Occupied peoples have the right to resist

Above: Radhika Sainath (right) at a January 2003 demonstration against the Apartheid Wall in the Palestinian village of Rasatiya, near Qalqilia. Dozens of villagers along with ISM volunteers blocked a bulldozer carving out the path of the wall meters from the village school by sitting in its path. The Wall now encloses Rasatiya on three sides seperating the village from its farmland and water resources and neigboring villages.

28 July 2003 — As volunteers with The International Solidarity Movement and as individuals devoted to human rights and justice, we must address recent statements maligning us, our movement and those that have given their lives standing up for the principles we espouse.

We are unwavering in our commitment to nonviolence.

Due to these beliefs, we oppose the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. As a result we have come under heavy fire in the Occupied Territories and in the media. Israeli officials and several right-wing Israeli and American pundits have embarked on a campaign to discredit ISM, by attempting to equate ISM’s principled and active support for Palestinian rights with terrorism.

In one such attack, “ISM: Support Unit for Terror,” journalist David Bedein falsely asserted that ISM works “in alliance with those who choose to kill people in order to advance their goals.”

Our goal is to end the military occupation and bring peace and justi ce to Israelis and Palestinians. ISM is not linked with political parties or armed groups. Our partners are Palestinian, Israeli and international peace and human rights groups and Palestinian communities.

ISM believes in the dignity of every human being. Consequently, we strongly oppose violence against all civilians. This includes all acts of terrorism, whether perpetrated by a state, group or individual. We have all thoroughly committed ourselves to the practice of nonviolence and do not assist anyone in committing acts of violence.

Although our movement is completely nonviolent, we must recognize that independent nations and occupied peoples have security concerns and rights to self-defense and resistance as specified under international law.

Rights are rights and are not up for negotiation. But rights to self-defense and resistance should not be turned into justification for illegitimate violence against civilians.

While others condemn and crit icize we provide a viable alternative by demonstrating that nonviolent resistance can succeed.

We are Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu. We are grandparents, students, professionals, nuns, and ministers. We are also Israelis. Two weeks ago 10 ISM volunteers were arrested during acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. Two of the arrestees, Avi Zer-Aviv and Aviv Kruglanski are Israeli and as such were released; the rest remain in jail, or were deported. They were removing roadblocks and setting up peace camps. They were not assisting terrorists.

We do assist medical personnel, pregnant mothers, farmers and children targeted by Israeli Forces on a daily basis. They are human beings being humiliated, tortured, beaten, arrested, shot, and killed for attempting to go to school, see a doctor or tend to their land.

OPPONENTS OF ISM claim that the movement’s goal is to impede the army’s job in stopping terrorism and even act as an accomplice to terrorist activities. D oes anyone honestly believe that thousands of volunteers from Tel Aviv to New York City, many Jewish, would spend their vacations to come and spread terrorism?

Above: Rafah beach, April 2003. Then ISM media coordinator Tom Wallace and Palestinians dressed for work are forced to abandon cars and taxis and walk on the beach to circumnavigate an Israeli army tank blocking the road. On the way down to the beach, the tank began shooting at Tom, forcing him to lie flat on the ground. If that wasn’t enough, on the beach Tom was almost run over by a donkey cart, which explains his laughter in the midst of this surreal scene. ISM members experiences on the ground are often dangerous, on the down side, but the strange cultural exploration of the area means a richly rewarding experience, donkey cart hit-and-runs notwithstanding.

Many of us have paid a price for our commitment. James Deleplain, 74, sustained a broken rib and punctured lung after settlers beat him during the olive harvest. Tom Hurndall, 21, was shot in the head while moving children out of harm’s way from an Israeli sniper. Brian Avery, 24, had his face blown off by an Israeli armored personnel carrier. And, of course, Rachel Corrie, 23, was run over by a bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier while attempting to protect the home of a Palestinian physician from illegal demolition.

No one was held accountable for these violent attacks on civilians.

Instead, we get lies and distortions. Rather than investigating and correcting Israeli army actions to better protect civilians, the Israeli government is trying to expel foreign civilians who are monitoring human rights abuses, implicitly giving a green light for further attacks on human rights workers.

In its attempt to smother voices of dissent Israel is rapidly moving away from the democratic values it espouses toward policies reminiscent of dictatorships in Argentina and the USSR where, in the name of security, thousands were arrested, exiled and killed for their politics.

The growing international nonviolent movement offers one of the best hopes for achieving an end to the Israeli military occupation and a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis. If the Israeli government is successful in its attempt to eliminate the nonviolent resistance to its illegal policies, what alternative does that leave for those justifiably opposed to its military occupation?

Tom Wallace is a resident of Boston. He spent several months as Media Coordinator of the International Solidarity Movement. Radhika Sainath is a resident of Los Angeles and spent several months in the West Bank. This article was first published in The Jerusalem Post.