Whitewashing ISM

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group which sends foreigners to Palestinian areas to interfere with Israeli counter-terrorism activities, does not try to hide its mission. In fact, anybody with a computer and Internet access can read ISM’s own description of itself:

As enshrined in international law and UN resolutions, we recognize the Palestinian right to resist Israeli violence and occupation via legitimate armed struggle. However, we believe that nonviolence can be a powerful weapon in fighting oppression and we are committed to the principles of nonviolent resistance.

Despite their open support for “armed struggle,” countless media outlets including the Associated Press, New York Times and even the Forward, a Jewish weekly, have characterized ISM participants as “peace activists.” Many articles about the group take an adulatory tone, failing to mention the controversial statements or actions of ISM, a Palestinian founded and led group, and its members.

ISM’s Web site includes insidious links such as www.freebarghouti.org, which is devoted to freeing convicted terrorist Marwan Barghouti who was sentenced to five consecutive life terms and an additional 40 years in prison for his role in attacks against Israel.

The leadership of ISM condones Palestinian terrorism. In a January 2002 article for Palestine Journal, ISM founders Adam Shapiro and his then-fiancée (now wife), Palestinian-American Huwaida Arraf, wrote that non-violent activities should take place in addition to (not in place of) armed resistance, because the non-violent activities are good for PR purposes:

[T]he use of nonviolence is about control and power — those who maintain nonviolence and exploit the use of violence by the oppressor maintain control and power, which is something that can be manipulated to present a story, a case or an image.

… we accept that the Palestinians have a right to resist with arms … Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics– both nonviolent and violent…

They added that Palestinians killed in nonviolent protests will have died in a manner “no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation. And we are certain that if these men were killed during such an action, they would be considered shaheed Allah…”

ISM participants have even admitted to working with members of terrorist groups. The March 20, 2003 Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that ISM activist Susan Barclay told the paper “she knowingly worked with representatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” which are designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department.

ISM encourages members to place themselves in dangerous situations to protect terrorists or their homes. Activists inserted themselves between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists after the latter took over the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in April/May 2002. The New York Times reported on ISM’s participation:

On a day of more fatal gunfire, and a scramble by foreign peace activists carrying food into the Church of the Nativity, Palestinian negotiators offered a compromise to end the month long standoff between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen inside…But a high-ranking defense official said it was unlikely the proposal would be accepted because Israel classifies about 25 men inside the church as the most dangerous of terrorists…

…The activists are members of the International Solidarity Movement…

…Ms. Schurr (an ISM activist) said she was happy to be inside the compound in solidarity with the Palestinians… “Our intention is to stay until the Palestinians are allowed to leave without fear of being arrested or killed,” Ms.Schurr said. (May 3, 2002)

ISM arranges for members to sit in terrorists’ houses scheduled for demolition and act as “human shields” for Palestinians during military incursions, hindering Israeli soldiers’ movements and placing the soldiers and themselves in grave danger.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Brian Avery, an ISM activist injured in Israel, sent his family an email shortly before he was wounded explaining that …the group’s main “actions” … consisted of “being monitors and witnesses at military checkpoints” and “lodging in the homes of the families of individuals who chose suicide bombing as their method of resisting the occupation.” (Oct. 26, 2003)

According to the Palatine Countryside, Illinois resident and ISM activist Kevin Clark “stayed at the family home of Burak Khelfi, who carried out a Jan. 5 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Clark stayed in the home with other internationals to protect it from demolition by the Israeli Occupation Forces.”(Feb. 13, 2003)

Clark, on the Web site “Stop US Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now!” (SUSTAIN), a group of which he is a member, referred to the suicide bomber as a “martyr.” His article also highlights the type of irresponsible action ISM activists engage in:

Last evening, I along with two young “internationals”, stayed at the home of one of the Tel Aviv Martyrs’ families to protect them should the IOF [sic] appear to demolish their home. This is the same home that I have stayed in several nights and have been honored by their warmth. This morning at approximately 4AM, I had a sense that something was wrong and a few seconds later the sound of a car motor prompted me to look out the window as 6 military vehicles pulled up in front of the home. We quickly awaken the family and got them away from windows that could be shattered by bullets. The three ISM (International Solidarity Movement) volunteers took our positions in windows and witnessed the soldiers with M16 rifles enter a home across the street to arrest a young man.

Two terrorists who carried out an attack may have been assisted by ISM. On April 30, 2003 Asif Muhammad Hanif murdered three people and wounded more than 50 in a suicide bombing at Mike’s Place, a Tel Aviv tavern. Five days earlier, he and his collaborator, Omar Khan Sharif, were among a group hosted by ISM members at their Gaza apartment. According to the May 2, 2003 Guardian, “the Britons who mounted the suicide attacks in Israel attempted to join the peace movement as cover for their activities.” ISM claims they were unaware of the terrorists’ intent.

Unaware or not, ISM has made no effort to foil terrorist activity, while they expend great effort to interfere with Israeli counter-terrorist operations.

If ISM members and the ISM Web site are open about the group’s endor sement of violence — as opposed to its embrace of “peace”–journalists should consistently and clearly say so.

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