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International Solidarity: A Terrorist Protection Movement

The International Solidarity Movement was founded in the spring of 2001 by George Rishmawi, George Qassis, Adam Shapiro, and Huwaida Arraf. Rishmawi and Qassis, who are Palestinian Christians, were persuaded that "Israeli soldiers will hesitate to shoot Americans and Europeans protesting at checkpoints, lying in front of tanks, or removing roadblocks." They were impressed that "Three Bethlehem refugee camps hosting foreigners escaped Israeli incursions." They had a vision. With the help of two aggressively anti-Israel Americans, Shapiro and Arraf, they hoped to persuade thousands of Europeans and Americans to enter the West Bank territories in order to block Israeli troops from entering refugee camps to search for weapons and arrest suspected terrorists; to prevent demolition of houses on the Egyptian border being used to conceal arms-smuggling tunnels; and to dismantle IDF road blocks in order to make it more difficult for the IDF to stop and search suspicious vehicles. "Imagine if we had thousands, what we could do." ("Non-Violent Activists: A Challenge to the Israeli Occupation." Report from a Palestine Center briefing by George Rishmawi and George Qassis. This information first appeared in "For the Record" No. 115, 6 June 2002, Center for Policy Analysis in Palestine [Ref1])

Although thousands of volunteers did not materialize, dozens of IMF volunteers came to Israel in the summer of 2001, and scores more came in the summers of 2002 and 2003, with smaller numbers in the winter months. The volunteers stay for as little as a week, although some stay for many months. They travel in groups, stay in the houses scheduled for demolition, dismantle roadblocks, stand in crowds of Palestinians lobbing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops, and organize demonstrations jointly with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The immediate goal of the ISM is to hamper the ability of the IDF to prevent terrorist attacks on civilians. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the State of Israel. The ISM is "opposed to the existence of the apartheid colonial settler state of Israel" [Ref2]. It not only seeks to destroy the State of Israel, it endorses the "right" of Palestinian Arabs to work to eliminate the Jewish State "by any means necessary." (Huwaida Arraf [ Ref3])

The ISM sees itself as working in tandem with the terrorist organizations: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade. Those organizations use violent means, while the ISM undertakes such aggressive non-violent actions as blocking the progress of Israeli soldiers on their way to arrest terrorists. The intention of the ISM in these actions is to protect terrorists from interference by the IDF. As Arraf and Shapiro have repeatedly stated, "we accept that Palestinians have a right to resist with arms, as they are an occupied people upon whom force and violence is being used." (Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada: A Response to Ramzy Baroud, By Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro [ Ref4, Ref5].

The International Solidarity Movement was founded a decade after Oslo and nearly a year after the Palestinian Authority was offered statehood in the summer of 2000. This armed struggle is not intended to create a Palestinian State side by side with the State of Israel, or to force Israel to withdraw from the disputed territories. The ISM endorses an armed struggle intended to eliminate the state of Israel and to replace it with a Palestinian State. The ISM has not endorsed the Road Map. It continues its aggressive struggle against the IDF even as the government of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas cooperates with the government of Israel to arrest terrorists and prevent terror attacks. [ Ref6, Ref7, Ref8]

The role of the ISM as a partner with terrorist organizations in the struggle to annihilate Israel has been laid out by the Movement's co-founders, Arraf and Shapiro. "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." (Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf, Palestine Chronicle, January 2002) The ISM does not see itself as a non-violent alternative to such terrorist organizations as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It is a complementary part of the "resistance." Not surprisingly, given that the leadership both endorses terrorism and views the terrorism of Hamas and the non-violence of the ISM as two sides of the same campaign to destroy Israel, ISM volunteers appear to work closely with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The ISM is surprisingly explicit in its instructions to volunteers on their way to "occupied Palestine," aka, Israel. They are to contact Mr. Rishmawi on arrival, and they are told to follow the instructions that they will receive even though the ISM is "not affiliated with or taking orders from any one political party in Palestine," In other words, instead of taking orders from "any one" terrorist organization, the ISM volunteers take orders from several of them. "As an ISM volunteer we expect you to be in contact with local activists and leadership and to respect the guidance of those around you. Respect for their views and guidance should be your highest priority." (International Solidarity Movement Information Pack. These statements are found on p. 29 of this 44-page document intended as a handbook giving advice on everything from what to pack to how to speak to the media, i.e., "when violence is mentioned say 'resistance to injustice'" The meaning of these instructions is plain. The ISM volunteers in Israel are "expected" to make it their "highest priority" to follow the orders of the Palestinian "activists" with whom Mr. Rishmawi puts them in contact.)

