An Evaluation Of The International Solidarity Movement Politics
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict consists of a lot of denigrating of both sides. Therefore it is very difficult to understand who is truly operating with the best intentions. This paper will evaluate the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) by clearly identifying and describing the International Solidarity movement, critically and thoroughly analyze the International Solidarity Movement and its activities, successes and failures, discuss the INGO's modus operandi and its cooperation with the public, intergovernmental and private sectors, analyze what has been the impact of the International Solidarity movement in addressing the issue in the host country, and finally make intelligent recommendations for how the INGO's operations might be more effective/successful.
The International Solidarity Movement began in 2001. It began as a small Palestinian-led movement resisting against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian led. They are a nonviolent, direct action and principles movement. Their mission is to provide Palestinians with a resistance using international protection and nonviolent resistance from the Israeli occupation. International Solidarity movement relies on international participation for protection, messages to the mainstream media, personal witness accounts and information, and to break the isolation. When the International Solidarity movement first began there was a discussion on whether it should be an internationally based organization or locally based. The International Solidarity movement leaders decided to make the International Solidarity movement an international organization localized within Palestine. "We have to have people in the community that we are working with and listening to.... We have to be totally attuned to what people here want." (Seitz 2003, 56) The International Solidarity movement is a movement whose focus is on a long-term constant presence in Palestine. The International Solidarity movement equips itself with international volunteers and supplies however, they keep to their primary mission statement to be a Palestinian run organization. This is to ensure Palestinian thoughts and views are being fulfilled. One major problem that arises with a Palestinian led resistant activist group is the method of activism. Many Palestinians believe in standing up to Israel through any measure, whether violent or nonviolent. Therefore while International Solidarity movement is a nonviolent organization it needs to make sure the Palestinians who run the organization believe in nonviolent activism. This is evident in the relationship of the International Solidarity movement and Israel. In 2003 Israel called for all ISM volunteers to be expelled from the country. Two International Solidarity movement volunteers met with two British internationals at a café prior to the British internationals carried two bombs into Tel Aviv. (Seitz 2003, 61) This was enough evidence for Israel to believe that the International Solidarity Movement was a terrorist organization under the façade of peace activists. International Solidarity Movement now has offices in over 35 countries in the world. Some offices and locations are more involved in the community then others. Some have enough money to have speakers, give tours, fundraise to send volunteers abroad etc. Either way the International Solidarity Movement has an immense pool of volunteers, potential volunteers and resources in order to fulfill their agenda.
International Solidarity Movement's activities are based on their actions such as media, personal witness, and transmittal of information, breaking isolation, direct action, and documentation. International Solidarity Movement is active in the matter of media. International Solidarity Movement feels that media attention on the real situation in Palestine is biased and often incorrect. Therefore they have implemented a huge media push of their own. Their website and organization is tied into large media outlets of satellite groups throughout the world. They exchange press releases several times a day, which then get distributed around the world in a matter of minutes. International Solidarity Movement also has the success of varying volunteers. International Solidarity Movement can draw on their varying volunteer pool to get many created individuals to donate their time for publicity, media, and awareness. International Solidarity Movement's isolation-breaking movement is based on infiltrating areas or families who have been isolated by Israel, by the wall, boarders, checkpoints, or families in hiding for fear of arrest. International Solidarity Movement volunteers raise money to bring them food, deliver the food themselves to give people interaction with the International Solidarity Movement. They also breaks the Isolation by their very presence in areas such as Gaza, which is isolated from the rest of the world due to strict checkpoints, embargos and sanctions. Direct action is one of International Solidarity Movement's most controversial actions. International Solidarity Movement participates in human shielding of Palestinian homes and community. The most famous example of International Solidarity Movement's human shielding is Rachel Corrie. Rachel Corrie was an American International Solidarity Movement activist who stood in front of a Palestinians home in order to prevent its demolition by Israeli Defense Forces. The Israeli Defense Forces soldier driving the bulldozer claims he did not see Rachel and killed her with the bulldozer. They also participate in many strikes and demonstrations. The reason why this is the most controversial aspect of the activities is because there are disputed reports on whether or not some International Solidarity Movement volunteers violate the nonviolent philosophy International Solidarity Movement holds. Another important aspect of International Solidarity Movement's activities in Palestine is documentation. While it is related to their media push it is different. Since the International Solidarity Movement is localized in Israel they often get a first hand view of some of the events that happen in Palestine and Israel. Therefore International Solidarity Movement documents all interaction between Israel and Palestine, particularly those done in violation of international law. This is important because International Solidarity Movement reports have been used in international courts for verification of events.
