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News ::
The ISM, Freedom Summer, and the panic of the IOF (english)
09 May 2003
An article on the recent Israeli attacks on the ISM and their failure to stop Freedom Summer from Free Palestine Now! in Richmond Virginia (FPN-VCU)in cordinations with Richmond Jews for a Free Palestine (RJFP) and Students for Divestment at VCU (SD-VCU)
Over the past two months the Israeli military occupation and brutalization of the Palestinian people has taken on a new facet, attacks on International volunteers and journalists in the Occupied Palestinian territories. Attacks on International aid workers is nothing new for the Israeli army in Palestine, as many international workers include three UN aid workers have been deliberately murdered by the Israeli army. However, in the last two months these attacks and murders have increased in frequency and brutality, and the Israeli Occupation Forces are targeting the peace group the International Solidarity Movement. On March 16th 2003 US citizen and ISM activist Rachel Corrie, 23, was bulldozed to death by the Israeli army after standing in front of a Caterpillar bulldozer for two hours with a red fluorescent jacket and a megaphone. On April 5th 2003 US citizen and ISM activist Brian Avery was shot in the face by the Israeli army after being confronted by an armored vehicle and raising his hands above his head in non-violence. He is still in the hospital after numerous operations. On April 12th 2003 British citizen and ISM activist Thomas Hurndall was shot in the head by the Israeli military while trying to escort Palestinian children out of the way of an Israeli military attack. He lays in a coma legally brain dead. (http://www.jewsagainsttheoccupation.org) Last week renowned British cameraman James Miller was shot dead by the Israeli army, while filming a documentary in Gaza. Witnesses say when the Israeli army attacked the area in which he was filming, he waved a white flag and was promptly shot through the neck. The IOF forces originally tried to claim that Miller was killed from behind by Palestinian gunmen, and then tried to claim he was “caught in a cross-fire”; however no witnesses heard any gunfire except that of the Israeli military vehicle. The IOF were publicly proved wrong when Miller’s autopsy proved that he was shot “in the front” by the Israelis. The British government has called for an investigation into the shooting of Miller and Hurndall (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3013473.stm), while the US government, with the exception of Rachel Corrie’s congressman, has been silent despite the murder and attacks on their citizens who are engaged in non-violent peace activities in the illegally occupied territories.

In addition to the recent outright physical attacks on the International Solidarity Movement, including the raid this morning on the ISM headquarters in Beit Sahour in which the IOF seized pictures, disks, and records and abducted three members, the IOF and the Israeli government have been attempting to spread false rumors about the two British suicide bombers which attacked Israel recently. Ever since the bombing, the Israelis have been trying to blame the ISM because of the nationality of the bombers, and in doing so justify the expulsion of the ISM and its peace activists from the occupied territories. The only justification for this claim is that the terrorists had attended the memorial service for Rachel Corrie in Gaza (of which thousands were in attendance and the event was free and open to all) before committing their murderous activities in Tel Aviv. They have also tried to claim that the terrorists entered Israel posing as peace activists, which is, even without proof an outrageous claim seeing that over 50 hopeful ISM activists have been detained and deported at Ben-Gurion airport on the suspicion that they may be joining the ISM, and any person who “claims they are a peace activist” when entering Israel would be immediately deported. In the wake of this “proof” the Israeli government and the IOF have announced that they will try to bar Pro-Palestinian activists from entering Israel or the occupied territories and attempt to deport the dozens to hundreds of activists that are already working in the occupied territories. (http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/289437.html) Starting today the Israeli military is forcing any foreigner going into the Gaza Strip to sign a waiver stating that they will not hold the IOF accountable if the IOF murders them during their stay in Gaza. Additionally the foreigner has to sign and state that he is “not a peace activist”. As with every Israeli attack both militarily and diplomatically the recent attacks on the ISM in both spheres come with a specific message. That message is poignant and clear, the IOF is trying to tell the world “Don’t come to the Occupied Territories this summer”. There is a clear reason behind this message, and that reason is Freedom Summer.