It is possible that some volunteers remain ignorant of the affiliations of the "local activists and leadership" from whom they are instructed to take orders. But at least one, Susan Barclay, has boasted that she was aware that the men whose "guidance" she was instructed to follow represented the terrorist organizations Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Other volunteers may or may not have been aware of the affiliations of the "local activists and leadership." If, however, there are "local activists and leadership" that actively "resist" Israeli "occupation" by means other than terrorism in the camps and villages of the disputed territories, their existence is unknown to Western and Israeli observers.

A recent demonstration serves as an example of the close cooperation between the ISM and the terrorist groups. The announcement read "Join the ISM, the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces and the Apartheid Wall Defense Committee on Thursday July 3 to block construction of the Apartheid Wall that will completely isolate three villages in the Tulkarem region: Nazlit Issa, Baqa Sharqiya, and Nazlit Abu Nar from the rest of the Palestinian villages." [ Ref9] The Palestinian National and Islamic Forces is a coalition, or an umbrella organization, that includes an long list of terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. (Palestinian National Liberation Movement {Fateh}; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine {PFLP}; Islamic Resistance Movement {Hamas}; Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine {DFLP}; Palestinian People's Party {PPP}; Palestinian Democratic Union {FIDA}; Palestinian Popular Struggle Front; Palestinian Liberation Front; Islamic Jihad Movement; Arab Liberation Front; Palestinian Arab Front; Popular Front-General Command; Islamic National Salvation Party; and Popular Liberation War Pioneers. [ Ref10]).

The Committee of Palestinian National and Islamic Forces joined the International Solidarity Movement in calling for an April 5, 2002, worldwide Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. (Israel Sows Death and Destruction in Palestine: Call for International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on Friday, 5 April 2002 Update: Bethlehem, 3 April 2002 (3/22/2002) BADIL Resource Center, For Immediate Release, 3 April 2002)

In May 2002, Palestinian propagandists boasted about the International Solidarity Movement personnel acting as human shields for murderers in Ramallah.

Presidential Compound -- On 21 April, Israeli forces redeployed from areas in Ramallah but maintained their tight besiegement of the presidential compound and the surrounding neighborhoods, which comprise much of El Bireh. Inside the compound, Arafat was confined to less than one building in the compound and was surrounded by security personnel, top advisors, a handful of international solidarity movement personnel, as well as the "Ze'evi Five" (those accused of being involved in the assassination of Israeli Minister of Tourism, Rehav'am Ze'evi on 18 September 2001). (Operation Devastation, compiled by Between the Lines, May 2002, Ref11)

In the strategy laid out by Rishmawi, Qassis, Shapiro, and Arraf, the presence of ISM volunteers will block IDF bulldozers sent to demolish houses in Rafah that conceal tunnels used to smuggle explosives and ammunition from Egypt and prevent the IDF from entering neighborhoods and buildings that harbor terrorists and bomb-making operations. The assumption is that if hundreds or even thousands of international volunteers could be induced to link arms and block the roads leading into Jenin or Tulkarem, the IDF would be prevented from entering these camps to arrest the Hamas and Islamic Jihad cells operating there. The ISM further assumes that if enough people can be found who are willing to stand in front of houses in Rafah that conceal arms-smuggling tunnels, the IDF will be forced to abandon its efforts to destroy those tunnels.

The ISM is a terrorist protection organization. The goal of the ISM is not to plant bombs and murder civilians. The ISM aims to protect the terrorists who plant bombs and murder civilians. The ISM hopes to keep the IDF out of Palestinian neighborhoods so that terrorists will be free to manufacture explosives, train suicide bombers, smuggle weapons, arm snipers, and fire rockets at residential neighborhoods without interference from the IDF. The ISM calls itself non-violent, and many supporters of the organization in the U.S. may actually believe that this is a non-violent movement following the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The leadership, however, is using the rhetoric of non-violence in a calculated effort to mask the true nature of the ISM, which is organized for the protection of terrorists. Although the statements made by volunteers while in Israel appear to be carefully phrased so as to omit any mention of cooperation with terrorist organizations listed by the State Department, upon return to the United States they can be startlingly frank about the ISM's cooperation with terrorist organizations.

