While the actions of a small nongovernmental organization, operating out of refugee camps and olive groves would be an unlikely candidate for the media spotlight, what has set the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) apart has been its talent at placing some of the most naive and ill-equipped young idealists into some of the most complex and mentally-demanding global hot-spots.
The ISM, which defines itself as a "movement of Palestinian and international activists working to raise awareness of the struggle for Palestinian freedom and an end to Israeli occupation," praises the virtues of its own commitment to nonviolence while recognizing "the Palestinian right to resist Israeli violence and occupation via legitimate armed struggle." Although the organization generally preserves the ambiguity of its definition of legitimate armed struggle, the ideas that it expresses in Peace under Fire, a work edited by ISM activists themselves, help to clear up some of the confusion.
A largely jumbled and tiresome collection of news articles, diary entries, personal letters, and press releases by and about ISM members, one might say Peace under Fire attempts to put a human face on the Palestinian cause, including its resort to violence. Yet, most of the entries simply illustrate the incredible lengths to which ISM activists are willing to go to irritate not even the highest-level Israeli military and political authorities but rather, more frequently, the low-ranking soldiers deployed in the field.
Highlighting its members' acts of heroism and peaceful civil disobedience within a political and strategic vacuum, the matter of Palestinian terrorism is almost completely skirted. When attacks on Israeli civilians do receive mention, they are attributed to the brutality of the Israeli occupation. Although an effort is made to condemn attacks on Israeli civilians, the ISM's definition of legitimate resistance essentially validates the use of violence against Israeli military targets. How a movement billing itself as ideologically set on nonviolence can be so comfortable with a one-sided application of violence is mind-boggling, if not just plainly sad.