' Live from Palestine: International and Palestinian Direct Action Against the Israeli Occupation' and ' By Theft and Murder: A Beginners Guide to the Occupation of Palestine'

IssueMarch - May 2004
Review by Gabriel Carlyle

One of the few glimmers of hope in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict in recent years has been the growth of a movement of international solidarity with the Palestinians calling for a just resolution to the conflict and utilising the techniques of nonviolent direct action to oppose the Israeli occupation, the best known example of which is the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

Activists from around the world - many from the US and Britain - have travelled to the occupied territories to harvest olives, dismantle roadblocks, prevent house demolitions, and shield ambulances and refugee camps from attack. In the case of the ISM - a movement of internationals led by Palestinians - the hope is that these and other activities can help build a powerful Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement.

Live from Palestine is a collection of roughly 40 short essays, interviews and diary extracts by both Palestinians and internationals, the heart of which is a series of undeniably powerful accounts by the internationals, many of which focus on the horrific events of March/April 2002, when Israel “re-invaded” the occupied territories (“Operation Defensive Shield”). Other essays trace the historical precedents for this movement in the International Brigades and groups like Witness for Peace and examine the long history of non-violent resistance inside the occupied territories.

By contrast Theft and Murder is an account by one Briton of his involvement with the ISM, focussing on a single delegation in December 2001. Curtis takes us from his touchdown in Tel Aviv airport, through the training workshops with his fellow ISMers, to his exploits in Salfit and elsewhere. Curtis recounts some horrific - and some inspirational - stories but there is also humour, eg when he takes part in unarmed “tank-chasing” near Nablus. It is perhaps only fair to warn prospective readers that Curtis adopts a tone - and a line in self deprecation - that will grate on some but appeal to others.

As should be clear these two books are documents of, rather than about, this new movement. Whilst it would be fascinating to learn more about the formation and structure of the ISM, its trials, tribulations and internal battles, those looking for something along the lines of Christian Smith's book Resisting Reagan: The US Central America Peace Movement are going to have a long wait. In the meantime either of these two books will serve as a good point to start for anyone who has heard about it and wants to learn more.

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