Foreign activists in Judea and Samaria delegitimize Israel during wartime

ISM is a pro-Hamas group disguised as a human rights organization, staging confrontations and collecting intelligence on IDF positions.

By David Issac, JNS

Foreign radical activists have been openly agitating against Israel and its defense forces in Judea and Samaria even as the country is embroiled in a war.

Activists from the Palestinian-led International Solidarity Movement, some of whom have entered Israel under false pretenses (they claim to be tourists), have placed themselves in Judea and Samaria, including the South Hebron Hills, Jordan Valley and eastern Binyamin regions.

ISM is a pro-Hamas group disguised as a human rights organization, staging confrontations and collecting intelligence on IDF positions, Hebrew news site HaKol Hayehudi reported. On Oct. 25, ISM activists even harassed soldiers at an IDF outpost near the Jewish community of Maon in the South Hebron Hills.

ISM activists also undermine Israel by fueling a false narrative of a spike in “settler violence” after the Oct. 7 attack, through the spread of “false ‘updates’” from the field, according to the report.

Numerous media outlets have claimed there has been an increase in violence by Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria against Arabs, and those claims have reached U.S. officials.

U.S. President Joe Biden even discussed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the need to hold “extremist settlers accountable for violent acts,” in a Nov. 6 phone call.

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Subsequently, on Nov. 8, Netanyahu, in a meeting with council heads from Judea and Samaria, warned that “a handful of extremists that do not represent the public that is sitting here” is causing “great damage to the State of Israel.”

However, official police statistics contradict reports of an uptick in violence. Israeli daily Israel Hayom pointed to a sharp drop in cases of illegal activity by Israelis beyond the Green Line, finding a nearly 50% decrease in incidents where Jews were engaged in violent offenses in Judea and Samaria.

The IDF also said it hasn’t seen any such spike in violence and that the overall situation mirrors that of the same period last year.

The HaKol HaYehudi report spotlighted several ISM members in the area, including Alison Russell and Mick Bowman, who took part in the Maon incident, “Abu Sarah,” active mainly in the South Hebron Hills, who participated in a recent pro-Hamas rally in Hebron, and Chris Drake, active in Samaria, who tweeted her support for an Oct. 10 attack on Israel from Syria.

ISM works with Israeli left-wing radicals, among them Yasmin Eran Vardi, who lives in a “joint command center” for Israeli and foreign activists, Guy Hirschfeld, a well-known BDS activist, who operates mainly in the Jordan Valley region, and ISM co-founder Neta Golan, who changed her Facebook profile picture to one of a bulldozer breaking through the Gaza fence on Oct. 7.

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NGO Monitor reports that ISM is a project of the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees founded by Paul Larudee, an Iranian-born, U.S.-based supporter of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran and an organizer of the 2010 Mavi Marmara protest flotilla.

As Hamas carried out its invasion on Oct. 7, Larudee said, “Today, our Palestinian brothers and sisters are teaching the Zionists a lesson.”

Last year, ISM was exposed in the documentary series “Shtula” (or “Double Agent”), produced by Channel 13 in cooperation with pro-Israel NGO Ad Kan, in which a young Swedish woman goes undercover to expose the links between Hamas and so-called “human rights organizations” including ISM.

ISM’s best-known member is Rachel Corrie, the American activist who became an international cause célèbre when she was killed while stepping in front of an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip that was in the process of demolishing weapons-smuggling tunnels.

According to NGO Monitor, ISM co-founder Thom Saffold said of her death and that of another activist, “It’s possible they [the protesters] were not as disciplined as we would have liked. But we’re like a peace army. Generals send young men and women off to operations, and some die.”

HaKol HaYehudi noted that Israel has “the necessary legal tools” to deport foreign agitators and to block Israeli left-wing radicals from sensitive areas and that doing so would significantly limit the ability of anti-Israel organizations to engage in delegitimization activities and disrupt IDF security efforts.

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The Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit, which is responsible for implementing some civilian policies in Judea and Samaria, did not return JNS requests for comment.