Next to contribute was Christina Cruz, an Argentine national who was a student in the U.S. She expressed concern that she would have to go into to debt to join “Freedom Summer.” She wanted to “help” people and further the cause of human rights. It was still hard for me to understand the equation – helping terrorists and human rights.
Because of my interest in pro-Palestinian bias of university faculties, I was especially interested in the next volunteer. Scott identified himself as Jewish and even claimed to have family in Israel. He said he was a supporter of Israel until he attended classes in Middle East Studies at Stanford University. “I used to support Israel until I took some classes with Joel Beinin who set me straight,” he volunteered. Beinin is a former president of the Middle East Studies Association and a self-proclaimed Marxist and supporter of the Palestinian struggle to liberate Israel by dismantling the Jewish state.
The next speaker was Jeff who said he’d been to Israel before but was now looking forward to go there to “stir things up.” He was a Bay Area radical involved in environmental issues. He was followed by Ken, a semi-retired consultant for the Food and Drug Administration who introduced himself as someone who was sick and tired of what the “Zionists” had been doing and wasn’t afraid to do something about it “even if the CIA is after me.”
Nui introduced herself by explaining she was part Lebanese and part Thai-Chinese. She was going to help the Palestinians and “find her roots.” No one asked her to explain this.
Next came Meredith, who said she was going to Palestine to assert herself as “a queer Jewish woman.” She quickly explained that she was really only half-Jewish, and that by helping the Palestinians she was asserting her identity. She was evidently oblivious to the fate of gays living in the Moslem world.
Arlene, a 62 year-old Jewish woman from Oakland, was more vocal than the others. She told us that she had a lifetime of activism. “During the Vietnam War I went to visit and support the ‘comrades’ who told me to go back home and fight the war against America from here for them.” She told us that she was estranged from her parents and had used the excuse of their funeral to get into Israel the last time she was there. Despite her age she was ready to do things to attack the Israeli soldiers such as throwing tear gas canisters back at them during riots and putting sugar in the gas tanks of their security vehicles. She lamented a loose bladder due to her age but vowed it would not stop her from “helping” the Palestinians with all the other ISM volunteers. She also expressed grief for the Israeli execution of Sheik Yassin, the former head of Hamas who was responsible for the murders of over 350 people inside Israel including some American citizens. “We’re going to win,” she glowed. “Like Dr. Ghannam said at the lecture the other day, the demographics are on our side.”
Once the introductions were complete, Jamie shared with us the experiences and methods used by previous ISM volunteers to fool the Israeli border police. “Make a reservation in a hotel in Israel even if you don’t use it.” “Bring guidebooks for Israel that look dog eared.” “Give them the name of a hostel if you are young enough, these will fool the border guards.”
She continued, “If you use the name of someone in Israel as being the reason for your visit, they will call that person. Make certain you have a story thought out who that person is.” If that person were an Israeli leftist, the task was a lot easier. Mary Erwin, another trainer from Oakland, interjected at this point that our allies from the Israeli anarchist and communist movements were ready to lie to the border guards when called on the phone. They were available to verify false stories given to the border guards in order to get the ISM volunteers into Israel. She offered to provide us with the names and numbers of leftists in Israel who would say they knew us.
“If the border guards become suspicious, an Israeli contact will be set up to lie and say you are visiting them,” Mary summarized. She mentioned the leftist Israeli group B’tselem as providing such false witnesses. B’tselem is one of the most active leftist groups in Israel working to aid the PLO. Among its leaders is Anat Biletzski, the former head of Israel’s Communist Party.
Once we were inside Israel we were told we could make our way to the West Bank even though we were also informed that to go there is illegal. Jamie told us to email ourselves instructions so we would not need our manuals. We were assured the “ISM corps” was working on legal proposals to challenge the Israeli government at every turn if illegal entrants were discovered. “We are asking also if people are willing to resist if they are caught and told they will be deported.” Anything to be a nuisance and break the law was the goal.
We were also given alternative ways to get into Israel besides through Ben Gurion Airport. “You can take a taxi from Amman in Jordan to the Allenby Bridge (Jordan’s border entry). Even if you are turned back from that entry, you can go to the other border crossing because they usually don’t know you were turned away from another one first,” Jamie counseled. “Rehearse your story,” she continued. “They will interrogate you also when you leave. If they interrogate you, you can miss your plane. Don’t buy anything because it will give them things to look through.”
As for luggage, she told us if could pass as students we should just use a backpack. “A duffel bag on wheels does well at the airport. Remember that Israel needs tourists. Their economy is in shambles and they are anxious for tourism. And they are not organized.”
“Most of all, be patient. If they ask you questions such as ‘What are you doing here? Don’t you know there’s a war?’ you should reply, ‘I thought it was better now.’ Or say, ‘I had my ticket for a long time and my Israeli friends said I should come.’ If you are Jewish, know your Hebrew name if they ask you what it is. Know your story. Wear your Star of David especially if you are Jewish.”
We were told once we were on the West Bank and under the Palestine Authority we were to attend another mandatory two-day training session where we would be assigned to “affinity groups.” She then began making a bulletin board of how we were to function by setting up rules. The first rule was “Confidentiality.” Volunteers would be assigned to unknown affinity groups where they would function as teams to disrupt the Israel soldiers in military zones.
We were then instructed to say to the media if we were interviewed: “We support the Palestinian right to resist the occupation provided by international law.” If the interview were more extensive, we were told to say: “We call for an immediate end to occupation and immediate compliance and implementation of all relevant UN resolutions.” Apparently to the ISM, international law is whatever they want it to be, since their agenda is to break laws to enter a democratic country in order to further violate its laws.
