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ISM Responds to Internet Photos, Reaffirms Commitment to Non-violence

Ramallah, 16th September 2006: Recently, photos were posted on the internet showing five foreigners posing with members of the Palestinian security services in Jericho while holding police weapons, along with the claim that four of the foreigners were volunteers with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The article accompanying the photos also claims that the fifth, unnamed foreigner 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 advice.

We have discovered the real name of the fifth foreigner to be Paul Cinato from Britain, though he gave his surname as Andrews at the time. The article is filled with the now standard fabrications and distortions – too many to list in full. Possibly the most outrageous claim is that two of the foreigners in the photos are now in Israeli custody, which is totally untrue. This article is part of a long standing campaign to slander ISM and destroy non-violent Palestinian resistance by spreading false information. See previous statements on the ISM site.

None of the individuals photographed ever took part in any violent activity. As non-violence is one of the three basic principles of ISM, they would have been required to leave if they had done so. 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. These volunteers did so. At the training, all activists are also instructed never to touch any weapon, or even anything that resembles a weapon.

Dave, a volunteer from Ireland featured in the photos, said: “Paul wanted his photo taken with the guys in the prison, then one of them gave him a gun to hold and they also offered them to us to hold for photos. We were a bit reluctant to take them because of the simple fact that they were guns – not because pictures of future ISMers holding guns could cause trouble. After some encouragement from Paul and the Palestinians we took them and thought no more about it”.

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 their photographs. 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. According to Dave: “we are deeply sorry for the trouble this has caused. We are of course completely committed to non-violence and realize that we made a terrible mistake”.

ISM remains committed to supporting and engaging with Palestinian communities in non-violent resistance. ISM intends to re-examine its information resources and training in order to make clear to everyone intending to volunteer in the future that handling weapons in any situation is unacceptable. For more information about the ISM, visit www.palsolidarity.org

ISM Media Group