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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

December 11, 2002


Nathan Musselman, Susan Barney and Katie Thomas profess to seek peace between Jews and Arabs, yet all they have done is aggravate the conflict and further endanger the very people they want to help - the poor Palestinians whom they pity.

Not to mention the Israeli soldiers who are on constant edge in this senseless war.

These are young Americans and Britons with no personal stake in this conflict who are not content with holding up protest signs at college campuses in Boston, Virginia or England.

No, they have to fly 7,000 miles and head straight to places like Bethlehem and Ramallah to inject themselves into the middle of a war zone.

All three were arrested by the Israeli army to face deportation and achieved their 15 minutes of fame in their respective communities through news stories in The Boston Globe, The Richmond Times Dispatch and the London-based Guardian.

They have not achieved the worldwide fame enjoyed by Adam Shapiro, the Jewish Brooklyn native who got to break bread with Yasser Arafat during an overnight stay in Ramallah as the town was shelled by Israeli soldiers.

A number of Americans, Britons and other foreigners - many of whom are neither Jewish nor Muslim - have snuck food into the Church of the Nativity during the 39-day siege in Bethlehem; disrupted work associated with the construction of the security fence aimed at keeping suicide bombers out of Israel; blocked a road out of Hawara near Nablus; and tried to persuade Israeli soldiers into allowing ambulances into trouble spots.

Never mind that their very presence added to the confusion and havoc, which in turn could have led to further loss of lives - including that of the soldiers, Palestinian civilians and themselves.

Most of them were hosted by a group called the International Solidarity Movement whose Web site describes its mission as sending foreign activists to support Palestinian protests against Israeli settlers and soldiers on the West Bank.

ISM contradicts itself by claiming in one breath to ‘utilize nonviolent, direct-action methods of resistance,’ yet in the next breath professing to ‘support the Palestinian right to resist the occupation.’ Of course, it does not clarify if the ‘right to resist’ allows for violence.

It would be one thing for these people to lobby their members of Congress and legislators in the Knesset or hold demonstrations in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, but their activities in the territories are downright dangerous. Just being there means they could be in the way of Israeli troops who have enough on their hands without them. Such moves could lead to the deaths of even more people, including the very Palestinians whom they profess to be helping.

Musselman, a Roanoke, Va., resident, majored in theology and peace studies in college and went on to stand at Israeli checkpoints to ensure that soldiers were not harassing Palestinians, his mother, Karin Musselman, told The Richmond Times Dispatch. He graduated to being arrested for helping to feed Arab gunmen holed up inside the Church of the Nativity last May.

Her mother told the newspaper, ‘The American embassy has not been helpful at all. I think they feel they’re just kids who are meddlesome and they need to have their hands slapped.’

It sounds more like they got off easy.

Katie Thomas, who was deported to England in August, told a reporter for The Guardian during an interview in Bristol that she was inspired to fly to Israel partly because she learned that a friend was shot in the stomach by Israeli soldiers at a peaceful demonstration in Bethlehem.

As if her friend had no idea that this was possible. And you might think that this would be sufficient reason to deter her from playing with fire.

Susan Barney of the Boston area was among the latest of Americans and others detained after demonstrators tried to disrupt destruction of trees and land to make way for the security fence last month.

As for the future, Musselman’s mother says, ‘I fear once he gets home, he’ll be even more frustrated because he won’t be able to go back, and he’s always been interested in that part of the world and he wanted to finish his studies.’

Whose fault is that? That’s right: Blame the Jews again.

Contributed by Bruce S. Ticker, Philadelphia,