On Friday, April 11th, 2003, Tom Hurndall was shot in the head. Tom was injured in Rafah, a Palestinian settlement on the border of Egypt. As of this writing, four days later, he lies in a coma in an Israeli hospital in Bersheeba, in serious but stable condition, after a four-hour life-saving operation. Tom was a twenty-one year old university student from Manchester, who majored in photography. He was also an activist for a controversial pro-Palestinian organization called the International Solidarity Movement.
At the time of his injury, Tom Hurndall was armed, wearing tiger fatigues, and shooting at a Israeli Defense Force outpost, taking cover behind a nearby building between shots.
Those of you reading about Tom Hurndall in the American or British media might start at this last sentence. After all, you read a dramatically different version of events in your weekend papers, which probably went something like this:
At the time of his injury, Tom Hurndall was unarmed, dressed in the bright orange jacket of the International Solidarity Movement, and steering two Palestinian children away from a firing Israeli tank-mounted machine gun.
That sound better? The first story, which cast Tom Hurndall as an armed combatant, was based on a Sunday, April 13th report of the Israeli Defense Forces. The second story, which cast Tom Hurndall as a heroic rescuer of defenseless children, was based on 'eyewitness' reports from Tom's fellow activists in the International Solidarity Movement. This second story got picked up by Reuters, who wrote that the Israeli Defense Force critically wounded a "British peace activist helping Palestinian children cross a street under gunfire." It also got picked up by the Associated Press, who also claimed Hurndall was helping "children out of the line of fire." With the aid of these two newswire services, the second story made its way into almost every major American paper by Saturday, the day after.
One event, two radically stories. Two radically different Tom Hurndalls. But which is true? We simply don't know. Right now an inquiry is underway, but conclusions have not been reached. One might be tempted to prefer the International Solidarity Movement's version, just based on its popularity in the American press. But the American press has not told us all we need to know. Often Hurndall's organization, the International Solidarity Movement, has not even been
This media silence is unfortunate, for the International Solidarity Movement has been very active lately. Three of their members have been killed or seriously injured in less than a month; Tom Hurndall was only the latest. Another member, Brian Avery, was wounded on April 5th while breaking a curfew in the Palestinian settlement of Jenin. Milling with young men throwing rocks at the Israeli Defense Forces, Avery was wound by the debris thrown up by a warning shot near his feet. While Avery will live, some of the debris tore into his face, and he will require plastic surgery for his wounds.
The first incident was the most serious, and the most reported in the press - the March 16th death of twenty-three year old Rachel Corrie, crushed beneath a bulldozer in Rafah when its operator failed to see her. Corrie was attempting to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home, as the press widely reported. But most of the press (but not FrontPagemag.com) failed to report the presence of extensive tunnels underneath the homes of Rafah, used to deliver arms across the Egyptian border to the terrorist Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Houses involved in such smuggling are demolished as a matter of course. And when Corrie was killed, according to a Israeli Consulate media officer in San Francisco, the bulldozer was not even attempting to raze a home - just remove shrubbery used to hide a tunnel. Rachel Corrie died for nothing. An inquiry into her death found that she and other members of the International Solidarity Movement had engaged in "illegal, irresponsible, and dangerous" behavior. Indeed - by blocking the destruction of these houses, the International Solidarity Movement may have contributed to the arming of terrorists and the murder of innocent people.
Members of the International Solidarity Movement have also been arrested recently. On March 27th, a counterguerilla squad of the IDF's Golani brigade was in close pursuit of a leading member of Islamic Jihad, Shadi Sukia, responsible for recruiting several suicide bombers, laying land mines, and sniping. They traced him to a building in Jenin holding an ISM office, but the coordinator, Susan Barcley, refused to let them in. Unfortunately for both ISM and the terrorists, the Israeli Defense Force was not requesting. They entered the office, found the hiding terrorist, and arrested both him and Barcley.
While the International Solidarity Movement coordinator later claimed she did not know Sukia was a terrorist, this does not excuse her refusal to cooperate with the IDF. And it most certainly does not excuse what the IDF found in a search of the International Solidarity Movement's premises - a pistol and a cache of Kalashnikov rifles.
Barclay was deported for her actions.
