Target: Peace (activists)

IssueJune - Aug 2003
News by Huwaida Arraf

Friday 11 April, Israeli soldiers shot another peace activist with the International Solidarity Movement. Tom Hurndall, a 22-year-old British civilian was shot in the head by the Israeli military, while trying to move Palestinian children out of the line of Israeli fire. The International Solidarity Movement was protesting at the Israeli military tactic of shooting into Palestinian civilian neighbourhoods, by making their unarmed presence known to the Israeli military. Tom was wearing a bright orange reflective jacket and went to escort Pales-tinian children when a bullet hit him in the back of the head.

On Saturday 5 April, 24-year-old US peace activist, Brian Avery was shot through the face by Israeli soldiers, also while he was attempting to dissuade Israeli soldiers from shooting at Palestinian civilians. Brian was unarmed, arms raised in the air and clearly visible to the Israeli soldiers who were rolling their tanks through the Palestinian city of Jenin when he was shot.

On 16 March, 23-year old US peace activist Rachel Corrie was run over by an Israeli-driven, US-supplied Caterpillar bulldozer while she was nonviolently protesting the Israeli military policy of demolishing Palestinian civilian homes. Rachel put herself in front of the home of a Palestinian doctor, which was threatened with demolition, with the belief that the driver of the bulldozer would spare the house and her life. He didn't and Rachel was crushed to death.

In the face of injustice

For two years the International Solidarity Movement has been operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, devising nonviolent methods and strategies to confront the Israeli occupation forces and their illegal policies, which abuse, maim and kill innocent civilians every day.

The ISM was founded by Palestinians and international activists with the belief that resistance to injustice must not be deterred by the military strength of the oppressor, but rather that we need to continue to stand in the face of injustice and challenge abuse with the strength of our rights and the power of universal humanity.

We called on people from all over the world to join us and today we have people from around the globe, including Israel, of different ethnicities and nationalities, Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others, standing with the Palestinian people, and mobilising for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

Is the world watching?

From the very beginning we had to deal with the racist system in which we were working, not only within the Israel military, but in the international community. Palestinian civilians are shot and killed every day, but the world doesn't seem to pay attention.

Palestinian children have even been blamed for their own deaths, accused of throwing stones at the Israeli army, thus justifying their shooting, when in reality, most were killed going about their daily activities - playing, walking to school, or even while in their own homes. Palestinian women have died on their way to hospital to give birth (because Israeli soldiers held them up at checkpoints) and have been crushed in their own homes, when these homes are demolished by the Israeli military.

Palestinians can be shot and killed when roaming in their own streets if there is a curfew declared by the Israeli army, yet international civilians seemed to be immune from this kind of abuse.

Asking the right questions

In April, during the Israeli military siege on Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Jenin, internationals had to carry out life-saving tasks of walking in the streets to deliver food and medicine to Palestinians who were not allowed to leave their homes.

Internationals were riding in ambulances to deter the Israeli army from shooting at Palestinian medical workers. When we put international civilians in President Arafat's compound and in the Church of the Nativity, it was because we knew that, in a disturbing way, international lives would be worth more to the invading Israeli army and to the interest of the international community than the hundreds of Palestinian civilians that were under siege.

With the killing of Rachel, the shooting of Brian and now the shooting of Tom, many have asked “what are these foreigners doing in such a dangerous place?” The question people should be asking is “what is the Israeli military doing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?” or, even better, “why does Israel make it dangerous to be a civilian - international or Palestinian - in the West Bank and Gaza?”