Welcome to Occupied Palestine. ISM: Anarchist Praxis in the Midst of an Ethno-Religious Conflict

November 18, 2013 by cosmoakacitizensmith

This sounds like the title of an academic thesis or summat, but bear with me, it’s quite straightforward, really! ūüėČ


Anarchism has always been internationalist in its outlook. Many pixels have been spilled over whether you can support nationalist or religious struggles if you are an anarchist. Nationalism, the argument goes, is just another power structure with all those ‚Äėorrible hierarchies we don‚Äôt like. And as for religion‚Ķ.well!

The group I have been with in Palestine is the¬†International Solidarity Movement or ISM.¬†¬†Although they do not describe themselves explicitly as such, they draw on anarchist ways of organising. There are no leaders. Everyone involved, whether you’re there for a weeks or months at a time, is invited to participate in planning meetings and decide the policy and direction of the group. Consensus decision making processes are used. There is a very clear safe space policy and zero tolerance of any kind of harassment and discrimination.

Most interesting of all is that the actions of the group are specifically¬†Palestinian-led. In other words, this isn‚Äôt just another bunch of white people, (and most of the group consisted of educated white Europeans/Americans), scheming away in the shadows and then throwing their weight around as some kind of ‚Äúsaviours‚ÄĚ. Nor were they parading their politics as ‚Äúthe only way‚ÄĚ. We were specifically asked by Palestinians to attend all the actions, demos and community projects I describe here. This is partly so we can report back what we saw to our wider communities, and partly because the presence of internationals can help calm down situations involving settlers and the military, (but not always). Finally, internationals can confront the police or army and not get locked up for months without trial, unlike Palestinians.

One criticism of ISM is that anyone could rock up to their training and get involved in the group, which could be a vulnerability. But overall it was good to see a social justice group based on non-violent direct action work mostly EFFECTIVELY in such a complex situation using anarchist methods of organising.

There are groups such as the Palestinian Anarchists and Anarchists Against the Wall¬†operating in Israel and Palestine who are overt in their political aims and objectives, but I didn’t have a chance to meet them. There have also been some very interesting criticisms of international activism in Palestine, of which this is an interesting example.¬†


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