International Solidarity Movement

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pingu
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May 8 2008 08:58
International Solidarity Movement

What do people think of the International Solidarity Movement, specifically their ideology of non-violence and the training given to volunteers before taking part? I do accept of course that you can' t go attacking Israeli soldiers with machine guns etc, are there some situations where nonviolence is appropriate at least as a strategy? Replies from communists/autonomists/anarchists who may have taken part would be interesting.

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Khawaga
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May 8 2008 10:13

I think very highly of the ISM, but that is probably because I've been to Palestine twice with the ISM. ISM doesn't have an ideology of non-violence. The use of non-violence and non-violent intervention is based on a very careful analysis of the conflict. ISM doesn't pass moral judgement on the violent Palestinian resistance

ISM on Palsestinian resistance:

Quote:
As enshrined in international law and UN resolutions, we recognise 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.

In effect ISM believes that in the context of the I-P conflict non-violence can be a very powerful tool. That they recognize the armed resistance can also be down to political efficacy - you don't want the militant groups on your bad side.

Some ISM activists are non-violent ideologues and discussions about e.g. stone throwing can be quite fierce. Also if you do partake in violence you will get thrown out of ISM if it is noticed by people who care (this has happened several times). Personally I am not a non-violent ideologue at all, though in the case of Palestine I am in almost full agreement with the ISM. In other contexts however, I believe that violence is our would be necessary.

The training given to volunteers is pretty good, though it can be better. For me the training was very good the first time I went (you have to do every time you go regardless). I was pretty anxious about what I would experience, but the training prepared me pretty well for what I did encounter. You get some very good info on what to do in certain situations such as how to de-arrest someone, how to recognize various weapons (e.g. the difference in the sound of a round of live or rubber ammo), how to deal with interrogation if you're arrested and so on and so forth.

The important thing about being in Palestine as an international is this IMO

Quote:
Internationals with the ISM are not in Palestine to teach nonviolent resistance. Palestinians resist nonviolently ever day. The ISM lends support to the Palestinian resistance to the occupation and their demand for freedom.

ISM does this through

Quote:
* Direct Action - challenging crippling checkpoints and curfew, confronting tanks and demolition equipment, removing roadblocks, participating in nonviolent demonstrations, accompanying farmers to their fields and protecting families whose homes are threatened with demolition.
* Emergency Mobilization - escorting ambulances through checkpoints, delivering food and water to families under curfew or house arrest, assisting the injured or disabled to access medical care and walking children to school.
* Documentation - documenting and reporting to local and international media about the daily life under occupation and the countless human rights and international law violations by the Israeli military.

To join the ISM in Palestine, you must adhere to the following principles:

Quote:

1. Belief in freedom for the Palestinian people based on all relevant United Nations Resolutions and international law.
2. Using only nonviolent, direct-action methods, strategies and principles to work towards our goal.

Tactically nvda makes a lot of sense in lots of places in Palestine, sometimes even strategically. E.g. the village of Budrus managed to move the wall away from the planned route so that they lost very little land compared to almost all of it. In Bil'in the protests have also been successful on a legal level - the Israeli Supreme Court has said that the wall must be moved (of course in practice nothing has changed, which is not a big surprise). In Qawawis, a small village south of Hebron, the presence of internationals made it possible for villagers to move back and feel safe.

If you have any more specific questions about my views on and experience of the ISM I'd be happy to try to answer them.

2existis2resist
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May 8 2008 13:36

admin: tp

2existis2resist
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May 8 2008 13:36

I have just come back from two months with ISM over Feb and March which was a difficult time considering the Gaza demos and all. I really enjoyed the time and had some amazing times, as well as some really fucking dodgy times.
The non-violent attitude of ISM is definately a huge help, in fact i dont think ISM could operate if it took part in violent activities. The army would kill, stop and deport every ISM activist in Palestine. So from a practicial point of view it helps. However ISM does seem to be at the very edge between violent and non-violent. Every group i worked with recognised ISM as the most extreme activist group. ISM sleeps in suicide bombers houses, confronts soldiers with physical means, bodies, barricades etc and helps any palestinian regardless of their standpoint on the violent spectrum.
But since the justification for everything happening to the Palestinians is security being non-violent highlights the nature of the conflict.

