Being a neutral observer in a war zone is a difficult one. But when these observers are actually partisans masquerading as objective “monitors” of the treatment of civilians, then the images of the conflict broadcast to the world can be skewed beyond recognition.
Such is the case with the International Solidarity Movement, and its members in place in the West Bank and Gaza.
The ISM is often referred to in the media as a “peace movement.” Its spokespersons are assumed to provide objective daily updates for foreign consuls and the foreign press based in the Middle East. For this, the group has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
This has been especially true since the accidental death of Rachel Corrie, a member who was killed during an Israeli Defense Force operation in Gaza earlier this year. Corrie’s presumed martyrdom has helped galvanize favorable press attention and support for the group.
Yet there is a flip side to the portrait the ISM presents of itself. In practice, it is nothing less than a revolutionary movement that fights in support of a violent struggle. Indeed, it defines itself as anything but neutral observers of the conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians.
In the opening paragraph on its own Web site (www.palsolidarity.org), the ISM says that it supports the Palestinian “armed struggle” against the “occupation” and in favor of the “relevant U.N. resolutions.”
It says it uses nonviolent means in support of that struggle. But as in any paramilitary operation, there are combat units and support units. In the ongoing fighting between Palestinian terrorists and Israel’s army, the ISM chooses to play the role of a support unit for the Palestinians.
While it invokes the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi in its approach, the ISM rejects the nonviolent vision of both men by working in alliance with those who choose to kill people in order to advance their goals.
I asked ISM spokesman Raphael Cohen how his group defines the “occupation.” His definition? “The Zionist presence in Palestine” – that is, all of the country including Israel within its pre-1967 borders.
Cohen went on to say that the ISM view of peace would be a “one-state solution,” or no Israel at all. ISM spokesperson Huwaida Araf confirmed that it supports the Palestinian “right of return,” which is tantamount to calling for the end of the Jewish state.
The group freely admits to:
- Spotting and reporting IDF troops in military operations and reporting their whereabouts to armed Palestinian units. Since ISM members are not Arabs and unarmed, they can provide reports on troop movements to terrorists that take refuge in population centers.
- Intervening with IDF troops at checkpoints in order to facilitate movement of Palestinians between cities. Who knows how many terrorists have been able to infiltrate into Israel with the help of this group?
- Preventing Israel from monitoring and closing off the tunnels that Palestinian terror groups have dug along the border with Egypt. When Corrie was killed, she was trying to block an IDF tractor that was carving a path in the direction of these underground tunnels.
The group is now launching an international campaign to recruit 1,000 volunteers to come to Israel in the guise of unassuming tourists.
On its Web site, it advises its volunteers to “have a really good story about why you are coming and not to mention anything about ISM, or knowing, liking or planning to visit Palestinians. You must play it as though your visit is for other, Israel-based reasons, like tourism, religion, visiting an Israeli friend, etc.”
[ISM spokespeople announced at a public meeting at Hebrew University on June 2nd that it would encourage future ISM participants to apply to the “birthright” program to come to Israel for free, through an organization that has been lacking volunteers of late to join their programs.]
By definition, a movement that endorses the “armed struggle” of a terrorist organization should itself be considered a terrorist organization. Despite its peaceful image, the ISM has crossed the line from protest to an alliance with hate.