Freedom Summer

As the ISM did last summer, this Summer’s ISM campaign is dubbed Freedom Summer, and is to focus on helping ease the suffocating restrictions on Palestinians right to travel imposed by the Israeli Occupation Forces. This year however will be different. The ISM has stated that their goal for this summer is to bring in over 2,000 International activists from all over the world to allow for massive non-violent direct action against the Israeli occupation and to maximize the level of protection Palestinians can receive from Israeli army abuses. With a force of over 2,000 International activists present in the Occupied Territories it will be infinitely harder for the IOF to carry out its continued brutalization of the Palestinian people, infinitely harder subject the Palestinian people to curfews, infinitely harder for the IOF to demolish Palestinians homes, infinitely harder for the IOF to open fire on children without the world knowing or caring. This of course is an immense problem to the IOF. In accordance with Israeli governmental policy under the butcher Ariel Sharon, continued brutality, murder and occupation must continue unabated to force Palestinians to either flee into exile like in 1948 and 1967 or to stand, fight, and die. These policies of ethnic cleansing, or to use the commonly accepted Israeli version, “Transfer” are well documented, and it was Sharon who said that all Israelis must “seize the hilltops” in an effort to colonize the occupied territories and force out its Palestinian inhabitants (among the more moderate things Sharon has said about the Palestinians), and every one in the world remembers what Sharon ordered in Lebanon in 1982 (the massacre of over 2,500 Palestinian women and children). The IOF and the Israeli government have never before had to deal with such International aid to the Palestinian people as the International solidarity movement and are in panic mode. They understand that if they let Freedom Summer to happen they will be faced with the prospect of losing the occupiers control over the Palestinian territories that they have before achieved through years of terror, brutality, and denigration. The Israeli attempts to defeat Freedom Summer are three fold, as previously mentioned. The first stage, carried out by the IOF, is to murder and assault ISM activists in the territories with abandon in the hope that continued deaths and injuries will deter prospective activists from attending Freedom Summer. The second stage, carried out by the Israeli media and their US counterparts is to attempt to discredit the non-violent direct action group with false rumors of involvement with armed groups and individuals. This is an attempt to discourage the peace activists by labeling them as violent, but is particularly aimed at the countless Israeli ISM activists by playing on their fears and anger of the loss of their friends and families in suicide bombings. The third stage, carried out by the Israeli government is to bar and deport those who they think are ISM activists from entering Israel this summer.

The ISM are obviously striving for 2,000 activists this summer, but as one ISM member put it, even if 50% of all the activists trying to get into the occupied territories this summer are arrested and deported, that still leaves over 1,000 activists, more than all the ISM activists in Palestine in the history of the ISM. The ISM has already proved successful in many of its aims for Freedom Summer, and it still has yet to begin. The IOF and the Israeli government are panicking in the face of such international resistance and have again turned to their old norms of violence and hatred. The past two months have been a public relations disaster for the Israeli government. The British government has demanded an official inquiry into the attacks on their citizens stating “We are in contact with the Israeli authorities and pushing for a full and transparent investigation.” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2998133.stm) There have been calls by Rachel Corrie’s congressman for an investigation into her murder, and there has been a massive groundswell of anger at the Israeli government all over the world from International aid groups, human rights organizations, and peace and solidarity activists.

