Home / About ISM / Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ISM position on suicide bombings?

What is the ISM position on suicide bombings?

Attacks on innocent civilians, be they Israeli or Palestinian, are forbidden under most understandings of international law and ISM seeks nothing more for Israelis and Palestinians than the implementation of international law. We oppose the tactic of suicide bombings, especially those that have been carried out against civilian targets. We don’t however think that it is a more brutal tactic than dropping a bomb from a fighter plane on a civilian-occupied apartment building, firing a tank shell down a crowded city street, or placing dynamite in a family home. They are all brutal and repulsive acts.

But besides stopping Israeli and Palestinian attacks on innocent civilians, compliance with international law requires ending a long list of Israeli violations, starting with Israel’s military occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, and including the occupation’s cornerstones: construction of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, seizure and destruction of Palestinian land and homes, restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement within the Occupied Territories with checkpoints, road blocks and curfews, denial of Palestinian rights to health, education and employment, arbitrary detention and multiple forms of collective punishment.In order to stop attacks on Israeli civilians, we must look at the source of violence and address that, instead of arguing about whether one act of violence is worse than another. We need to treat the disease of all the violence and not just one of its symptoms. Occupation forces and policies are degrading and dehumanizing; they injure, kill the soul and make life near impossible for Palestinians, and all this even when the Israeli army is not actively attacking (i.e. carrying out operations in Palestinian villages, towns and cities).

That some Palestinians have turned themselves into weapons is not something inherent to Palestinians or Muslims. Rather, it is a tragic weapon of those who have nothing else to fight with. This does not justify the action. Most importantly, we’ve concluded from experience that as long as the occupation continues and the Palestinian people are denied freedom, human rights and self-determination, there will be those who will use violence against the underlying, systematic and foundational violence of the occupation.

The ISM seeks to bring about an end to violence by actively resisting the occupation through nonviolent means. The Israeli government has long worked to crush peaceful resistance, making it very difficult for Palestinians to act nonviolently on a large scale. We’re working to support an alternate way of resisting – nonviolently- that can be effective. We will continue and we invite you to join us.

Does ISM protect terrorists?

Does ISM protect terrorists?

Those who wish to silence our voices have accused the ISM of “harboring and protecting terrorists.” The Israeli government has worked to make every Palestinian man, woman and child out to be a suspected “terrorist” This is the Israeli government’s justification for the brutal force it has been using against a largely unarmed population. It is the rationale for using collective punishment, for keeping Palestinians locked up in their towns and villages, and for stripping people of their human rights. The ISM supports Palestinian communities in protesting collective punishments such as checkpoints, roadblocks, massive round-ups, curfews and home demolitions, and encourages popular nonviolent actions against them. For this reason, volunteers with the ISM are falsely accused of “protecting terrorists.”

There are two specific incidents which are often cited in attempts to discredit the ISM:

  1. The arrest of Shadi Sukia.
  2. The visit paid to the ISM office in Rafah by two British citizens who later carried out an attack in Tel Aviv.

The first incident occurred on March 27th 2003. Jenin had been placed under a military curfew for several days. Israeli military patrols were arresting people on site regardless of their reason for being out of their homes. 23-year-old Shadi Sukiya appeared at the ISM office in Jenin in the middle of the night. He was soaking wet, shivering and terrified. The ISM members present did not speak sufficient Arabic and Sukiya spoke no English. He was given a change of clothes, a hot drink and a blanket.

Soon afterward Israeli soldiers entered the building and arrested Sukiya. The soldiers that entered the ISM office systematically damaged much of the personal belongings of the ISM volunteers there. Despite later claims that they had been in a dangerous situation, the soldiers took the time to pile the volunteers’ clothing on the floor and break raw eggs on top of them. In briefings made to the Associated Press, the Israeli military claimed that Sukiya was senior member of the Islamic Jihad, a pistol had been discovered in the ISM office and that two ISM volunteers were hiding Sukiya. By the time that the military left the building and the immediate area, all of the ISM volunteers in Jenin were present either in the office or outside the building. None of them were detained, arrested or even seriously questioned, indicating the absurdity of the later claims made by the military.

When asked for proof of the allegations, the military changed its story: “The information originally released was wrong,” said an Israeli military spokesperson and it was now “unclear” where the pistol had been found. Somewhat chastened, the Associated Press, which had originally run the story, published a retraction on March 29th 2003, entitled “Army backtracks on details about militant arrest at International Solidarity Movement.”

The second incident occurred on Friday, April 25th, 2003 when the ISM held a public memorial service for Rachel Corrie, an American ISM volunteer crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer. About 15 minutes prior to the service a group of six British citizens arrived at the ISM apartment including two young British Muslims, Asif Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif. The other four British citizens were hoping to organize a summer camp in Gaza in conjunction with local Palestinians from Rafah, three Italians, and some others. The ISM group of five people offered the visitors tea, and after about 15 minutes of small talk everyone left to attend the service. Anyone – Palestinian, Israeli or international – was free to come and pay their respects. Hanif and Sharif were later described as a quiet pair, saying little except to claim that they were “alternative tourists.” A few minutes after the service began, an Israeli military tank appeared and used smoke and tear gas to scatter the mourners. Hanif and Sharif left and were not seen by or in contact with anyone with the ISM again.

