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The International Solidarity Movement

Nonviolent Direct Action

Courtesy of the International Solidarity Movement

The work of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) has become particularly relevant over the past seven months. As a genocide unfolds in Gaza, in full view of the world, with political and diplomatic figures still refusing to intervene in a meaningful way, colonial violence has also been escalating in the West Bank. Settler violence has increased dramatically since October 7, facilitated by the distribution of thousands of guns to settlers by the Israeli state. Israel uses its genocide in Gaza as a cover to move forward on its long-held plans for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities. Soldiers and settlers have systematically bulldozed homes, carried out night raids, and attacked and killed Palestinians across the region. The populations of sixteen villages have been completely driven off their land since October 7.

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the long-entrenched and systematic oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian population, using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles. For over twenty years ISM has supported the Palestinian-led actions of both the Gazan and West Bank communities. At the start of the Gaza genocide, there was very little international media coverage on the ground in the West Bank. ISM activists on the ground have continued their direct action work in solidarity with Palestinians under threat and siege in the West Bank by answering local calls to action, documenting and reporting their eyewitness accounts of the daily atrocities committed by Israeli soldiers and settlers, and amplifying the voices of Palestinians where the mainstream media is unwilling – or unable – to reach, using social media, the alternative press, and their website.

Queues at Qalandia checkpoint on the first Friday during Ramadan. ISM attended to monitor the situation.

According to OCHA’s report of November 2023, “The Other Mass Displacement: Settlers Advance on West Bank Herders,” nearly 2,000 Palestinians have been displaced amid Israeli settler violence since 2022; 43 percent since October 7, 2023. Since then, Israeli settler violence has increased significantly, from an already high average of three incidents per day in 2023 to a current average of seven per day. In this period, OCHA has recorded 171 settler attacks against Palestinians, resulting in Palestinian casualties (26 incidents), damage to Palestinian properties (115 incidents), or both (30 incidents). Cases of harassment, trespass, and intimidation are not included in these statistics when they do not result in damage or casualties, although they too increase the pressure on Palestinians to leave.

Direct action, the first part of ISM’s mission, includes a wide range of opportunities, from participation in Palestinian-led demonstrations and events, where international presence often confers a level of protection from the Israeli military for protestors, to providing an overnight protective presence in villages that are threatened with eviction, demolition, or harassment by Israeli settlers. During the day, ISMers accompany children to school and shepherds to their fields, to reduce the risk of attacks by settlers. They help with olive picking during the harvest season, and where possible, volunteers also creatively disrupt the illegal activity of the Israeli army occupation forces who help Israeli settlers take over Palestinian land. To optimize actions, ISMers coordinate their work with several other organizations and grassroots groups, including Youth of Sumud, the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, and Jordan Valley Solidarity.

ISM attends a Friday demonstration in Kufr Kaddum.

Masafer Yatta is one of the areas where the ISM has been very present in the last six months. It is an area in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank comprising some 14 villages where an estimated 2,800 Palestinians have lived for generations. In the 1980s, the Israeli occupation started a campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Indigenous communities in this area by declaring their land a military zone (Firing Zone 918). The Israeli army has already demolished houses, schools, and agricultural land, and damaged several infrastructures to drive the population away. At the same time, Israeli settlers living in settlements and outposts in the area are allowed to freely live their lives and conduct violent attacks against the Palestinian communities.

During their work, volunteers encounter shocking instances of military violence against Palestinians, illegal arrests, and settler harassment. Documenting the experience, the second mission of ISM, entails not only recording these events but also providing evidence for accountability to the police and courts. More generally, ISMers spend a lot of time documenting and reporting to local and international media about their experience of daily life under apartheid and the multiple human rights and international law violations committed by the Israeli military and settlers. Activists organize interviews and solidarity visits and meet local activists. Through interviews and talks, ISMers also share their experiences when they return to their home countries. The impact of their work can be judged by the credit given to them by Ilan Pappe in his book On Palestine (coauthored with Noam Chomsky), where he says that “…the reference to apartheid has become common in the corridors of power as well as among activists …. The phenomenon has become so widespread (now also in Israel and Palestine) because it resonates with what people knew is happening on the ground due to the growth of the ISM. It has provided an alternative source of information to the distorted reports of the mainstream media in the West…” (p. 24)

Israeli Occupation Forces harrass a Palestinian shepherd in Masafer Yatta. ISM was present at the scene.

Every action ISM takes is entirely guided by the requests and invitations of Palestinian families and activists on the ground. The movement is led by a core team of Palestinian ISMers who sustain a network of activists in cities, refugee camps, and villages, who organize what type of help is needed and where. It is fundamental to ISM to never act in places where they are unwelcome or without consultation with local inhabitants first. This is coherent with the four core principles of ISM: Palestinian-led, nonviolent, consensus-based, and anti-oppression. Volunteers receive training on respecting the local culture and engaging in teamwork and media work.

In Palestine, ISM volunteers comprise a diverse group of people from all over the world, sustained by support groups in cities in their home countries that work to grow the ISM network through local media and events.

  • In Palestine, ISM volunteers comprise a diverse group of people from all over the world, sustained by support groups in cities in their home countries that work to grow the ISM network through local media and events.

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