by Stefan Christoff
I travelled to Jordan from Montreal, Canada, at the end of November with plans to cross the Israeli controlled border into Palestine to work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). I was refused entry into Israel after being held for more than five hours, and deemed a “security threat”, according to information provided to border officials by the ministry of the interior. I had planned to work in Palestine with the ISM, a Palestinian-led movement which brings together Palestinians and internationals from all over the world to work on the ground in the occupied territories and stage campaigns of nonviolent direct action against the Israeli occupation.
The ISM has brought hundreds of internationals to work in Palestine to confront the daily workings of the Israeli occupation. During the summer of 2003, the ISM organised the Freedom Summer Campaign, which focused on confronting the current construction of the Israeli apartheid wall. Palestinian and international activists working with the ISM took part in non-violent direct action to tear down sections of the internationally condemned wall. The wall, deemed a “security measure” by the Israeli state, is clearly an effort to steal more Palestinian land. The Palestinian Environmental NGO Network has estimated that upwards of 50 per cent of the West Bank land will be plundered by the completion of the wall, which is not being built on or near the 1967 Green Line and at points reaches 16km deep into the heart of the West Bank.
Thus, the ISM, through direct confrontation with the colonial realities of the Israeli occupation has become an important facet of resistance to the occupation. The fact that the ISM operates outside of the confines and regulations of international institutions, such as the United Nations, is one of the reasons why the organisation has been effective on the ground in Palestine and throughout the world in bringing to light the terrible realities of life, and death, under occupation.
The ISM has been so effective that Israel is barring activists from participating in the organisation’s work on the ground in Palestine. In the past year, the Israeli military has raided the nonviolent group’s offices, confiscating computers, documents and equipment a number of times.
Grassroots organisations like the ISM are needed at a time when the international community has, through the United Nation and its countless resolutions, condemned many practices and policies of the Israeli state, such as the current construction of the apartheid wall, without doing much on the ground to take action or to change the devastating situation. It takes real action led by Palestinians directly affected to change the situation.
That is why the ISM, like many other resistance groups and organisations in Palestine and throughout the world, is becoming a tangible threat to Israel’s racist and genocidal policies against the Palestinians.
It must also be mentioned that the ISM has been targeted in many more devastating ways by the Israeli state. Two of its members, Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, were killed last spring. These two deaths sent shock waves through Palestine and the world, but until now, the Israeli state or military have not been reprimanded for the deaths in any tangible way. This continues the Israeli military’s tradition of killing with impunity.
The deaths of two ISM members must also be held up in contrast to the fact that between Sept. 29, 2000, and Rachel Corrie’s murder, members of the Israeli army and associated Israeli settler paramilitary units were responsible for the killing of 2,181 Palestinians and the injuring of another 22,218. Palestinians are murdered almost on a daily basis by the Israeli military.
Although there has been a handful of international activists murdered as well, it must be remembered that Palestinian civilians are dying at an extraordinary rate, without outrage or concrete action from the majority of the international community. This fact reinforces the idea that Palestinian life is less valuable than other life and that the world should remain silent in the face of a genocide being perpetrated against an entire nation.
Despite the fact that I was refused entry to Palestine at the Israeli border, my work in support of Palestinian liberation continues, along with that of many millions of others. The work of pro-Palestinian activists throughout the world, especially in nation states such as Canada, is essential. It is often the nations where we find home that are in many ways responsible for the continuation of the apartheid policies against the Palestinian population. For instance, Canada signed the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) on July 30, 1996. The Canada-Israel pact removed tariffs from industrial products of Canadian or Israeli origin, and in essence gives a boost to the Israeli economy. Thus, it further justifies the actions of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people as it implements, in the form of an economic agreement, Canada’s acceptance of the genocide and colonialism on which the Israeli state is based.
The state of Israel, since its creation in 1948, is directly responsible for the ongoing crisis of millions of Palestinian refugees scattered throughout the world.
The writer is a member of the International Solidarity Movement and an independent journalist working with CKUT Radio Montreal & Free Speech Radio News in the US. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.