Susan Barclay, the ISM organizer deported by Israel after she hid Islamic Jihad terrorist Shadi Sukiya in the ISM office in Jenin, told the Seattle Post Intelligencer that, "she knowingly worked with representatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad -- terrorist groups that sponsor suicide bombings and exist, according to their charters, to demolish the Jewish state entirely." (Seattle Post Intelligencer, Thursday March 20, 2003, Activist's death focuses spotlight on Mideast struggle, By Sam Skolnik, Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter [ Ref12])

When ISM leaders say "any means necessary," as they repeatedly do, they mean to endorse terror attacks on civilians. In a July 2003 interview, Adam Shapiro "justifies the Palestinian armed resistance against Israel as long as it is targeting Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip." (July 06, 2003, 10:15 AM, By Ghassan Joha, Star Staff Writer, The Star, Amman, Jordan [ Ref13])

Despite Shapiro's careful endorsement of the suicide bombing of civilians only in territory that was part of Jordan before Jordan invaded Israel in 1967, whenever a suicide bombing takes place inside pre-1967 Israel, ISM volunteers rush to the house of the suicide bomber, whom they describe as a martyr or shahid. They express solidarity with the suicide bombers and attempt by their presence to prevent the demolition of the houses of suicide bombers, a penalty imposed on terrorists by Israel. The ISM's official statements endorse terrorist murder of civilians by using coded language, i.e., "by any means necessary" and by referring to the right of "armed resistance." In case anyone has missed the point that this is code for endorsement of suicide bombings, for package bombings of civilians, and for the random murder of civilians by terror snipers, the ISM sometimes underlines its approval with the word "unconditionally," as in "We unconditionally support Palestinians' human right to resist occupation and oppression by any means necessary." [ Ref14])

ISM organizers, however, occasionally forget to speak in code and actually say precisely what they mean. Charlotte Kates, leader of the New Jersey chapter of the ISM and organizer of the ISM's third National Convention, scheduled to take place on the Rutgers campus from October 10-12, explained that the ISM supports suicide bombing. "We support Palestinians' right to resist occupation and oppression, and do not feel that it is our place as a solidarity movement to dictate tactics of resistance to the Palestinian people. Why is there something particularly horrible about 'suicide bombing' - except for the extreme dedication conveyed in the resistance fighter's willingness to use his or her own body to fight?" (2003 by MidEastWeb and Ami Isseroff)

It is possible that the ISM has at times given more than verbal support to suicide bombers. The ISM acknowledges that the two British Muslims who blew up the Mike's Place restaurant in Tel Aviv in April 2003 leaving 3 dead and 50 wounded had attended a meeting of International Solidarity Movement activists in Israel prior to carrying out their suicide bombing. While the nature of their connection with the ISM is unclear, it has been suggested that the ISM may have helped them to enter Israel. What is not disputed is that the ISM offers extensive training to volunteers on their way to Israel, coaching them carefully in ways to lie to Israeli passport control about the nature of their visit. (Associated Press, "Foreign 'Peace Activists' had tea with Tel Aviv bombers" [ Ref15])

Meeting the day after the bombing at Mike's Place, Israeli officials decided to instruct border control officers at Ben-Gurion Airport and at land crossings from Jordan and Egypt to bar suspicious foreign activists from entering the country. Activists already in the territories who interfered with the army's work would be deported; and all foreign nationals seeking to enter Gaza would have to sign a form swearing they were not members of the ISM, and absolving Israel of responsibility should they be killed or injured in what the army defines as a "war zone." The ISM is the only organization specifically mentioned on the waiver form, and the army insists that the measures are not aimed against foreign activists as such. "We have nothing against the internationals," says a senior IDF officer. "But, as far as we are concerned, ISM is not an international organization or a peace organization. It's a pro-Palestinian organization, set up by Palestinians, funded by Palestinians, and linked to Palestinian terror." (Israeli Defense Forces vs. the International Solidarity Movement, FrontPageMagazine.com, Friday, June 13, 2003, By Leslie Susser [ Ref16])

The facts of the March 27, 2003, incident during which ISM coordinator Susan Barclay attempted to bar the entrance of the ISM offices in Jenin to the IDF in order to prevent the arrest of Islamic Jihad terrorist Shadi Sukiya are not in dispute [ Ref17]. Nevertheless, the incident, in which a self-styled 'peace activist' attempted to prevent the arrest of a known terrorist, may puzzle those who take the ISM at its word and believe that it is committed to non-violence. In reality, Ms. Barclay's actions serve as a paradigm for the ISM, an organization that seeks to protect the activities of terrorists by the use of such apparently non-violent means as standing in front of a locked door. As a loyal member of the ISM standing between an officer of the law bent on arresting a terrorist and a known member of Islamic Jihad, Ms. Barclay was simply doing the job that she had been brought to Israel to do.

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