Freedom Summer: An Anti-Israel Campaign
Posted: July 20, 2007
Freedom Summer is the International Solidarity Movement's annual anti-Israel campaign in the Palestinian territories. The campaign, which consists mainly of Westerners, sends volunteers to various areas in the Palestinian territories to engage in actions that attempt to obstruct the activities of the Israeli army. These operations not only put Israeli troops in danger but also risk the lives of ISM volunteers and the lives of the Palestinians they ostensibly want to protect. The 2007 Freedom Summer campaign, dubbed "Confronting Apartheid," is being organized simultaneously with the Free Gaza Movement (FGM).
Freedom Summer volunteers have been trained to place themselves in front of Israeli Army vehicles and to block construction of the security fence, which was designed to deter terrorists by establishing a protective barrier between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Some volunteers have attempted to tear down certain sections of the security fence, while others have stayed in the homes of suicide bombers.
By using international ISM volunteers, who return to their home countries after a stint with the group and describe their experiences in articles and at lectures, local Palestinian activists have generated international attention to their cause (Freedom Summer was originally the name given to civil rights efforts in Mississippi in 1964, which provided a turning point in that struggle).
Circumventing Israeli Authorities
Since its inception, many "Freedom Summer" volunteers, representing several Western countries, have been arrested, detained or denied entry to Israel. In response, some ISM volunteers have deceptively sought to enter Israel by changing their name in an effort to circumvent their ban from entering Israel.
For example, in November 2005, Israeli authorities twice arrested ISM volunteer Andrew Macdonald, first for allegedly assaulting an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier in Hebron and then for being caught with an expired visa. Macdonald, a British national, who had also been deported in 2003 after allegedly being found in the home of a terrorist, had changed his name to get past border security during the 2005 campaign.
The ISM's Web site has in the past provided tactics to help volunteers avoid being denied entry into the country. ISM's instructions have suggested that volunteers "not 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." While increased scrutiny by Israeli authorities has made it more difficult for ISM volunteers to make their way into the country (ISM acknowledged that it saw fewer volunteers than usual in 2005), the ISM continues to seek new ways to bring volunteers to the Palestinian territories.
Support for Violent Groups
Despite ISM's claims that it supports only non-violent resistance, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has previously warned that ISM activity "at times" is "under the auspices of Palestinian terrorist organizations." Furthermore, the actions of its Freedom Summer leaders and volunteers have consistently suggested that the group expresses support for armed resistance:
· In a letter soliciting volunteers for Freedom Summer 2007, Hisham Jam Joun, ISM's Israel-based trainer stated: "even if part of the population supports military resistance to the conflict, it is only because we see the violence and injustice of a military occupation on a daily basis."
· Before the 2003 campaign, ISM issued a press release inviting volunteers to join ISM and the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces, a group made up of members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the hard-core wing of Arafat's Fatah organization, to block construction of the security fence.
· During the 2002 campaign, one ISM volunteer from Boston, Massachusetts, stayed with the family of Ayyat al-Akhras, a suicide bomber who killed two Israelis in a supermarket.