The human rights abuses in the occupied territories are becoming increasingly hard for the US and Israeli media to cover up and there have been noticeable cracks in the usually Pro-Israeli media coverage in the United States. Articles in many US newspapers have become to be sympathetic to the Internationals and the Palestinians they protect while becoming critical of the Israeli policies in the occupied territories. Most of the Israeli strategy for combating Freedom Summer hinges around creating a climate of violence where Internationals, fearing for their lives do not attempt to make the trip to the occupied territories, but in doing so they have inadvertently given the ISM more exposure than at any time in the past. The ISM, their goals, and their non-violent tactics are now being discussed in every newspaper, every news show, and radio program all over the world, especially in Europe and North America, where most of the ISM activists come from. The ISM website, in response to the recent attacks upon its members states “Recently the International Solidarity Movement has been the focus of a lot of attention and misinformation; attention that we’ve been trying to get for a long time engaging in Palestinian nonviolent resistance.” (http://www.palsolidarity.org) This attention has naturally expanded the ISM into the number one solidarity group for International human rights and peace activists and exposed the ISM to millions of people who had never before heard of them or their non-violent mission. The IOF attacks on the ISM have, instead of discouraging activists from going to Palestine this summer, have done just the opposite. Volunteers for Freedom Summer are appearing faster than can actually get out to Palestine. In every community in the United States and Europe Palestinian Solidarity groups are being swamped by people who wish to volunteer their services in Palestine this summer. In many cases these individuals are scared of being killed or injured by the Israeli butchers, but are determined not to let the Israelis get away with such flagrant human rights abuses and to honor the memory of their fallen friends in the International movement and to in some way assist their oppressed Palestinian brothers and sisters. The Israelis have turned to violence as their means of “deterrent” for one reason alone, it is the only effective strategy of the three that they have.

The media is failing, as already stated, and the Israeli government cannot rely on its border officials to deter the ISM for many reasons. First and foremost the Israelis cannot racially profile the ISM. The Israeli government can bar entry to Palestine for people of Arab ethnicity as they do, but with the ISM they are dealing everyone and there is no way to identify an ISM activist by looks alone. They are young, old, men, women, and people of all races and nationalities. If the Israeli government tried to stop the flow of ISM activists into the occupied territories they would single handedly destroy their already crumbling tourism industry. Israel is not economically viable without the aid of 14 Billion dollars of US aid per year. The maintenance of the occupation and the illegal settlements saps the Israeli economy dry, and with the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising Israel’s prime cash source, tourism, has crumbled. The Israeli economy, which has already seen cut backs in almost every public sector due to the withering economy, relies on what little tourism money they can still get for the livelihood and welfare of a considerable amount of it population, and summer is the busiest tourist season. There is only one thing worse for the Israeli government than the presence of the ISM in the occupied territories, and that is the realization of the average Israeli citizen that their economic plight is caused by the continued drain of finances in the support of the occupation, and the opposition of those Israelis to the occupation. If the Israeli government really wants to stop the ISM, they will destroy the remnants of their tourism industry in the process. Every foreign visitor to Israel will have to be interrogated and searched, innocent tourists will be thrown in jail and deported with no refunds, and the world will begin to see a glimpse of the Israeli brutality towards the Palestinian people.

It is, with still a month to go until the very beginning of a long Freedom Summer, apparent that the Israelis have already failed to stop it. Through their brutality towards the ISM and their slander of the ISM they have done nothing but increase the exposure and appeal of the ISM all over the world, elicited massive press and public condemnation, and shown their true colors as occupiers and murderers. It has become obvious that the ISM will not be deterred by the attacks upon their offices, equipment or personnel, and ISM activists are and will continue to go to Palestine and carry out their non-violent resistance to the occupation in coordination with the Palestinian people out of a deep moral conviction that the Israeli occupation is wrong and horrific, and they are willing to put their bodies and lives on the line in the attempt to protect their fellow human beings.

For more information on the International Solidarity Movement and how to join Freedom summer in Palestine go to http://www.palsolidarity.org

Local ISM chapters are located in Boston Massachusetts (http://www.bcpr.org/b2p/), New Jersey (http://www.njsolidarity.org), Ann Arbor Michigan (http://www.freepalestinecampaign.org), Seattle Washington (http://www.palsolidarity.org/seattle/), Vancouver Canada (http://www.ism-vancouver.org), Rome Italy (http://www.sci-italia.it), London England (http://www.ism-london.org), and Sweden (http://www.ism-sweden.org)

Written with help from articles by:
Jews Against The Occupation
British Broadcasting Company
The International Solidarity Movement
Ha’aretz Daily Newspaper
Free Palestine Now!

See also:
www.studentorg.vcu.edu/fpn
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