hid an Al-Aqsa terrorist and because two British-born terrorists involved in the Mike’s Place bombing in Tel Aviv in April, 2003, were able to hide their movements through association with left-wing foreign activists.[1]

Consider some of ISM’s actions and positions:

  • “International activists are thus a resource for Palestinians, both in terms of their presence and as witnesses to the daily humiliation and injustice of the Israeli occupation.”--ISM Website[2]
  • “We recognize the Palestinian right to resist Israeli violence and occupation via legitimate armed struggle.” -ISM website
  • “The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics - both nonviolent and violent. …No other successful nonviolent movement was able to achieve what it did without a concurrent violent movement….(for example) the Black Panther movement….” Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, 1/29/02[3]
  • “Hamas claims it has many men ready to be suicide bombers-we advocate that these men (use non-violent resistance)….This is no less of a jihad. This is no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation.” Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, 1/29/02[4]
  • “Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and the Bush administration say that there can be no negotiations under violence….what they do not admit is: The Occupation is violence. The Occupation must end before there can be true progress…..” ISM Mission Statement[5]
  • When Israel attacked Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah in March 2002, ISM members forced their way in to protect Arafat and his men. “Arafat invited me to join him for a light meal as a token of gratitude….” Adam Shapiro, Interview July/August 2002[6]
  • “When terrorists seized control of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (April-May 2002), members of ISM barged through IDF positions to deliver food and supplies to the terrorists holed up inside, prolonging the standoff. After an agreement was reached with the Palestinian terrorists, the ISM members still refused to leave the church, preventing the implementation of resolution that had been reached. They then charged that they were mistreated by clergy, who claimed the ISM members had desecrated the church by smoking, vandalism and drinking alcohol.”[7]
  • “There were men with guns inside [the Church of the nativity]. I believe they have that right. I'm not a pacifist.” ISM activist Larry Hales who was in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem during the siege.[8]
  • “Join the ISM, the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces and the Apartheid Wall Defense Committee on Thursday July 3 (2003) to block construction of the Apartheid Wall.” ISM. July 3 Action to Stop the Wall[9] (Palestinian National and Islamic Forces include terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad)
  • Susan Barclay, an ISM leader, “said in an interview with the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, she knowingly worked with representatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad….’We are open to working with any political party as long as they are interested in non-violent resistance…It’s almost irrelevant who is participating.’”(Seattle Post Intelligencer, March 20, 2003)[10]

 

 


[1] http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20030502.wxbomb0503/BNStory/International and http://www.israelemb.org/articals/2003/June/2003060300.htm

[2] http://www.palsolidarity.org/about/aboutISM.php

[3] Arraf and Shapiro, “Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada: A Response to Ramzy Baroud,” in The Palestine Chronicle, January 29, 2002. At http://palestinechronicle.com/article.php?story=20020129050221695

[4] Arraf and Shapiro, “Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada: A Response to Ramzy Baroud,” in The Palestine Chronicle, January 29, 2002. At http://palestinechronicle.com/article.php?story=20020129050221695

[5] http://www.palsolidarity.org/about/mission.php

[6] www.tikkun.org/magzine/index.cfm/action/tikkun/mode/printer_friendly/issue/tik0207

[7] http://www.distanceeddesign.com/rachel/ism/suicide_terrorists_werepPeace_activists.htm . For an ISM perspective view of the event, see http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:11UuCczYQ4IJ:www.coc.org/pdfs/coc/report_6_jerusalem.pdf+ISM+%22Church+of+the+Nativity%22&hl=en&ie=UTF-8 and http://www.ccmep.org/2002_articles/Israel-Palestine/081002_Israel's_Siege.htm

[8] “Israel’s Siege of the Church of the Nativity, An International View From Inside: Interview of author/activist Larry Hales by Mark Schneider” Special to CCMEP August 10, 2002 from www.PalestineChronicle.com , archived athttp://www.ccmep.org/2002_articles/Israel-Palestine/081002_Israel's_Siege.htm

[9] http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/WO0307/S00022.htm

[10] http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/printer2/index.asp?ploc=b&refer=http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/

Organization Background

ISM is a prominent and controversial organization. It was formed in the West Bank in August 2001 as a “Palestinian led non-violent movement of Palestinian and International activists working to raise awareness of the struggle for Palestinian freedom and an end to the Israeli occupation.”[1] In addition to its offices in the West Bank, ISM now has multiple international support groups, offices and affiliates, including its American student affiliate, the various campus Palestine Solidarity Movements. However, ISM has distanced itself from some of these groups, particularly the New Jersey branch of the movement led by Charlotte Kates which splintered off from the campus solidarity movements in the fall of 2003.[2] ISM stresses that if an organization is not listed on its website, it is not a support group, and that none of the listed groups speak for ISM.[3]

Founded by local Palestinian activists Ghassan Andoni, George Rishmawi and George Qassis and by Huwaida Arraf, an American of Palestinian descent, ISM’s most public figures are Arraf and her new husband Adam Shapiro, an American Jew.

