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In fact, frequent OTI campus speaker and ISM co-founder George Rishmawi (there are in fact two George Rishmawis involved in the OTI and both are co-founders of the ISM) has explained that the recruitment of American student volunteers is useful to the Palestinian Movement because “if some of these foreign volunteers get shot or even killed, then the international media will sit up and take notice.”
That certainly was the case with American college student Rachel Corrie who, in March 2003, was accidentally killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza as she acted as a human shield for a weapons smuggling tunnel that was being demolished by the IDF. Other ISM activists have been maimed or killed, in some cases by Palestinians themselves.
In 2004 British activist Tom Hurndall was shot and killed in Gaza, and in April 2011 Italian Vittorio Arrigoni was kidnapped and later hung to death by a group of Palestinians in Gaza.
While ISM leaders publicly mourned all their deaths, a more accurate description of their feelings has come from ISM co-founders Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf who have written in the past:
The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics, both non-violent and violent. Yes, people will get killed and injured, but these deaths are no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation.
So, the question arises, if those allied with the ISM cause can be openly kidnapped and murdered, then what is the fate of innocent American college students traveling around the West Bank — led around by ISM activists like Rishmawi — to dialogue with a diverse collection of nefarious individuals and organizations?
These dangerous individuals even lurk in some networks in Jerusalem; networks which are likely connected to the ISM. Early in September, Israel’s Shin Blet security service foiled a suicide terrorist attack only 24 hours before the planned strike in a Jerusalem neighborhood. Discovery of the plot was part of a larger-scale operation carried out by Shin Bet against Hamas terrorists in the West Bank, an operation that led to the arrest of 13 separate Hamas terror cells.
The main Hamas cell, which was in charge of the planned suicide attack, was also responsible for a March attack in Jerusalem that killed a British tourist and wounded 47 others. Another terrorist cell exposed by the Shin Bet was operating from within Israel’s Ketziot prison where it had recruited around twenty militants whose prime objective was to kidnap an IDF soldier.
These arrests followed a similar operation in June by Israeli security forces in which they uncovered a terror cell belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP). In addition to planning the abduction of an Israeli soldier, the PLFP cell was also planning a series of shooting attacks in Israeli settlements around Ramallah; placing explosive devices in Jerusalem; and murdering those they determined to be Israeli sympathizers.
Unfortunately, the OTI’s links to groups that aid and abet such terror organizations has only served to heighten the potential danger students face when going to the Middle East on an OTI sponsored trip.
Yet, sadly, the OTI’s purposeful misuse of American students has been amply rewarded, not only through funding from the UC System but also through community support from various Jewish, Christian and Muslim organizations. Moreover, that support has enabled the OTI to garner numerous awards and honors, including from the US State Department.
So as the dangers continue to mount in the West Bank and Gaza, perhaps, some of these benefactors may want to revisit their support of the OTI before the next student trip takes place in 2012.
For in depth information on the Olive Tree Initiative and how you can stop support for the organization, please visit Ha-Emet.com.
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