What am I expected to do as a volunteer with ISM?
ISM is a Palestinian led organisation. That means that we respond to Palestinians calls for protective presence. This could be being present at demonstrations, i.e. take photos and videos, be visible to Israel forces to let them know their actions are recorded. It could be staying in a family`s house if they are being targeted by settlers or soldiers, again as a protective presence – bearing witness and recording breaches of human rights. Accompanying children on their way to school. Being present in villages which are facing demolition, farming communities where water pipes are being destroyed etc. During the olive harvest, which is in September/October we provide a protective present to farmers who’s harvest is frequently disrupted by settlers and soldiers.
Sharing our experiences is an important part of our work. We take photos, write reports and journals, which are shared on this page and through our social media. Volunteers are also encouraged to contact media in their home countries, to get stories published. When returning to their respective countries, volunteers are encouraged to talk about their experiences, through interviews and talks. Sharing what we witness with the world is immensely important!
Will I be in any danger?
Because of the nature of the `job` you will be facing dangerous situations, but if you feel uncomfortable or scared you are encouraged to pull back. You will never go to an action by yourself, nor will you be expected to go if you feel it is outside your comfort level. The Israeli army use teargas, stun grenades, rubber coated steel bullets and live ammunition on the civilian population and they do so `generously`. There may also be situations where you come face to face with settlers, who are known to be particularly aggressive and sometimes violent. As an international worker you are of less risk of becoming a target – but this do not mean it is risk free!
Prior to joining ISM you will receive thorough training on how to deal with and behave in dangerous situations.
Where in Palestine will I be based? Can I choose myself?
Depending on how many volunteers there are at the time you join and where the need is strongest you will most probably be based in Ramallah or Hebron. During olive harvest we also have bases in the farming communities in Nablus Salfit and Hebron regions. If you have a preference ISM will do their best to accommodate them.
Training is in the beginning of each month, if I come mid-month can I still join ISM and stay in one of the apartments?
Yes, you can. If you are only able to come mid-month, you can still join other experienced volunteers in actions – whilst receiving basic training beforehand.
What preparation do I need to make before traveling?
If there is a local support group in your country, we encourage you to make contact with them for a conversation prior to departure. Otherwise it is up to you. We would encourage you to learn some basic arabic phrases, it is not a must – but it will make your transition a little easier. Read reports and updates on this site to familiarise yourself with the work of ISM. If you have the possibility it is also good to create a network of journalists in your own country, whom you can contact whilst here. You do not necessarily have to contact them and inform them of your travel (!), but collecting contact details of journalists whom you know have previously written fair accounts of the situation in Palestine, can be very useful once you get here. Contact details of your embassy in Israel and Palestine.
What do I need to bring?
The only `must` is to have a phone with a camera or a separate camera to record events that you will be witnessing. Otherwise, items which will make your life a bit easier as a volunteer are:
- Laptop – as we do write reports and journals, it will make it easier for you if you bring your own laptop. We have one communal laptop in each location.
- Sleeping bag – you may have nights where you sleep outside the base, this could be in bedouin villages or in people’s houses, so you may want to bring a sleeping bag. We often get provided with blankets etc. in the communities where we spend nights.
- Running shoes or shoes that you can move fast in.
- Some people bring swimming goggles to protect their eyes against teargas.
- A headlamp can be useful and a small backpack to bring with you on actions and if staying overnight.
Expect to make many friends in the local communities, which means you may be invited to weddings or other festivities, so a shirt or a dress might come in useful.
What assistance can I expect if I get arrested or if I get hurt?
You will receive thorough training on your legal rights prior to joining an action. Should you get detained or arrested during an ISM action, you will be provided with an experienced human rights lawyer working on your behalf. If in exceptional circumstance, the legal bill is very high – then we would ask you to participate in fundraising to cover it.
With regards to medical expenses should you get ill or hurt, this needs to be covered by your own travel insurance. Please check with your travel insurance provider prior to departure, to make sure you have appropriate cover.
What is the ISM doing to protect Israeli civilians?
We believe that in order for the 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?
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.
On your website, 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.
Do you have a question that you feel should be included here? If so please contact us with your question.