The organization claims it is Palestinian-led and represents Palestinians, but it is unclear who it actually represents, which Palestinian groups it actually affiliates with and where it gets its funding. Though Adam Shapiro claimed that ISM tries to persuade Palestinians to adopt non-violent resistance, he admitted that “there isn’t a broad acceptance of or participation in strategic nonviolence because there is no popular leadership willing to commit to this strategy and use it.”[4]

Though ISM claims to be Palestinian-led, its primary purpose is to recruit American and European activists to “witness” and participate in ISM actions in the Territories. ISM believes these internationals, as it calls them, protect Palestinians because “Israeli soldiers would hesitate to shoot Americans and Europeans protesting [in]… acts that would get a Palestinian killed” or to shell Palestinian areas where foreigners are living, according to Rishmawi and Qassis.[5] In effect, the internationals serve as “human shields.”

ISM also believes that internationals help Palestinian PR. Their presence at ISM protests and IDF actions draws the world media and highlights Israel’s alleged human rights abuses. In addition, internationals, who spend a week to three months in the Territories, return home with photos and eye-witness stories and can educate the public through speaking tours.[6] ISM has organized multiple speaking engagements for these eye-witnesses and for Arraf and Shapiro who toured US campuses in the spring of 2003. ISM affiliates are co-sponsors of the “Wheels of Justice,” a tour to educate students about the evils of the occupations of Iraq and Palestine. The van began touring the western US in August 2003.[7] Internationals also write frequent reports detailing the human rights abuses they allegedly see.

ISM estimates that over 1000 international civilians have participated in their direct actions which include blocking IDF access to roads, dismantling road blocks and trying to prevent IDF demolition of homes linked to terrorism.

The group got its first media attention in the spring of 2002 when Israel launched a military campaign against terrorists after 16 suicide bombings occurred in the space of eight weeks.[8] Adam Shapiro and other ISM members broke through a closed military zone to reach Arafat’s compound in Ramallah to protect him and his supporters from IDF actions. [9] Ten ISM members stormed the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on May 2, 2002 to bring food and support to armed terrorists who were trying to escape the IDF and had seized the Church.[10] Though ISM stuck to the Palestinian story line that the clergy supported the terrorists and were not being held hostage, ISM activist Larry Hales, who had stormed the church, inadvertently admitted otherwise in an interview: “The clergy that remained inside did so willingly. They wanted to insure that the church was not harmed by the Palestinians… The clergy didn't seem bothered by the Palestinians that were killed and injured. They were more upset that the blood had stained the church.”[11]

The ISM seized worldwide headlines a year later when three ISM members were injured or killed in the spring of 2003. American activist Rachel Corrie was killed while trying to block an Israeli bulldozer from demolishing a Gaza structure that hid an arms smuggling tunnel. An Israeli army investigation concluded the driver could not see Corrie, but the ISM insists her death was intentional. Corrie has become a poster child for ISM and her story is used as proof of Israeli brutality. However, ISM activist Joseph Smith, an eyewitness to the event, reported that “We were horribly surprised. They (IDF) had been careful not to hurt us. They’d always stopped before.”[12] British activist Tom Hurndall was rendered brain dead and eventually died after a bullet hit him on April 11 2003 while he was protesting with others against IDF operations in Gaza. The circumstances surrounding his injury remain controversial. [13]

Israel ordered ISM foreign nationals to leave the Territories in mid-April, 2003. ISM claims the order was because “we are providing witness to the atrocities committed by the Israeli army.”[14] Israel reported it was because Islamic Jihad terrorist, Shadi Sukiya, had been found hiding in an ISM office.[15] Two weeks later, two British citizens carried out a suicide bombing at Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv. Israel found that they had managed to conceal their movements by “exploiting foreign left wing activists,” including the ISM though ISM hotly denied any connection with the men.[16]

When Israel began to prohibit ISM members from entering Israel and the Territories, ISM advised about other, surreptitious ways of entering the region. Its website describes ways to enter to avoid scrutiny by the Israeli government.[17] ISM also recommended that potential Jewish volunteers join the pro-Israel Birthright program which offers free 10 day trips to Israel to Jews between the ages of 18 and 26. “It’s a free ticket,” Shapiro reportedly told an ISM conference in November 2003.[18]

Andoni denied that ISM recommends this as a policy.[19]

The deaths of ISM activists and ISM’s association with radical and terrorist groups have made the organization increasingly controversial.