What is this International Solidarity Movement? According to their website (source: http://www.palsolidarity.org), the group was founded in 2001, and exists to "raise awareness of the struggle for Palestinian freedom." While they recognize the Palestinians' right to 'armed struggle' - in other words, they give terrorism against Israelis a pass - they claim that they personally only use 'non-violent' techniques to achieve their aims. Led by Palestinians working closely with American recruiters, the International Solidarity Movement invites individuals from the West to come to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and disrupt the actions of the Israeli Defense Force. The International Solidarity Movement seems to believe that the Western citizenship of these activists gives them the immunity to do whatever they wish within Israel - treating them as criminals or terrorists would cause too much controversy for the Israelis in the international community. Using this 'first-world privilege', the International Solidarity Movement has temporarily taken over Israeli military checkpoints, interfered with the arrests of Palestinians charged with terrorism, and attempted to prevent the destruction of homes containing tunnels for weapons smuggling. Since August 2001, the group has conducted several large, episodic campaigns in Palestinian territories and maintains a continual, low-level presence year-round.
If you only read the International Solidarity Movement's communiques, or the quotes of their members in your morning newspaper, you might be forgiven for thinking the International Solidarity Movement was being deliberately targeted. However, the International Solidarity Movement has been caught lying on multiple occasions.
For instance, on the death of Rachel Corrie, activists in the International Solidarity Movement flew to the media, releasing a series of pictures on their web site. The first showed Rachel standing off to the side of an advancing bulldozer, easily visible, shouting through a megaphone. The next, her broken, twisted body. The International Solidarity Movement used these pictures to imply to the media that Rachel Corrie was easily visible to the bulldozer's operator and therefore deliberately run down; the Associated Press released the first picture with a caption that read "Rachel was run over Sunday by the bulldozer that she was trying to stop from tearing down a building in the Rafah refugee camp, witnesses said." The respected Christian Science Monitor made the appropriate inferences, writing that the picture showed Corrie "moments before" the bulldozer ran her down.
Other media outlets did the same, buying the implied context - but, after a couple of days, the truth came out. The first picture was taken hours before the second; immediately before Corrie's death, when she was obscured by the bulldozer's blade, no photographs were taken. In fact, she was killed by a completely different bulldozer, a model with much smaller windows.
One shouldn't be surprised by this deceit. Anyone able to stop on the way to help a critically-wounded friend in order to snap a couple of propaganda shots isn't above falsifying the facts of her death. But as the saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you - fool me twice, shame on me." Which is why the Associated Press' article of April 5th on the shooting of Brian Avery is so puzzling. It reports, quoting another ISM member, that Avery was shot in the face just after emerging from his apartment building, having heard gunfire. But the same ISM member told a very different story on their own website, clearly stating, in an otherwise self-serving story, that the Israelis fired at their feet.
The lesson learned? When reading ISM reports of Tom Hurndall's injury, err on the side of skepticism. Newspaper articles that claim Hurndall was 'shepherding children to safety' are merely parroting the International Solidarity Movement's claims. After perpetuating so many falsehoods, they've lost their right to the benefit of the doubt.
But, to be fair, Tom Hurndall is not Rachel Corrie not Brian Avery, and we need to take a closer look at their story before we dismiss it outright. Do the Reuters and Associated Press reports contain any information which might substantiate their claims?
Yes - but no. The Associated Press article does attempt to substantiate its claims with independent, non-ISM eyewitnesses, a refreshing change from the past. They quote both a Khalil Abdullah and a Khalil Hamra, who concur with the ISM's story. But neither of these individuals are without bias. Khalil Abdullah reported that, although not a member, he works with the group. And Khalil Hamra? A photographer on assignment for the Associated Press, Hamra works out of Rafah, specializing in pictures of armed Palestinian militants, the bodies of Palestinians killed by the IDF, and anti-Israeli protests. He seems to have enjoyed a particularly close relationship with the International Solidarity Movement, taking many of the pictures in the aftermath of Rachel Corrie's death and Tom Hurndall's shooting, as well as pictures of the ISM at anti-American protests - most notably, the infamous shot of Rachel Corrie screaming in rage as, surrounded by Palestinian children, she lights on fire a paper American flag. While the subjects of a photographer do not necessarily indicate his sympathies, we note from a 10 June 2002 statement by the Foreign Press Association that Khalil Hamra of Rafah was jailed for several days in 2002 by the Israeli Defense Force while working for Reuters in Ramallah. IDF spokesmen explained that the arrest was due to suspicions that linked him to terror activities.
A man who admits to working with a group of demonstrated liars and a photographer arrested for his links to terrorism - not exactly model witnesses. Not much better than reports from the International Solidarity Movement themselves.
On the other hand, do we have any evidence supporting the Israeli Defense Forces' claim - that Hurndall was armed, that Hurndall was firing? No - but yes. No direct evidence, but we can't deny the indirect evidence, the Kalashnikovs found in the office. This evidence shows the International Solidarity Movement is not nearly as committed to non-violence as they would like you to believe. This 'principle' of theirs, belied by their arsenal, has served them well in America, where the International Solidarity Movement has several branches.
