This essay was originally published at The Jewish Press
Today, an Israeli court rejected a lawsuit filed by the family of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American who was killed by a military bulldozer nine years ago, ruling that the death was an accident for which Corrie was responsible and, further, that there was no proof the soldiers acted with intent to harm or criminal neglect.
In reports on the trial over the past few days, the media mostly ignored the role played by International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the young woman’s tragic death.
For instance, in three reports by the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent about the trial, Harriet Sherwood, (here, here, and here), all Sherwood wrote about ISM were that they were pro-Palestinian activists involved in “direct action”, and that they were “accused by [the IDF] of illegal, irresponsible and dangerous” behaviour.
Sherwood, like much of the media, didn’t think it was relevant to provide her readers with even a short description of ISM’s reckless and extremely dangerous behavior – dangerous for both Israelis involved in anti-terror operations, as well as for the ISM volunteers, like Corrie, cynically exploited for “the cause”.
ISM was founded in 2001 by a group of young, extremist left Americans. According to the Terrorism Information Center, between 2001 and 2005, the years of the second intifada, ISM volunteers engaged in activities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and “did not merely help the Palestinian population, but intentionally hindered IDF anti-terror activities.”
Their activities included “serving as human shields for terrorist operatives wanted by the Israeli security forces”, and “provid[ing] Palestinian terrorist operatives…with financial, logistic and moral support, hindering the razing and sealing of houses of suicide bombers.”
Since the end of the Intifada ISM activists were among the founders of the pro-Hamas umbrella ‘Free Gaza Movement’, and consistently send volunteers to protest demonstrations at focal points of Palestinian-Israeli friction, such as in Bil’in.
While ISM describes itself as “committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles”, Paul Larudee, the Northern California head of the ISM, has said that “We recognize that violence is necessary and it is permissible for oppressed and occupied people to use armed resistance and we recognize their right to do so.”
Similarly, in a 2002 article, ISM co-founders Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf wrote, “The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics, both non-violent and violent,” adding that “[i]n actuality, nonviolence is not enough…Yes, people will get killed and injured.”
Shapiro and Arraf lauded such deaths as “no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation. And we are certain that if these men were killed during such an action, they would be considered shaheed Allah.”
ISM activists and organizers have time and again justified terrorism and associated with terrorists.
In 2003 alone, for example, ISM activist Susan Barclay admitted in an interview that she worked with representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jidhad; terrorists originating from UK who had attacked the Mike’s Place bar in Tel Aviv, murdering three people, had, according to an Israeli report, ”forg[ed] links with foreign left-wing activists and members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)”; and senior Islamic Jihad terrorist Shadi Sukiya was arrested while he was hiding in ISM’s Jenin office and being assisted by two ISM activists.
(See NGO Monitor’s page documenting ISM’s terrorism associations).
IT SHOULD NOT be surprising that the 2003 incident involving Corrie took place in the “Military Installations Area,” along the Egyptian border, at the Philadelphi Route, which was considered a hostile battlefield because of the large number of attacks carried out by terrorists.
Between 2000 and March 2003, the area was also notorious for being the primary smuggling route for terrorists bringing weaponry into Gaza and the West Bank from Egypt. Terrorist activities during this period included thousands of grenade attacks, 184 anti-tank missile attacks, 147 road-side explosives, and 41 mortar attacks.
Indeed, the IDF mission on the day in question, which ISM was trying to impede, was merely an effort to level terrain and clear debris near the border in order to remove cover for future terrorist attacks.
Several ISM protestors entered the closed military zone to intentionally interfere in this routine mission. The IDF attempted to remove them with shock grenades, tear gas and warning shots, but they refused to leave the site.
The dangerous conduct of ISM activists—who ignored IDF warnings, refused to leave the area, and purposely put themselves in harm’s way— were the main factors leading to the tragic result.
Corrie’s ISM colleague and handler, Joseph Smith eulogized Corrie, chillingly justifying the sacrifice of human life for the cause, stating:
“The spirit that she died for is worth a life. This idea of resistance, this spirit of resisting this brutal occupying force, is worth anything. And many, many, many Palestinians give their lives for it all the time. So the life of one international, I feel, is more than worth the spirit of resisting oppression.”
Smith’s words and ISM’s activities make it clear that ISM callously views such “sacrifices” as “progressive” acts of resistance which are worth the human cost. It is shameful that ISM will never face serious critical scrutiny for their recklessness, despite of their well-documented record of terror-abetting extremism, which ultimately took the life of Rachel Corrie.