The International Solidarity Movement's activities allow them to have first hand knowledge of Palestine. It also allows them to be actively involved in the community and keep them grounded on what the wishes of the people are. Their wide media push also allows them to be connected with the International community and allows the international community to feel connected with the Palestinian cause.
International Solidarity Movement's strengths and successes are its ability to recruit a broad variety of activists. A lot of International Solidarity Movement's international activism and outreach is done via the Internet. They use all networks and succeed at recruiting activists from all sectors such health care providers, students, politicians, the media, the socially elite, and those who may have been forced out of Palestine. ISM also has a strong veteran volunteer base. International Solidarity Movement is not an organization where new volunteers come in every few months or years. Instead it has a wide base of new volunteers but a high retention rate of past volunteers. The greatest success the International Solidarity Movement has had is the ability to have such an international outreach while maintaining their centralization in Israel. These strengths of a broad Internet activism, centralized in Palestine and volunteers have allowed the International Solidarity Movement to be successful in regards to staying with the core missions of the ISM and been successful in their acceptance by the Palestinian people. ISM is a very successful organization in regards of amount of activities and depth of activities.
The International Solidarity Movement's biggest failure is their inability to process to the world their nonviolent philosophy. Israel is vocal about their intolerance of the ISM and their actions, 2003 bombing. Israel states that the ISM is a group of terrorists that function under a façade of nonviolent activism. There are international movements whose mission is to stop the ISM. There is an immense amount of he said she said in regards to the International Solidarity Movement. Israel has realized the ISM has grown into an international movement with a large audience. The ISM has failed to prove themselves as a nonviolent activist and peace activist. The ISM's failure to prove them is preventing the International Solidarity Movement from reaching its potential. The ISM has the capabilities to bring change to Palestine with their vast resources, excellent media outreach, and volunteer core. However, the International Solidarity Movement has to meet in secrecy in Israel and Palestine since they were unable to limit who they associated with in Palestine. This prevents ISM from helping those who need their help.
The current Modus Operandi for the International Solidarity Movement is simple: large media based activism and with their media base they recruit activists to come to Palestine to work for the cause. The ISM website states "activists choose not to talk about their activist goals and instead explain other reasons for their visit, such as visiting the Holy Land, visiting an Israeli friend, tourism, etc." (International Solidarity Movement Website 2010) Their website warns against telling Israeli's the true nature of their visit. The ISM also does not require any application process or background check on their volunteers. Their website states "ISM does not have a formal registration process prior to the actual training in Palestine." (International Solidarity Movement Website 2010) Their training consists of briefings on the current events and the ISMs current project, still no background check or evaluation criteria. Volunteers stay with Palestinian families who offer to host them. Host families do not go through any background check. Therefore volunteers may be placed with someone who is a terrorist or a violent activist within Israel, or activists may associate with bombers unknowingly such as what happened in 2003. This leaves the International Solidarity Movement open to scrutiny.
The International Solidarity Movement has different relationships with different sectors. The International Solidarity Movement works with the Palestinian Authority on a casual relationship in regards to bringing social justice to the area. The International Solidarity Movement has no relationship with the Government of Israel (GoI). Israel has expelled International Solidarity Movement volunteers from Palestine and openly does not let them into their country. The International Solidarity Movement works with the private sector that is pro-Palestinian and those businesses in the private sector that are not pro-Palestinian often are the object of their strikes and demonstrations.
