Backgrounder: International Solidarity Movement
Posted: November 29, 2010
The International Solidarity Movement's (ISM) regimen involves recruiting and coordinating Western volunteers going to the Palestinian territories for training in such tactics as obstructing the activities of the Israeli military.
Since 2001, hundreds of ISM volunteers have taken part in a range of "resistance" efforts, including attempting to block construction of the Israeli security fence in some areas while attempting to tear sections down in others. Volunteers have also removed concrete boundaries from roads, confronted Israeli troops, and in some cases, stayed in the homes of suicide bombers.
ISM received its first substantial media coverage in spring 2002, when volunteers slipped into Yasir Arafat's compound, bypassing the Israeli military that surrounded it. ISM members executed their second major action that year when they entered the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem during a military standoff between Israeli and Palestinian forces.
Numerous ISM volunteers have also been arrested, deported and denied entry into Israel. In response, some volunteers have deceptively sought to enter Israel by changing their name in an effort to circumvent their ban.
ISM's web site has provided other tactics to help volunteers avoid detection as well, including instructing volunteers to "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."
Upon returning to the U.S., ISM volunteers describe their experiences and try to recruit future participants during lectures at high schools, churches, libraries and college and university campuses. These platforms enable volunteers to present a biased, distinctly anti-Israel view of the Middle East, including accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing and equating Israel with both apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.
ISM also provides its volunteers with tips on how to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on its Web site. At one point, the group's site featured an "Information Pack" providing basic information on getting involved in the anti-Israel movement and offered suggestions, including guidance on speaking with the press.
In one section, it suggests that "when possible say ETHNIC CLEANSING" when referring to "the expulsion of Palestinians from historic Palestine in 1948 as well as the current situation." The packet also urged volunteers to "say RESISTANCE or RESISTANCE TO INJUSTICE [when] VIOLENCE is mentioned," and to "emphasize STATE TERRORISM [when] TERRORISM is mentioned."