The issue of stone throwing is difficult and i have been in some dodgy situations were kids start throwing stones and the army response is fierce, part of the training and ideology of ISM is that we are Palestinian led and this means accepting anything the Palestinians want to do, regardless of wether we feel it could be done better like this... etc. It is their struggle and their liberation not ours, and we shouldnt tell them what to do, we can offer advice, resources, assistance and solidarity.

The training is good but rather short, CPT (christian peacemaker teams) who incidentally are very good, have a months training beforehand. ISM gives two days, and although there is no real way to understand the conflict and our role other than to jump in and do it, some more thorough training would be better.

Im interested in when and what you did Khawaga in palestine, how was the organisation back then?

2existis2resist
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May 8 2008 13:36

admin: dp

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Tojiah
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May 8 2008 17:50
Khawaga wrote:
In Bil'in the protests have also been successful on a legal level - the Israeli Supreme Court has said that the wall must be moved (of course in practice nothing has changed, which is not a big surprise).

Regarding this specifically, a recent inquiry into the subject showed that the Defense Ministry has no room in its 2008 budget for moving the fence in order to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling.

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Khawaga
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May 8 2008 18:05

Yeah, I read that some time ago. The courts have no way of enforcing their decisions, which is why trusting the Israeli legal system is completely bollocks. In any case the protests in Bil'in are continuing.

australianirish...
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May 16 2008 00:58

The ISM seem to be an incredible organisation, as much as I am in solidarity with the Palestinian people, I don't think I would have the guts to deal with Israeli soldiers and settlers. How scary has it been for you guys? I know the ISM has had a couple of members murdered, most notably Rachel Corrie.

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Khawaga
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May 16 2008 08:11

Settlers scare the shit out of me... When I get kids I probably threaten them with "the settler" if they don't behave properly. So the few times I ventured into settler territory (Hebron mostly, but also around Nablus) I was not a happy camper. Nothing happened and I haven't had much experience with them, but it's what I've heard from other activists and read about them doing that made me rather deal with them soldiers.

Now soldiers I don't have any problem with at all. The first few times I encountered them I was scared, but then I just got used to it. In a weird way there is a certain kind of logic to how soldiers behave in a protest, and it is very easy to deal with them on checkpoints. Having said that I've had really shitty episodes with soldiers (like being fired at with live ammunition and getting hit by a bullet fragment) and being on a protest where a kid got shot in the head and was killed.

I did suffer from post-traumatic stress after leaving both times I went.

2existis2resist
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May 21 2008 15:53

Tell me about it, i spent most of my time in Hebron. I am also terrified of settlers, around Purim time we had to stay in a school to help protect it from drunken, masked settlers. Nasty times!!
They do have a strange mentality, a bit fucked really. I also nearly got shot with live ammunition, by settlers this time. I dont mind dealing with them but they are definately more unpredicatable than the soldiers which makes them more dangerous. I have heard some real horrer stroies of settlers though. People i met out there had been attacked by settlers armed with axes, bike chains and pickaxes. Also a couple of palestinians had been fire bombed.

But soldiers, they are different. Easier to deal with than settlers by far. Except for border police. bane of my life. Fucking hate them, especially the volunteer kids who come over to Israel on a gap year to volunteer to be a border cop. Bastards. But i agree once you get over the initial fear of being around armed 18 year olds they can be a source of great entertainment. One particular encounter where the soldiers were trying to stop a media group from filming we ensured that they could film. But the soldiers decided on the strategy of singing very loudly- John Lennon's Imagine. The irony of a soldier singing that song was not lost on us!

Khawaga, did you start realising that there are many funny situations in Palestine but no-one at home gets the jokes. Occupation jokes we called them.

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Khawaga
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May 22 2008 09:19
Quote:
Khawaga, did you start realising that there are many funny situations in Palestine but no-one at home gets the jokes. Occupation jokes we called them.

Yep. A few times when I've told stories that I thought was really funny I got the opposite reaction But it's to be expected as it's not something people have experienced.