The International Solidarity Movement's host territory is Palestine and host country is Israel. The International Solidarity Movement's impact on Palestine has been great. Even though Palestine has benefited from the direct, international attention and being able to break isolation barriers and prevent delays in housing demolitions which has allowed for families to be able to have a home for a little while longer. The International Solidarity Movement is failing to meet the needs of Palestine. Palestine is accused of having a government that is a terrorist and terrorist aid societies. Therefore Israel implements sanctions, embargos and borders to protect their state. The International Solidarity Movement is giving Israel an excuse to bar aid to Palestine because Israel says aid that comes in the form of International Solidarity Movement is really a terrorist organization dropping off supplies. International Solidarity Movement can't dispute this fact because they recruit anyone from around the world regardless of their background. The International Solidarity Movement has outraged Israel with their media reports, documentation, protests and direct action, which Israel states has gotten violent at times. Therefore allowing this much controversy prevents the International Solidarity Movement and other aide groups from getting into Palestine and in essence hurt Palestine from receiving the aide they desperately need.
Recommendations for the International Solidarity Movement are as follows: create an application process for volunteers. Do not allow just anyone to come to Palestine and volunteer under the International Solidarity Movement name. Implement strict zero-tolerance rules for violent activism. The International Solidarity Movement should open dialogue with Israel so that volunteers do not have to lie to get in the country. Israel is required by UN Mandate to allow in Human Rights Watch activists. International Solidarity Movement should look into whether or not they can be considered an Human Rights Watch activists and how to get that accreditation. This will create transparency and trust between the organization and Israel. The ISM also needs to screen those whom it associates with in Palestine so that International Solidarity Movement does not have a repeat of the 2003 bombings.
These changes will allow International Solidarity Movement to refortify their name by making sure no volunteer can be accused of violent activism or terrorism. As an internationally recognized HRW member Israel cannot discredit them by calling them terrorists without evidence. It will be difficult to build trust between Israel and International Solidarity Movement. However, it must begin in order to bring a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The International Solidarity Movement brings a lot of success and strengths to the Palestinian people. They also have a huge influence in the world and have the resources to be a successful INGO. The International Solidarity Movement needs to implement policies to ensure positive and peaceful messages are sent from their organization and must be willing to reach a consensus with Israel
The question remains on if the International Solidarity movement is effective in addressing the issue of Israel's oppression of Palestinians. A quick answer would be no. A complex answer is yes and no. The International Solidarity Movement does a great job bringing volunteers and attention to Palestine. It is capable of alleviating the burden of some by bringing human companionship and attention. However, it does nothing to solve or end the situation. The International Solidarity Movement has protests and demonstrations to end the "occupation." However, these protests are meaningless in the yes of the Government of Israel because all the government sees is a group that they consider terrorists protesting. If the International Solidarity Movement has any desire to end the isolation and situation in Palestine they must build their relationship with Israel and show Israel that the International Solidarity Movement is not a terrorist organization and does not wish to cause harm to Israel. The International Solidarity Movement can do this by utilizing the previously stated suggestions such as policy making, implementation, transparency and being able to make a consensus with Israel.
In conclusion this paper evaluated the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) by clearly identifying and describing the International Solidarity movement, critically and thoroughly analyze the International Solidarity Movement and its activities, successes and failures, discuss the INGO's modus operandi and its cooperation with the public, intergovernmental and private sectors, analyze what has been the impact of the International Solidarity movement in addressing the issue in the host country, and finally make intelligent recommendations for how the INGO's operations might be more effective/successful. The conclusion is that the International solidarity movement is a good International Non-Government Organization with great possibilities and at times unlimited resources. However, the denigration needs to cease between Israel and the International Solidarity Movement in order for it to truly bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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