When one of the trainees asked if we as ISM volunteers favored a two-state solution to secure peace, Brian Malovany, another senior trainer from Oakland who had just joined us explained, “The idea of a two-state solution is pretty much dead.” This was an interesting dismissal of all the peace plans ever proposed by the United Nations, the United States, or the official negotiating parties of the Palestinians themselves. “There can only be one state called Palestine,” explained Molvany echoing the line of Hamas and other terrorist organizations. “And the Right of Return is non-negotiable. If people ask you about a two-state solution just tell them it’s a human rights issue. Whatever you do though, do not dictate to the Palestinians what they should not do.”
In other words, if the Palestinians shoot at Israeli soldiers don’t tell them it is wrong to do so. Apparently being non-violent peace activists only applies to the end of dismantling Israel and providing cover for the people who will commit the violent acts.
I asked Molvany, “But what if we see kids throwing stones at tanks or putting themselves in danger. Shouldn’t we tell them not to and urge them to stay away?”
Brian Malovany responded: “We can’t tell kids not to throw stones! It’s not our place to tell them what to do.” Obviously the same rule applied to suicide bombers as we were advised that we might be used as human shields inside houses slated for demolition by the Israeli army because they were used as bomb making factories.
During the lunch break I looked at my manual and found this ISM wisdom:
“Some pacifists are uncomfortable with property damage. For myself...I see it as a great tool.”
“[Some] settle for tactical nonviolence, but given the right historical circumstance, armed struggle would be justified...”
“When VIOLENCE is mentioned, say RESISTANCE or RESISTANCE TO INJUSTICE.”
“When TERRORISM is mentioned, emphasize STATE TERRORISM.”
“Instead of OCCUPATION say MILITARY OCCUPATION to make people think the occupation is a MILITARY DICTATORSHIP.” The only military dictator in Israel and the West Bank is Yasser Arafat. The page this appeared on was supplied by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, yet another purportedly Muslim “civil rights group” like the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
The most cynical section of the manual was the last chapter written by Paul LaRudee, the Northern California ISM leader who provided my first contact over the phone: “You may well hear Palestinians talking ‘about the Jews’ when they really mean ‘Israelis’ or ‘the Israeli army’ or the ‘Israeli government.’ It is useful to remember the context; talk about “the Jews” is not the indication of bigotry that it would be in the United States or Europe.”
LaRudee also provided this whopper for “queer activists” who want to go on the Freedom Summer 2004 tour: “Palestinian society is as diverse in attitudes about gender and sexuality as is U.S. society.” In fact, over 100 homosexuals who had lived under the Palestine Authority recently took refuge in Israel for fear of being killed.
Apparently the ISM doesn’t care what they say as long as they get anyone over there to make trouble and risk their lives for the cause. Now I understood the recruitment of Meredith. To these radicals the strategy is to tie any cause, any idea, any gender, environmental or social issue to the destruction of Israel.
After lunch, we were given the activities schedule for the “Freedom Summer” anti-Israel campaign (see the ISM website for details). It included marching onto an Israeli army base to free captured terrorists and trying to tear down the security fence. Violent attacks by the “nonviolent” ISM had already begun when we met. Every member of our group knew that what they were really being asked to do was illegal. They just didn’t care.
Or perhaps it’s that radicals don’t fear the Israeli police in the same way they don’t fear the police in the U.S. because they know in a democracy they will be treated fairly. That might explain why they weren’t training for sit-ins in Tiananmen Square or in Teheran where the authorities might kill them. As if conceding the point, the ISM manual stressed that the volunteers were not in any real danger from Israeli security forces and advised them to inconvenience and disobey them in every way possible. The manual also advised those who were arrested to contact the Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild, an organization created by the American Communist Party with a half century of legal experience in supporting Communist and totalitarian causes.
After the break we were told how to deal with Israeli soldiers. If advised to leave an area designated a closed military zone where the IDF is fighting terrorists, we were told to demand their orders in writing. “The soldiers can only detain you. They have to call the border police to arrest you,” counseled Jamie.
A list of instructions was given on how to deal with possible arrests since we would be doing our best to break the law. If a Palestinian was arrested for something serious like throwing a Molotov cocktail, we were told to show “prison solidarity” with him. We were told that international demonstrators usually get released quickly by the police once they reach the police station. But if we refused to leave without our Palestinian companion, the police might release him also just to get rid of all of us.
“Carry only a photocopy of your passport if they ask to see yours. If they hold it, you have to remain like they tell you. But if it’s a photocopy you can escape while they are busy handling other demonstrators. If the soldiers tell you to back up ten feet, back up only five.” Anything and everything to interfere with the soldiers trying to do their jobs was our goal.
Jamie told us a story of how 100 “internationals” had surrounded six Israeli soldiers and besieged them at a roadblock set up to prevent suicide bombers from getting into Israel. The soldiers, all young boys and conscripts in the Israeli army, tried to control the mob until they ran out of non-lethal weapons and were forced to withdraw. The trainers all snickered at the story.
Not once all day, in any way, did members of our group – trainers or trainees – express a negative word about suicide bombings, or the shooting of women and children by Palestinian terrorists. But we were told repeatedly not to tell the Palestinians how to “resist.”
At the conclusion of our session, Jamie used her training as a social worker to prepare us to deal with long term trauma once we returned to the Bay Area. I thought it was an interesting lesson for people going to the Middle East to engage in “nonviolent” activities for peace. “Be ready for lots of violence,” she said.