  • ISM is linked with terrorism sometimes indirectly and sometimes directly.

ISM actions at Arafat’s compound, at the Church of the Nativity, and in the case of Shadi Sukiya offered support and encouragement to terrorists. Susan Barclay, an ISM leader, “said in an interview with the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, she knowingly worked with representatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad….’We are open to working with any political party as long as they are interested in non-violent resistance…” (Seattle Post Intelligencer, March 20, 2003)[20]

An ISM press release invited supporters to “Join the ISM, the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces and the Apartheid Wall Defense Committee” to a July 3, 2003 protest to block construction of Israel’s defensive separation wall. These “forces” include such elements as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, DFLP, PFLP. [21]

“As far as we are concerned, ISM is not an international organization or a peace organization. It’s a pro-Palestinian organization, set up by Palestinians, funded by Palestinians and linked to Palestinian terror.” Senior IDF Officer[22]

  • Though ISM claims it is committed to non-violence, it supports violent resistance against Israel.

For ISM, non-violence is a tactical strategy, not a philosophical commitment to pacifism. “[W]e do not advocate adopting the methods of Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr….The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics - both nonviolent and violent.” Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, 1/29/02[23]

  • Critics charge that ISM puts naïve and inexperienced Europeans and Americans in high risk situations.

ISM activists get only one or two days of training before being thrust into dangerous zones.[24]

“They come into a war zone without experience. They don’t know how to behave and they think that because they’re holding an international passport, nothing will happen to them.” Sharon Feingold, IDF spokeswoman.[25]

Affiliated Speakers

Adam Shapiro

Huwaida Arraf

George Qassis

Liv Dillon

Ora Wise

George Rishmawi

Kristen Schurr

Rebecca Murray

Ghassan Andoni

 


[1] ISM website at www.palsolidarity.org

[2] “Whereas two of the largest and most prominent entities doing activist work in US and in Palestine, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and the International Solidarity Movement have formally disassociated themselves from NJS…” Solidarity Conference Organizing Committee Proposal at www.palestineconference.com/proposal.htm . On the controversy between NJS and other Palestine Solidarity groups, see www.palestineconference.com/pressrelease.htm ; http://home.comcast.net/~jat.action/ISM_essay.htm ; on Charlotte Kates see Chris Hedges, “Law Student with a History of Taking Left Turns,” New York Times, 7/17/03

[3] www.palsolidarity.org/contact/contact.php

[4] Mark LeVine, “An Interview with Adam Shapiro,” Tikkun, March/April 2002 at www.tikkun.org/magazine/index.cfm/action/tikkun/mode/printer_friendly/issue/tik0207

[5] “Report from a Palestine Center Briefing by George Rishmawi and George Qassis, at www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/pubs/20020606ftr.html

[6] “Report from a Palestine Center Briefing by George Rishmawi and George Qassis, at www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/pubs/20020606ftr.html

[7] http://justicewheels.org/

[8] http://www.ict.org.il/

[9] www.tikkun.org/magzine/index.cfm/action/tikkun/mode/printer_friendly/issue/tik0207

[10] http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:11UuCczYQ4IJ:www.coc.org/pdfs/coc/report_6_jerusalem.pdf+ISM+%22Church+of+the+Nativity%22&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

[11] “Israel’s Siege of the Church of the Nativity, An International View From Inside:

Interview of author/activist Larry Hales by Mark Schneider” Special to CCMEP August 10, 2002 from www.PalestineChronicle.com , archived athttp://www.ccmep.org/2002_articles/Israel-Palestine/081002_Israel's_Siege.htm

[12] http://www.jerusalemdiaries.com/article/83

[13] www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=7361

[14] www.palestinemonitor.org/Other%20Updates/ISM_UK_Statement.htm

[15] http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0n8c0

[16] Israeli report on the incident at http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0n8c0 , ISM statement at www.palestinemonitor.org/Other%20Updates/ISM_UK_Statement.htm