The primary purpose of the International Solidarity Movement in America is to spread information about the group and recruit participants for travel abroad. Representatives of the International Solidarity Movement can be found in Ann Arbor, Boston, Colorado, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York City, San Francisco, Washington state, and Washington D.C; while not all of these groups provide contact information, several have their own recruiting websites and all actively organize for the creation a Palestinian state. Some, like Ann Arbor's Thom Saffold, have been supporting murder campaigns for decades. A former Baptist minister, Saffold first got involved in what he terms 'peacekeeping' by defending the communist Sandinista government of Nicaragua back in 1983. His twisted logic is apparent when he states that "the tragic death of our Jewish Israeli sisters and brothers is a result of Israel's repression" - anything but the suicide bombers, it seems. All the while he attempts to sent young people to the Middle East to aid terrorists, using the college town of Ann Arbor as his stalking ground.
Other branches of the International Solidarity Movement hide behind more 'mainstream' Palestinian support groups - the International Solidarity Movement in Boston hides behind an organization called the Boston Committee for Palestinian Rights, while the International Solidarity Movement in Colorado is a subset of the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace. These organizations use their more respectable front to funnel money to the more extreme International Solidarity Movement. For instance, the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace funds itself in part by directing donors to make their checks out to the A. J. Muste Memorial Institute, a tax exempt 501c3 organization in New York City which provides funding and/or office space to a wide variety of leftist organizations, including groups linked to Muslim terrorists.
The Muste Memorial Institute has adopted the Colorado Coalition for Middle East Peace as a 'fiscal sponsor,' accepting tax-deductible donations for the coalition and passing them on. Therefore donors can help undermine the security of one of America's staunchest allies, all while getting a break on their taxes. In 2001, the last year for which tax returns are available, the Muste Institute chipped in two thousand of its own money. The main branch of the organization funnels its cash through a 501c called, oddly enough, the Africa Fund - why concern yourself with geography when you can get a tax break? If you're not worried about savings from the IRS, they provide an overseas bank account in Tel Aviv.
Some of the International Solidarity Movement's tactics are old. In hiding their positions behind the rhetoric of 'peace', while fully backing the terrorist opponents of peace, they resemble 1980s organizations like the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), set up in America by high-ranking members of the Salvadoran Communist Party and Cuban intelligence to support El Salvador's murderous guerrilla bands. This committee, part of the Soviet-controlled World Peace Council, also attempted to influence American public opinion through protests and one-sided disinformation, all the while fundraising for their guerrilla sponsors. Through their efforts, CISPES also won the support of leftist Democratic congressmen.But some of the tactics of the ISM are new. Their physical defense of terrorism on the front lines of the war against it is most disturbing - especially after 9/11, when America woke to the extent of the terrorist threat.
Unfortunately, the International Solidarity Movement's disinformation campaign has had a certain amount of success, both in America and in Israel. In America, the International Solidarity Movement has found a congressman willing to stump for it - Democratic Rep. Brian Baird, who has been calling for yet another inquiry into the death of Rachel Corrie; this despite the findings of the previous one, which placed the responsibility for her death squarely upon herself. And in Israel, the leftist wing of the Labor Party has begun to use Hurndall's unfortunate adventure to argue for the blunting of the IDF - the former Minister for Immigrant Absorption, Yuli Tamir, has called for an inquiry into the IDF's use of force. "The fact that these people come here for a good cause and are harmed bothers people," Ms Tamir said. But no 'good cause' hides terrorist recruiters in their offices. If the IDF had not come barging in, Shadi Sukia, arrested on their premises, could have arranged many more deaths.
When the facts are out, no one should be fooled by the International Solidarity Movement's attempts to turn Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall into martyrs. These people defended the most depraved type of violence - the violence of bombs in marketplaces, the violence of 9/11, the violence of dictators like Saddam Hussein. It's no coincidence that Hurndall served as a human shield for the Iraqi dictatorship before arriving in Israel. His claim, that he was in Iraq taking pictures for a college course, rings hollow - most young men don't travel to war zones for a few credit-hours.
If Hurndall lives, and is competent to stand, he should be tried for his actions by the Israeli government. The governments of America and Britain, so strongly committed to the war on terrorism, should support them, allowing the trials of Hurndall and future cases like his to proceed without interference and launching a thorough investigation of the International Solidarity Movement's activities on their own soil. By virtue of their Western origins and non-violent rhetoric, these radicals think they can get away with crimes others cannot. It is time to put this delusion to rest, and teach them the truth - a terrorist is a terrorist, no matter what their nationality.
Two Tom Hurndalls. The defenders of the peace call him violent; the harborers of terrorists, peaceful. Who will you believe?