Shortly thereafter, the two carried out a suicide bombing. Their entire association with ISM had been for less than an hour. Before attending the service, the two had never made contact with the ISM, never registered to join us and never attended our mandatory training and orientation.

In November 2008, London newspaper the Jewish Chronicle published a letter falsely claiming that ISM activist Raphael Cohen had “sheltered” the bombers. Raph sued the newspaper and in April 2009 won £30,000 in damages (plus an apology and legal costs) in the British high court (see press coverage in The Guardian and the Press Gazette). Raph donated part of his damages to the ISM.

The claim that the International Solidarity Movement “protects terrorists” is untrue and is only maintained by those who seek to discredit the thousands of principled volunteers from around the world who are bearing witness to the cruelty of occupation and working non-violently to bring it to an end. It is one of a series of claims that attempts to discredit ISM volunteers and should not be taken seriously.

What is the ISM doing to protect Israeli civilians?

What is the ISM doing to protect Israeli civilians?

We believe that in order for the cycle of violence and counter-violence to stop, the root cause of the conflict – Israeli military occupation and violence – must be addressed. By uniting our efforts against policies that breed violence, we can help build and sustain a stable and secure environment that protects everyone equally.

The ISM works in the Occupied Palestinian Territories because the occupation is the root cause of the ongoing violence. Our mission is not to provide protection against attack, but rather to bring international support to Palestinian communities and grassroots organizations engaged in nonviolent resistance. We believe that ending the occupation and achieving justice for Palestinians will bring peace for Israeli civilians. A stronger, more successful Palestinian nonviolent movement to end of the occupation will similarly provide Palestinians with a viable option to achieving justice that does not involve violence or attacks on civilians.

Unfortunately, the Israeli government continues to oppress Palestinian nonviolent resistance, endangering Israeli civilians by leaving Palestinians with little hope and few options.

There are a variety of organizations active in Israel with a mandate to protect or assist Israeli citizens. Many of these organizations are well-financed by international citizens and flush with resources. There are few international organizations working with similar mandates in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. For these reasons ISM remains committed to supporting nonviolent Palestinian resistance in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Is the ISM affiliated with any political party?

Is the ISM affiliated with any political party?

No. The ISM is not affiliated with any one political party. The movement is open to all individuals and groups who choose nonviolent direct-action and other forms of unarmed resistance as a method for confronting and challenging the Israeli occupation. We work with grassroots community organizations, town and village councils, NGOs and Palestinian political parties.

The ISM is not funded by any Palestinian political party, nor by the Palestinian Authority. Funds are raised from private citizens in communities around the world, primarily in the US and Europe. If you want to support the work ISM does, please consider a financial donation.

Does the ISM support suicide bombers and terrorists? You have a statement on your website that says that, don't you?

Does the ISM support suicide bombers and terrorists? You have a statement on your website that says that, don't you?

The ISM does not support or condone any acts of terrorism – which is not legitimate armed struggle. The ISM does not associate, support, or have anything to do with armed or violent resistance to the occupation. The ISM does not assist or engage in any kind of armed resistance, no matter what form it may take.

The statement in question is taken from the ISM Mission Statement:

“As enshrined in international law and UN resolutions , we recognize the Palestinian right to resist Israeli violence and occupation via legitimate armed struggle. However, we believe that nonviolence can be a powerful weapon in fighting oppression and we are committed to the principles of nonviolent resistance.”

This right to resist occupation applies not only to the Palestinian people, but to all peoples who are faced with a military occupation. The ISM regards all people as equals with equal rights under international law. We believe that nonviolent action is a powerful weapon in fighting oppression and are committed to the principles of nonviolent resistance.

But wasn't Tom Hurndall, one of your members, carrying a gun when he got shot?

But wasn't Tom Hurndall, one of your members, carrying a gun when he got shot?

No. The initial Israeli military report on the shooting of Tom Hurndall did indeed make that allegation. Since then, under intense pressure from various organizations and by an investigation by the Hurndall family, the Israeli military has retracted that claim.

What about Rachel Corrie? Wasn't she killed while trying to protect a house with a tunnel in it used to smuggle arms to terrorists?

What about Rachel Corrie? Wasn't she killed while trying to protect a house with a tunnel in it used to smuggle arms to terrorists?

No. Rachel killed while attempting to save the house of a pharmacist, Dr. Samir Nasrallah of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military has never shown any evidence of a tunnel under Dr. Nasrallah’s house or even in the surrounding area. Sadly, the house was finally demolished in September 2003, leaving Dr. Nasrallah and his family to join the thousands of other Palestinian civilians made homeless by the Israeli military and government over the past 35 years.

