Confronting the Occupation

— David Finkel

THE HORRIFYING ESCALATION of violence in Israel and Palestine, immediately following the Aqaba “Road Map” summit meeting -- especially the attempted assassination of Dr. Abdel-Aziz Rantisi and the successful killings of other Hamas leaders, followed by the retaliatory June 11 suicide bombing in Jerusalem -- did not come as a surprise to Middle East activists and knowledgeable observers.

The pattern is a familiar one, though more intense now. Every time Palestinian organizations come close to an agreement to end attacks on Israeli civilian targets, the Israeli government undertakes assassination strikes that kill resistance leaders and bystanders alike -- ensuring the next cycle of carnage all around.

The use of helicopter gunships and F-16 bombers against densely populated neighborhoods, which has become routine Israeli tactics, goes beyond anything the apartheid regime of South Africa dared to do in its years of death-squad operations.

Naturally, those who report and witness the occupation's crimes against humanity -- journalists, United Nations personnel and solidarity activists alike -- are also targets.

During the past two years of Palestinian resistance and ever-more-brutal Israeli reprisals, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) has been a presence on the ground, spearheading eyewitness reporting and well-trained nonviolent intervention against the Israeli occupation's assault on the population of the West Bank and Gaza.

Two ISM co-founders, Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, have received a two-year Echoing Green fellowship in recognition and support of their grassroots nonviolent organizing and training. At the same time, however, on May 9 the offices of the ISM in the West Bank were raided, and their computers and other equipment smashed or stolen by the Israeli military.

International observers entering Gaza are now compelled by the Israeli military to sign a declaration that they are not affiliated with the ISM, and that they absolve Israel of all responsibility in case they are killed -- in essence, turning Gaza into a free-fire zone.

Three foreign ISM volunteers -- Rachel Corrie, Brian Avery and Tom Hurndall -- have paid with their lives or permanent injuries for their heroic work. Several Palestinians working with ISM have also lost their lives.

We urge our readers to keep informed about the International Solidarity Movement via their website www.palsolidarity.org, and to respond to appeals for support.

ATC 105, July-August 2003