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(en) Workers Solidarity #78 - Even the Olives are Bleeding: Palestine and the ISM

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 9 Nov 2003 11:39:25 +0100 (CET)

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The second intifada began in September 2000 and since then over
2,500* Palestinians have been killed and 41,000 have been wounded.
These stark figures alone do not tell the full story of the subjugation
and the brutal oppression of the people of Palestine. The Israeli
occupation forces have engaged in the systematic destruction of the
infrastructure of the Occupied Territories. They regularly carry out
punitive raids using explosives and bulldozers that result in residential
areas being reduced to a lunar landscape of rubble.
Then there are the daily indignities and humiliations at the checkpoints
and roadblocks that are used to enforce curfews and restrict people's
movement. Arrests without due process and beatings in custody are
commonplace. Since September of 2000 an estimated 28,000
Palestinians have been detained. Over 5,000 of these detainees
remain imprisoned and 1,600 of these prisoners have not had a trial.
These measures have wrought havoc on the Palestinian economy and
almost three quarters of the population have to subsist on less than $2
a day

Palestine also has the misfortune to be in an area of strategic interest
to the US state. As we know the wretched of the earth come a poor
second to the success of North America's grand geopolitical plans.
The US State Department does not care how high the corpses pile up
as long as the great game is played to their advantage. So the US
continues to foist unworkable and unjust "Peace Plans" on the
Palestinians while pouring military and financial aid into Israel.

Given all this, there would seem to be little reason to hope that
international solidarity could interfere with the complex and massive
machinery of domination developed and maintained by Israel and the
world's sole remaining superpower. Nonetheless, the International
Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian led movement made up of
Palestinians and international volunteers, is attempting to do just that.

At the start of the current intifada Palestinians called for independent
international observers. This proposal was vetoed by the US and
international volunteers began to fulfil the role of international
observers instead. It was found that the presence of foreign nationals
often kept the worst excesses of the IDF in check. These volunteers
also began to document and disseminate information internationally
about the situation in Palestine. Following this the ISM was founded
and they organised their first campaign in August 2001.

Since then ISM volunteers have continued doing this sort of solidarity
work in a series of themed campaigns. The most recent of these
focussed on the free movement of people and the current campaign is
centred on protecting farmers harvesting their olives, who have
experienced harassment and intimidation in the past. The ISM is also
trying to publicise the construction by Israel of the "apartheid wall",
an 8 metre high wall in the Occupied Territories that will strengthen
Israeli military control over the territories and will be used to defend
the illegal settlements that are mushrooming on Palestinian land.

The ISM has had a good deal of success in helping out in some of the
day to day situations faced by ordinary Palestinians. More
spectacularly, but perhaps less importantly, volunteers managed to
break the respective sieges around Arafat's compound in Ramallah
and around the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. In response the
IDF has used lethal force to intimidate the ISM. Volunteers have been
shot at and in two cases they have sustained serious head injuries. In
March the IDF purposefully ran over and killed an activist with a
military bulldozer. Paradoxically, these events have led to an increase
in the number of volunteers travelling to Palestine. Similarly, the
efforts to turn away activists at the Israeli border have backfired as
20,000 tourists have been deported along with the 1,000 or so
correctly identified ISMers.

The ISM's political demands are limited to calling for the
implementation of the relevant UN resolutions and the proper
observance of international law in Palestine.

The organisation is committed to the tactic of non-violent direct
action. Although the ISM does recognise the right of Palestinians to
resist the occupation through armed struggle ISM volunteers are
forbidden from taking part in any violent action - even stone throwing.
To this end every volunteer undergoes a short period of training in
non-violent direct action and working and decision making within an
affinity group.

The work and the politics of the ISM are clearly not anarchist and the
region has no tradition of libertarian politics. Anarchists are critical of
nationalist politics - http://struggle.ws/ws/2002/ws70/nation.html
and of the corrupt political elite that rule the
Palestinian Authority and would regard international law as an
unsound basis for any political programme. However, given the dire
nature of the conflict, the work of the ISM is important and necessary.
It is worth noting that the tactic of non-violent direct action has been
used by libertarians in Ireland during the recent anti-war and anti-bin
tax campaigns - http://struggle.ws/wsm/bins.html and at the protests at
Sellafield - http://struggle.ws/a_news/an27sellafield.html and the Falsane
nuclear base. The logic behind this approach is to devise tactics and
events in which a broad cross-section of people will participate. The
evidence from Palestine is that a broad campaign using non-violent
direct action can be useful, in a small and limited way, even in the face
of severe repression.

Dec McCarthy

More about the ISM

Several people from Ireland have already served as volunteers with
the ISM. You can find out more about the ISM at

*the death toll since 2001 has been 2537 Palestinians and 743+
Israelis killed.

See also Anarchism and the fight against Imperialism


This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper
'Workers Solidarity'. http://struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html
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