Sunday I spent 11 hours at nonviolent resistance training with ISM. It was a very, very long day. The first half of it was pretty boring because it was all cultural awareness training – which is sort of unnecessary after 2 months of living in the Occupied Territories. The second half was very useful, we learned and practiced some techniques that might be useful with difficult soldiers at checkpoints and talked about power and privilege in our lives and as internationals in the Palestine. The training stressed the importance of not dehumanizing Israeli soldiers and of maintaining calm in all situations, if at all possible.
Another important point is that ISM only works in areas where they are invited by the local Palestinian community. All of the initiatives come from Palestinians and not internationals. It is not the place of an ISMer to criticize any Palestinian’s actions, even if they are throwing stones at a demonstration – it is their right to resist the occupation, according to international law. The trainers really focused on the point that we are here to support the Palestinians, PERIOD.
It was interesting to see how nonviolence techniques are taught, and which definitions are used by ISM. For example, ISM does not consider the destruction of the Wall to be a form of violence, but many other proponents and practitioners of nonviolence would argue that any destruction of property is violent. The second day of training should be even more useful because that is when the legal section will be covered which will include what our rights are as internationals as well as what Israeli soldiers rights are in dealing with us. For example, who can arrest us, who can take our passports, which threats are empty, which actions by soldiers are prohibited by their own laws, etc . . . This is the main reason that I organized this training session – I want to know what the rules are and what the consequences of breaking those rules are before I engage the Occupation Forces.
I would love to work regularly with ISM, but since I’m on a fellowship from the government at the moment it seems like a bad idea. So, this trip I will watch and learn and hopefully next time I will have the opportunity to be more active.
In unrelated news, I have decided to stay in Palestine for Christmas so that I can help with the preparations for the Nonviolence Conference in Bethlehem at the end of December. I won’t be back in DC until the end of the first week of January – probably. I was seriously thinking about staying here for the spring semester as well, but I have resisted the temptation. I know perfectly well that if I stay I will spend my time volunteering and not writing my thesis.