[17] http://www.palsolidarity.org/traveltopalestine/travelingtopalestine.php

[18] “Are You Young and Jewish and What a Free Trip to Protest Israel’s Military Occupation?” Jerusalem Post, December 21 2003 at http://www.ccmep.org/2003_articles/Palestine/122103_birthright_israel _

[19] “Are You Young and Jewish and What a Free Trip to Protest Israel’s Military Occupation?” Jerusalem Post, December 21 2003 at http://www.ccmep.org/2003_articles/Palestine/122103_birthright_israel _

[20] http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/printer2/index.asp?ploc=b&refer=http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/

[21] http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/WO0307/S00022.htm

[22] www.frontpagemag.com/articles/Printable.asp?ID=8371

[23] Arraf and Shapiro, “Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada: A Response to Ramzy Baroud,” in The Palestine Chronicle, January 29, 2002. At http://palestinechronicle.com/article.php?story=20020129050221695

[24] Ruth Morris, “In West Bank, A Risky Quest for Peace,” LA Times 4/21/03 at www.palestinemonitor.org/Activism/a_risky_quest.htm

[25] Ruth Morris, “In West Bank, A Risky Quest for Peace,” LA Times 4/21/03 at www.palestinemonitor.org/Activism/a_risky_quest.htm

Strategy

ISM is a loosely affiliated organization made up of people of various anti-Israel perspectives so their positions will likely cover a wide spectrum of arguments. However, they have two main strategies:

ISM speakers use emotional, eyewitness accounts of Palestinian suffering. Since ISM cultivates speakers through its solidarity missions, their cases against Israel rely largely on anecdotal evidence of Israeli “brutalities.” They report what they personally saw, show photographs and sway their audiences using graphic descriptions and emotional rather than logical arguments, and by playing on audience sympathy. These are powerful presentations, especially for audiences ill-informed of the facts.

Additionally ISM members ignore context. ISM speakers get only a day or two of orientation when they are in the Territories. They have little, if any, knowledge of the history of the conflict or of the immediate events that produce Israeli actions or reactions. Hence their reports are bald morality tales with Israel always the ‘bad guy.” Even the more knowledgeable speakers among them, including Adam Shapiro, ignore context. They present Israel’s counter-terrorism measures as though they occur in a vacuum, never admitting the provocation or militancy that causes them.


Accusations and Defamations

  • “Palestinian activists trying to work or protest alone face harsh punishment from Israeli forces. This has included beatings, long-term arrests, serious injury and even death. International activists are thus a resource for Palestinians, both in terms of their presence and as witnesses to the daily humiliation and injustice of the Israeli occupation.”--ISM Website[1]
  • “Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and the Bush administration say that there can be no negotiations under violence….what they do not admit is: The Occupation is violence. The Occupation must end before there can be true progress…..” ISM Mission Statement[2]
  • “Join the ISM, the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces and the Apartheid Wall Defense Committee on Thursday July 3 (2003) to block construction of the Apartheid Wall.” ISM. July 3 Action to Stop the Wall[3] (Palestinian National and Islamic Forces include terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad)
  • “President Arafat, who greeted each activist personally, thanked the group for their support. ‘We are in need of your help,’he added.”ISM Press Release December 18 2001 [4]
  • Interview with ISM activist Larry Hales who infiltrated into the Church of the Nativity in the spring of 2002:[5]

Question: “Various orthodox priests maintained you and the others desecrated the Church of Nativity by drinking and smoking, and leaving a filthy mess all over the Church. How do you respond to these allegations? “

“There was a mess when we got there. People had been living there for thirty days when we got inside. What were they to do with their trash…Everyone inside the church, for the most part, smoked….Some internationals drank some wine because they were hungry.”


[1] http://www.palsolidarity.org/about/aboutISM.php

[2] http://www.palsolidarity.org/about/mission.php

[3] http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/WO0307/S00022.htm

[4] http://www.rapprochement.org/news/Dec18PressReleastpostdemo.htm 299 x 449 pixels - 19.7kB www.rapprochement.org/news/ Dec18PressReleastpostdemo.htm

[5] “Israel’s Siege of the Church of the Nativity, An International View From Inside:

Interview of author/activist Larry Hales by Mark Schneider” Special to CCMEP August 10, 2002 from www.PalestineChronicle.com , archived at http://www.ccmep.org/2002_articles/Israel-Palestine/081002_Israel's_Siege.htm


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