Rachel’s family have dedicated a foundation in her name committed to conflict resolution and advocacy for Palestinian rights. They are currently engaged in law suits aimed at both the Israeli government and the Caterpillar corporation which makes the militarized D9 armored bulldozer that was used to kill Rachel.

For more information on Rachel’s life and death as well as the work her family is pursuing for peace and justice, visit the Rachel Corrie Foundation.

On your web-site, you give advice to volunteers on how to lie to the Israeli authorities so you can get into the country and the occupied areas. Why tell lies?

On your web-site, you give advice to volunteers on how to lie to the Israeli authorities so you can get into the country and the occupied areas. Why tell lies?

Over the course of the last several years, the Israeli government has pursued a policy of refusing entry to international human rights workers (HRW). This is not limited to ISM volunteers and others have been targeted as well including the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, Amnesty International members, Human Rights Watch members and even employees of the United Nations.

Under both Israeli and international law, HRW have the right, as international observers, to visit both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The ISM does not advise its volunteers to lie, but it is now commonly understood that to declare your intention to work with ISM will, most likely, result in the Israeli government violating international law and refusing you entry.

The broad result of this policy has been to weaken Palestinian nonviolent resistance. By limiting the options Palestinians have for the expression of their political desires, Israel promotes greater instability and violence. The ISM is committed to breaking this cycle and supporting broad-based nonviolent resistance.

Why don't you try and protect innocent Israelis from terrorist attacks? Why don't you protect buses and cafes in Israel which are often the targets of suicide bombers?

Why don't you try and protect innocent Israelis from terrorist attacks? Why don't you protect buses and cafes in Israel which are often the targets of suicide bombers?

The ISM believes the root cause of the conflict is the illegal occupation that seizes Palestinian land, oppresses the Palestinian people, violates international law and drives people to desperate acts of violence. ISM volunteers are committed to ending the occupation so that violence of all kinds directed at both Israelis and Palestinians will stop.

The Israeli public is protected by a modern, well equipped security apparatus which includes sophisticated intelligence, surveillance and counter-terrorist units in addition to regular military and paramilitary units. The Palestinian people have nothing of the kind. Although most of our time is spent in the Occupied Territories, in Israel our volunteers do use Israeli buses and visit cafes like everyone else. Furthermore, the safety and well-being of our Israeli volunteers is of equal concern. The bottom-line is that ending the occupation is the first step toward peace and security for everyone in the region.

You're just anti-Semitic, aren't you?

You're just anti-Semitic, aren't you?

No. Our number of active volunteers varies, but conservative estimates are that 15-20% of them are Jewish. Many Jewish organizations, both within and outside Israel, support the aims and efforts of the ISM. Two of the ISM’s founders, Neta Golan (Israeli) and Adam Shapiro (USA) are Jewish. The ISM is opposed to the continuing illegal occupation of the Palestinian people, the land confiscation, the checkpoints, the house raids, the assassinations, curfews, closures, house demolitions and other forms of collective punishment and humiliation the Israeli government and military force upon a largely defenseless population; the ISM is not opposed to any person, group or political entity based on race, religion or ethnicity.

Is it true that ISM volunteers were photographed holding guns and posing with members of armed resistance groups?

Is it true that ISM volunteers were photographed holding guns and posing with members of armed resistance groups?

No. At ISM’s training in Palestine, as a condition for joining ISM in Palestine, all activists are required to commit to supporting only non-violent resistance. At the training, all activists are also instructed never to touch any weapon, or even anything that resembles a weapon.

In September 2006, photos were posted on the internet showing five foreigners posing with members of the Palestinian police in Jericho while holding their weapons, along with the claim that four of the foreigners were volunteers with the ISM. The article accompanying the photos also claimed that the fifth, unnamed foreigner (whose name we have since learned is Paul Cinato) with the obscured face in the photos went undercover in order to try and sabotage those, such as the ISM, who support Palestinian non-violent resistance.

At the time the photographs were taken, these individuals had not yet become ISM volunteers. They went to Jericho of their own volition without coordinating or discussing their plans with the International Solidarity Movement. They had not attended ISM’s mandatory intensive non-violence training and were new to the country. The fifth foreigner encouraged them to join him in the photographs and have their pictures taken holding guns. These individuals regrettably followed his lead.

Upon learning of this incident, ISM activists informed these individuals that touching weapons violates ISM’s policies and that they would not be permitted to volunteer unless they agreed never to handle weapons. All except Cinato apologized and deleted the photographs of future ISM volunteers. Cinato did not attend ISM training and subsequently disappeared. Following their training, the others worked diligently and without incident with the ISM and Palestinian communities in support of non-violent direct action.

For more information:
ISM Responds to Internet Photos, Reaffirms Commitment to Non-violence
ISM Freedom Summer Campaign Approaches – Slander Campaign Against ISM Stepped-Up

Do you have a question that you feel should be included here? If so please contact us with your question.