2existis2resist
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May 23 2008 10:43

Its to be expected, but it makes going home that little bit more lonely, people dont understand what happens anyway, so when you tell a joke its even worse. See, i found the fact that a soldier told me to stand away from the checkpoint i was watching for my own safety in case a palestinian starts to shoot at me. From a rooftop in Tel Rumeida! Only I find that funny at home, shame...

In response to the initail question, I think ISM is almost unique in Palestine. The work it does at the people that join are different to the rest of Palestinian NGO's. It seems that although not all of ISM is made up of Anarchists, all the anarchists in Palestine join ISM.

P.S Khawaga, how is Jack?

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Anarchia
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Jun 19 2008 12:38

Slightly off topic - an activist from New Zealand (who's vollied with the ISM before, and also was in Iraq with the CPT and was kidnapped for 4 months) was just refused entry to Israel where he planned to do ISM work again:

Aotearoa Indymedia wrote:
Auckland peace activist arrested and deported while entering Israel

Auckland based peace activist Harmeet Sooden has been deported from Israel after attempting to enter the country to volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Sooden was arrested on June 14, detained and after successfully non-violently resisting two attempts at deportation, was finally deported yesterday, back to New Zealand via Ethiopia and Bangkok.

The Israeli Ministry of Interior told Harmeet he was a ‘threat to the security of the State of Israel’ referring to the work of ISM, a Palestinian led organisation that uses non-violent direct action to counter the Israeli Defense Forces' criminal policies in the West Bank, including house demolitions, road blocks, the construction of illegal Israeli settlements and the United Nations condemned separation wall.

ISM wrote:
Israeli forces assault and forcibly deport New Zealand peace activist once kidnapped in Iraq.

Harmeet Sooden, a peace activist from New Zealand, was forcibly deported from Israel on the 18th of June at 1 am, after four days in jail. Sooden was told he was being deported because he was a ‘threat to the security of the State of Israel’. Sooden, along with Tom Fox, Norman Kember, and James Loney, was held in captivity for four months while working with the Christian Peacemaker’s Team (CPT) in Iraq.

“I am still reeling from this experience. It dredged up some old feelings. I told them honestly that I had come to revisit Yad Vashem, visit historic sites and volunteer for ISM. They never disclosed the official reason for denying me, the Ministry of Interior official told me that I was a ‘threat to the security of the State of Israel’,” Sooden said of his time in Israeli captivity.

When Sooden arrived early in the morning on June 14th he was immediately questioned by the authorities, who attempted to deport him the first time that night, without letting him talk to a lawyer. He resisted the first deportation and was transferred to “Unit 9″. Later they attempted to deport him again, assaulting him in the process and dragging him on to the plane. The pilot refused to fly and so he avoided the second deportation attempt. Sooden was later successfully deported with security officers aboard the plane, and will arrive in New Zealand at 2:15 pm on June 20th (Via Bangkok).

Sooden was targetted because of his past involvement with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Sooden was active previously in Nablus and Jenin with ISM and was part of a two week delegation to Iraq which turned into four months of captivity, during which one of his comrades, Tom Fox, was murdered.

ffaker
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Dec 7 2008 20:15

(ahem, yes old thread I know but haven't been to libcom in ages)

Me too I have big respect for ISM, like Khawaga I also spent quite a while there (I'm actually still involved in the ISM London support group).

Personally speaking one thing I did take away from my time in ISM was that it soured me big time on consensus decision-making. NINE-HOUR CORE GROUP MEETINGS: nuff said.

ISM training is generally good, but I will admit it varies in quality since long-termers get burnt out

"ISM sleeps in suicide bombers houses" -- no disrespect intended, but that is a real Zionist propaganda line. Evidence please. Even if it were true, how would that be violent exactly? Or do you think that collective punishment is ok? In which can I assume that you agree that setting bombs off on Israeli buses is ok too, since some of the passengers are bound to be soldiers.

And yea the non-violence of ISM a purely strategic thing: i.e. it works. Or, as mentioned, it at least allows the group to exist. They'd outlaw us in an instant. Heck they have killed some of us for much less.