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A Flying Start to Freedom Summer 2006

Picture from a road-block removal action in Izbat Tabib from the 15th of July.

Three weeks in, and the International Solidarity Movement’s “Freedom Summer 2006” has gotten off to a flying start. More and more activists are coming to the West Bank every week, participating in two days of training before heading out to the regions of the West Bank where ISM are working. Led by these Palestinian communities, the international volunteers (who are mainly from the USA and Europe) are supporting Palestinians in their non-violent resistance to the Israeli Occupation.

One example of this can be seen at the village of Bil’in, where every Friday international and Israeli supporters are joining the local Palestinians as they march against the apartheid wall, which annexes their land to Israel. Because of the presence of international observers, the Israeli army is extremely reluctant to use live ammunition at any of the demonstrations in Bil’in, and no one has ever been killed whilst protesting there. This is in stark contrast to non-violent Palestinian demonstrations that have no international or Israeli supporters, during which 11 Palestinians have been killed. There is also a constant international presence maintained in the village to protect against incursions from the Israeli occupying forces, and some people spend their nights helping to protect a small outpost of the village on the Israeli side of the wall.

Similar solidarity work is being carried out in the village of Beit Ummar in the Hebron region. Beit Ummar has recently started to carry out demonstrations against the expansion of Israeli settlements in their area. The villagers there have invited internationals from ISM to maintain a constant presence in order to document and reduce the violence from Israeli military incursions to the village, as well as from Israeli settlers.

In the city of Hebron itself, human rights workers from ISM and the Tel Rumeida project work together to maintain a presence in the community. This is in order to non-violently intervene and document incidents of harassment, and stop violence from Israeli Jewish fundamentalists who live in settlements protected by the Israeli military. Other volunteers work in the ISM Media office in Ramallah.

This very successful start to ‘Freedom Summer’ is in spite of rumors published in the Israeli press that Israeli forces would start operating a “zero-tolerance” policy towards ISM activists. Articles published in the Israeli newspapers Ha’aretz and Ma’ariv warned that anyone suspected of connection to ISM would be stopped from entering the country, and those that did make it through into the West bank would be picked up at the numerous Israeli checkpoints and deported back to their home countries. Although this largely appears to be empty rhetoric, ISM and other human rights organizations still face plenty of harassment, both from the Israeli military and from Israeli settlers. The article published in Ha’aretz was nothing short of slanderous, accusing unnamed ISM peace activists of assaulting Israeli police and military. ISM members have never assaulted anyone, or ever been charged with doing so.

Our numbers have increased dramatically since the beginning of Freedom Summer. We have had at least 10 new volunteers at each weekly training for the past several weeks. However, we still need a lot more long term and experienced activists to put in place the infrastructure, and build the relationships and networks that will provide for more successful campaigns in the future. Now, more than ever, international volunteers are needed in Palestine. The Olive Harvest Campaign is coming up in October/November. Will you join us? Between our campaigns the occupation continues, and international solidarity workers are needed here even more. ISM needs long term volunteers to be able to build up and maintain our structures and our work. We need your presence! Please join us.

ISM Media Group