International Solidarity Movement

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Template:Dablink The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) was founded in late 2000 by Ghassan Andoni, a long time Palestinian activist, Neta Golan, an Israeli activist and others. The movement was joined by other activists, including Adam Shapiro, a Jewish New Yorker, and his wife Huwaida Arraf, an American of Palestinian Christian descent, in the summer of 2001. The organisation recruits civilians from Western countries to participate in accompaniment and acts of non-violent resistance against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. The group has attracted a great deal of criticism and controversy, as well as praise for its methods, some of which is explored below.



The International Solidarity Movement considers the main obstacle to peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be what they describe as the "Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory." To expose and counter Israeli activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the ISM states its commitment to four goals:

  • To dramatize the conditions under which Palestinians live and to protect them from physical violence by Israeli soldiers and settlers in alliance with Palestinian peace activists and through efforts at "creative resistance".
  • To pressure the international news media to provide coverage of "the illegality and brutality of the Occupation" in an effort to change public opinion regarding Israel's non-compliance with international law and U.S. foreign aid to Israel.
  • To recruit volunteers from other nations to participate in non-violent resistance to the Israeli military activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • To establish divestment campaigns in the U.S. and Europe to put economic pressure on Israel in the same manner that international sanctions were applied against South Africa during the Apartheid era.


Past ISM campaigns have used the following strategies:

  • Acting as human shields to deter Israeli military operations. Some ISM volunteers object to the use of the term human shield to describe their work because, they argue, in a Palestinian context the expression more usually refers to forced use of captive Palestinians by the Israel Defence Forces when searching Palestinian neighbourhoods.
  • Accompanying Palestinians to minimise harassment by Israeli settlers or soldiers, for example ensuring that queues at Israeli checkpoints are processed efficiently and providing witnesses and intermediaries during annual olive harvests, which are often disrupted by settlers.
  • Removing roadblocks. These are large unmanned mounds of earth and concrete on roads throughout the West Bank, and sometimes placed at the entrances of Palestinian villages by the Israel Defence Forces, thereby isolating those villages' inhabitants.
  • Attempting to block military vehicles such as tanks and bulldozers.
  • Violating Israeli curfew orders enforced on Palestinian areas.
  • Interfering with the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier and damaging the barrier.
  • Entering areas which have been designated 'closed military zones' by the Israeli military. The latter is not really a 'strategy', but a prerequisite for ISM being able to conduct many of the above activities, since areas in which the ISM are active are often summarily declared 'closed military zones'.

Noteworthy ISM events

Controversies regarding the ISM

ISM's position on violence

The ISM's website describes the organization as a "non-violent movement"; however the same website carries a statement that says "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. " [2] ( This has led some to question the organisation's commitment to non-violence. For example an article in the UK's Telegraph newspaper asserts that ISM is "the 'peace' group that embraces violence". [3] ( ISM disputes the accusations (see ISM links below).

Various sources attribute to ISM the statement that suicide bombing is "noble" [4] ( [5] ( [6] ( This assertion appears to arise from an article entitled "Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada (", in which Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro state:

The Geneva Conventions accept that armed resistance is legitimate for an occupied people, and there is no doubt that this right cannot be denied. But that does not mean that this right must be utilized... Hamas claims it has many men ready to be suicide bombers – we advocate that these men offer themselves as martyrs by standing on a settler road and blocking it from traffic. This is no less of a jihad. This is no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation...
The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics, both non-violent and violent. But most importantly it must develop a strategy involving both aspects. No other successful nonviolent movement was able to achieve what it did without a concurrent violent movement – in India militants attacked British outposts and interests while Gandhi conducted his campaign, while the Black Panther Movement and its earlier incarnations existed side-by-side with the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

The 'ISM suicide bombers'

ISM has been accused of 'forging links with' the suicide bombers that attacked the Mike's Place bar in Israel on April 30, 2003, killing three people.

There appear to be two primary sources behind this accusation. The first is an article that appeared in a May 2, 2003 article in the left wing British newspaper The Guardian under the heading "Bombers posed as peace activists" [7] (,2763,947846,00.html). In a January 17, 2004 article in CNN's world edition,[8] ( which included parts of an interview with ISM volunteer Raphael Cohen, Cohen stated that the two bombers were among a group of about 15 people who visited an International Solidarity Movement apartment in Rafah, Gaza, on April 25, 2003. According to Cohen, after spending about 15 minutes in the apartment with the bombers, he, his colleagues and the 15 visitors (including the bombers), went to the site where Rachel Corrie was killed and placed a flower there. Following this, Cohen stated, the people "that visited us [then] went their own way."

The second source is a press release issued by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs [9] ( which states "The two terrorists were careful to establish their presence in Judea and Samaria by forging links with foreign left wing activists and members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)". The release makes various other negative claims about ISM, but this is the only reference to the group in relation to the Mike's Place bombing. However, ISM states that the two did not contact ISM in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) at all (see ISM press releases below).

