International Solidarity Movement members killed by Israeli military
Jenny Brown & Chris Zurheide
May 2003

We heard the news over the past few weeks, muffled in the U.S. press but laid out in the Israeli paper Ha'aretz: "Israel Defense Forces troops shot a British peace activist working with the International Solidarity Movement on [April 11], witnesses said. Doctors said the Briton was brain dead.

"The activist was standing in between IDF troops and a group of Palestinian children when soldiers opened fire, said Khalil Abdullah who works with the Palestinian-backed peace group. "A group of ISM people were trying to set up a small protest tent alongside a road used by the army. The soldiers opened fire," said Abdullah, who witnessed the shooting.

"The 24-year-old Briton was shot in the head and declared brain dead shortly after arriving at the hospital in Rafah, where the shooting occurred, according to Dr. Ali Musa. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli army. On March 16, American activist Rachel Corrie, 23, was killed while trying to stop an Israeli military bulldozer in the Gaza Strip. Corrie, a student in Olympia, Washington, was the first member of the group to be killed in 30 months of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. ... Last week, Israeli troops in an armored personnel carrier allegedly shot Bryan Avery, 24, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the face. He had been working in the West Bank city of Jenin. ... Activists in the group work in the West Bank and Gaza as human shields, often placing themselves between the Palestinians and the Israelis."

Who is the International Solidarity Movement? Adam Shapiro, part of the ISM, spoke at UF last October about his experiences and purpose in Israel and Palestine. He began by describing the Movement's efforts to safeguard farmers harvesting olives, then discussed its broader involvement. Here are excerpts from his talk.

"The ISM international civilians coming from different continents to join Palestinians in non-violent resistance to the occupation. The local coordinators, who decide what will be done and how, are Palestinians. People ask "Where is the Palestinian peace movement?" Well, as an organizer with the ISM, I'm part of it.

"Non-violent resistance has been practiced by Palestinians since day one of this intifada because a stranglehold started and has gotten tighter. Occasionally it has loosened, but it has gotten continually tighter around the lives of Palestinians: checkpoints, invasions, sieges, curfews (when most days people can't leave their houses), attacks. They practice non-violence in dealing with living under occupation.

The reasons we see ourselves as a resource and why we can be effective in helping the Palestinian non-violent movement is when they start to march or protest alone, without internationals there, the army will use lethal force against them. That is even when there is no stone-throwing. I've been there and seen this as an observer, standing behind the soldiers. They will use rubber bullets, fire into the crowd, fire sometimes at head-height, sometimes they will switch over to live ammunition. You know, from a soldier's point of view, if you're an 18-19 year old soldier stationed at a certain point, and you see a mob of 500 Palestinians who are chanting, and you don't know who they are and you're maybe with 2 or 3 other soldiers, and you're out there on the outskirts of Ramallah in an area you don't know anything about and you don't really want to be there, yeah you're going to be afraid. And if you're in the Israeli army you're allowed to shoot with lethal force if you feel your life is in danger. I think this is why fear is such an important aspect of this. Israeli soldiers do fear for their lives when they're out in the streets or at checkpoints, and not without good reason. But when there are non-violent protests, people coming to protest just with their bodies and their voices, we've seen that when they don't have internationals with them, they get shot at. When internationals are present and make our presence known (we write signs in English, chant in English; sometimes we go surround the Palestinians; we identify ourselves with shirts), we've found that the soldiers won't use lethal force, and usually won't even shoot into the crowd with rubber bullets. They'll use the tear gas or something. So we can be a resource for the non-violence movement and give it support, allow them to do what they set out to do. Additionally, the media will come and report when internationals participate, because it becomes a story when an American or French or Japanese person is there. Unfortunately it's not a story when Palestinians are there.

"We won't sit down and observe the rules of occupation; rather we will challenge them. Sometimes that means marching in large numbers to protest a checkpoint. Sometimes when the army is inside the city, we go to where the armed forces are and protest. Or sometimes this means removing with our hands a dirt roadblock that blocks a village, so that a water truck can bring water in, or an ambulance can be brought in. Once, with about 250 international volunteers and at least as many local university students we stood arm-in-arm and formed a corridor on the road for people to walk through the checkpoint. People would lie down in the side roads to block jeeps from advancing. For hours we endured sound grenades and tear gas and kept the road open for students to pass so they could go to school at the university."

The ISM website is

previous article [current issue] next article
Search | Archives | Calendar | Directory | About / Subscriptions |

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional eXTReMe Tracker