This week the International Solidarity Movement has been targeted in the Israeli media. Articles have appeared naming and showing pictures and videos of ISM Volunteers and Israeli activists accusing them of spreading ‘a false campaign against settler violence’ and of being Hamas supporters and ‘Nazi helpers’. In the current atmosphere of violence against dissent this puts the individuals accused at considerable risk.
The right-wing attack on the ISM began after we called on supporters to contact international embassies over the situation in Masafer Yatta. Our callout must have touched a nerve, and we would like our supporters to renew efforts to pressure representative offices and embassies in the coming week.
The attack on ISM and other Human Rights Defenders is an attempt to ensure that there are no witnesses to report the attacks of Israeli colonial settlers on Palestinians, so that the settlers and military can continue committing ethnic cleansing across the West Bank with the support of the occupation. They claim that we are falsely posing as Human Rights defenders along with another 22 organizations who have called to stop the ethnic cleansing in the South Hebron Hills.
They are also accusing us of “fueling the false settler violence” campaign in order to cause significant damage to Israel in the international arena. In fact, our statements and documentation of the reality of the situation on the ground have only covered a fraction of the atrocities being committed by settlers. In September, the UN reported that settler-driven displacements had already been increasing in number throughout 2022, and that those Palestinians remaining in isolated communities were at “elevated risk.” Of the nearly 2,000 Palestinians displaced amid settler violence since 2022, 43% of these displacements by persistent settler attrition have occurred – in just over one month – since October 7th 2023.
We will not be intimidated, we will continue to provide protective presence to communities that ask for it, and we will continue to call-out and nonviolently resist the ethnic cleansing that is going on. Now is a critical moment in the Palestinian struggle, and in the global struggle for justice. Solidarity is needed now more than ever.
Since the beginning of the attack on Gaza our volunteers have reported on and witnessed uniformed settlers terrorizing small Palestinian hamlets, making threats to kill and opening fire at civilians with live ammunition. ISM’s role in Masafer Yatta – along with our Israeli comrades – is to maintain a protective presence to deter further violence, and to report on the colonial settlers’ attempt to forcibly displace Palestinians from the area.
Some of the articles in the Israeli right wing media have focused on an American former ISM volunteer who they claim is a founder and ‘the leader of ISM’. The person in question, although they were in the past an ISM volunteer, they were not a founder and nor were they a leader of ISM. In fact, one of ISM’s four guiding principles is that we are a non-hierarchical movement and do not have individual leaders. This individual is no longer a part of ISM following an internal process addressing ethical disagreements that ended with the individual in question leaving the group in 2017. ISM is not responsible for the actions of this – or any other – individual who do not operate within our principles aND are no longer connected to our support groups
The articles also say that ISM is “an operational arm of Hamas”, when in fact the ISM is independent. We are not proponents of any political parties. We use only nonviolent tactics, and believe that nonviolent actions are a powerful tool in fighting oppression, occupation and apartheid.
Attacks of this kind have recently escalated, but they are not new. Last November Bezalel Smotrich stated that human rights organizations are “an existential threat to Israel” and that their real purpose is “to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel.”
As well as the ISM, the attack targets 22 other Left-wing organizations that recently issued a call to the international community to stop the ethnic cleansing and forcible displacements in the West Bank. The letter sent by the organizations reads: “The international community is called upon to act urgently to stop the wave of settler violence, which is carried out with the support of the state, and which leads and will lead to the expulsion of Palestinian communities in the West Bank. We believe that the only way to stop the deportation in the West Bank is through direct, strong and unequivocal intervention by the international community.”
The situation in the West Bank has rapidly deteriorated since the most recent war on Gaza began on October 7th. Since the start of the war on Gaza, more than 169 Palestinians – including 46 children – have been killed in the West Bank, and more than 3,000 have been arrested. As Gaza suffers from ceaseless and criminal bombing, settlers have expanded their attacks on herding and isolated rural communities in the West Bank to force Palestinians to leave by making their lives unbearable. In herding communities in the South Hebron hills, armed settlers close off access roads, attacking those who try to leave. Villagers are regularly injured by settlers opening fire with live ammunition. No food or fodder can get into communities, children cannot access their schools, and the community members are in a persistent state of anxiety and dread.
The ISM has maintained a continuous presence in the West Bank since the beginning of the Second Intifada. Our role is to support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, and provide an internationalist platform for volunteers to stand side-by-side with Palestinians, enhance Palestinian voices and bring the truth of ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing to the international community.
ISM Volunteers, side-by-side with Israeli human rights defenders, provide a protective presence in these West Bank communities. We are hosted by members of the community. Our presence is intended to deter settlers and the Israeli Occupation Forces carrying out acts of violence in these communities. Volunteers document human rights violations and act as night guards in the communities staying awake overnight so that the families can get some sleep.
As the world’s eyes are rightly upon the Israeli genocide taking place in Gaza, many horrific episodes of ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities are taking place in the dark in the West Bank, unnoticed by the majority of the international community.
We ask people around the world to pressure their governments to take immediate action to stop the attacks happening in the West Bank
Script for communication to Embassies and Representatives:
I am writing to demand rapid action be taken by this body to defend human rights in the West Bank. As violations of International Humanitarian Law continue to be committed against occupied Palestinians, world leaders who do not take every action to defend human life and dignity are complicit in the denial of them.
Daily incidents of violence committed by Israeli settlers against isolated and vulnerable Palestinian families in the South Hebron Hills are being documented and transmitted to the world. Daily transgressions of the rights of Palestinians to live their lives without being harassed, searched, arbitrarily arrested and held without charge, raided, shot at and humiliated by the army and settlers -who are being emboldened by the silence of the international community. These violations are being reported by human rights organizations across the globe. With the whole world watching, what side of history will you be on?