In the wake of the bombing, the ISM issued 2 press releases: ISM Statement on Recent Bombings in Tel Aviv ( and ISM Demands Israeli Retraction and Apology Over Mike's Place Bombing (

The Tom Hurndall killing

After the fatal shooting of ISM volunteer Tom Hurndall by an IDF soldier, IDF sources initially claimed that "at the time of his injury, Tom Hurndall was armed, wearing tiger fatigues, and shooting at a Israeli Defense Force outpost, taking cover behind a nearby building between shots." This was considerably at odds with the ISM's account, in which Hurndall was unarmed, dressed in the bright orange jacket of the International Solidarity Movement, and steering two Palestinian children away from a firing Israeli tank-mounted machine gun [10] (

Subsequently IDF Sergeant Idier Wahid Taysir, a Bedouin scout, admitted to fabricating his account of events. On 10 May 2004, Taysir's trial commenced on one charge of manslaughter in the death of Tom Hurndall, two counts of obstruction of justice, one count each of submitting false testimony, obtaining false testimony, and unbecoming behaviour. Hurndall's family are currently (August 2004) pressing for a murder charge through the Israeli courts [11] (

ISM statement on the killing of Tom Hurndall [12] (

The 'terrorist' in the office

On March 27, 2003, Shadi Sukiya, who Israel claimed was an Islamic Jihad member, was arrested in a building in Jenin where the ISM, the Red Cross, and Médecins Sans Frontières rent offices. See the Shadi Sukiya page for more details.

For details on ISM's version of events, please see ISM FAQ's (

Deceiving Israeli border officials

Access to Palestinian areas is controlled by Israel, and it is Israeli policy to deny access to ISM activists. ISM volunteers can only gain access to the occupied territories by deceiving Israeli border officials. In 2003 Israel's Foreign Ministry’s Information Chief Gideon Meir pointed out that precise instructions on its website on how to hoodwink Israeli border officials. "… you have to have a really good story about why you are coming, and must not mention anything about ISM or knowing, liking or planning to visit Palestinians," the website advises. "You must play it as though your visit is for other Israel-based reasons, like tourism, religion, visiting an Israeli friend, etc. So do a little research and put together a story... For example, if you say you are visiting a friend in Jerusalem, you should have the name and phone number of a real Israeli person…" [13] ( [14] ( Until late January of 2005 the ISM website's FAQ section had (on its page "") as a response to the question "On your web-site, you give advice to volunteers on how to lie to the Israeli authorities so you can get into the country and the occupied areas. Why tell lies?" the justification that "Under both Israeli and International law, we should have the right, as international observers, to visit both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories." [15] ( [16] ( The explicit advice on how to lie to Israeli officials, and the justification for doing so, have since been removed from the website, though the group's Information Pack still advises activists to "have a good story prepared about why you are coming to ISRAEL" and to "have a good story when you arrive." [17] (

The death of Rachel Corrie

Main article: Rachel Corrie

Great controversy surrounds the circumstances of Rachel Corrie's death. She was killed after she attempted to block an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bulldozer conducting military operations in Rafah in the Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003. An internal IDF investigation concluded that Corrie's death was an accident but ISM eyewitnesses vehemently dispute this account, contending that the bulldozer driver deliberately struck Rachel as she was protesting in plain view. The activities of the bulldozer she was blocking are also subject to disagreement - ISM claim it was preparing to demolish the home of a Palestinian pharmacist. Israeli accounts claimed either that the house contained a tunnel for smuggling arms, drugs and other contraband from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, or that the bulldozer was simply clearing dirt, rubble and/or shrubbery which, in some accounts, was suspected of concealing a smuggling tunnel. According to an article in 'Mother Jones' magazine, hotly disputed by the ISM [18] ( , Israeli authorities claimed that the crew's assignment was to sweep the area for booby traps planted by militants [19] ( The IDF itself never explicitly claimed that the house contained a tunnel and no tunnels or booby traps were found when the home was eventually demolished 9 months later or at any time prior to its demolition.

Eyewitness accounts and ISM press releases can be found here ISM - Rachel (

Legal Action against ISM

Huwaida Arraf and French ISM activist Angela Coppin were charged with violating a court order barring them from the area of Bidou, near Jerusalem where the Israeli West Bank barrier was under construction. According to reports in Israeli newspapers, Bidou and its environs have been the site of numerous violent attacks resulting in hospitalization of some workers constructing the barrier and some police personnel. Bidou is also the site of various protests.The two were arrested in April 2004 and ordered by the court at that time to distance themselves from the area of Bidou.

Alleged quotes

ISM media co-ordinator Kristin (Flo) Razowsky has been quoted as saying "Israel" is an illegal entity that should not exist [20] ( This quotation originated from the open comments section of the indymedia website, and were made by someone using the name "Flo Rosovski".[21] ( A later post by someone using the name "the real flo razowsky" stated the original posting was posted on a date when Flo was "actually in detention and had no access to email." Note, the real spelling of Flo's name is "Razowsky".

Further Reading

  • C. Seitz, ISM at the crossroads: the evolution of the International Solidarity Movement, Journal of Palestine Studies 22, 4 (Summer 2003), 50-62.
  • Peace Under Fire: Israel/Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement. Edited by Josie Sandercock, Radhika Sainath, Marissa McLaughlin, Hussein Khalili, Nicholas Blincoe, Huwaida Arraf and Ghassan Andoni. 2004; Verso:London

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