MO Woman is Human Shield for Palestinians


MO: AREA WOMAN, 24, PLACES HERSELF AS HUMAN SHIELD FOR PALESTINIANS

The woman's defiant stance - back arched, arms outstretched - seemed to say, "Bring it on!" Yet, the scene seemed to betray her resolve. St. Louis County resident Jennifer Presson, 24, stood in front of a line of Israeli soldiers. They were armed with batons, guns and Plexiglas body shields.

The photos were sent to me via e-mail. One shows Presson being knocked aside by advancing shields. She included a detailed description of her encounter: "I stayed in front of them with my arms wide out to the side, trying to stand still. They pushed, I stumbled, they pushed, I stumbled and stood again. . . . they started beating me with batons."

Presson was one of two St. Louis women involved in Friday's protest march in Bil'in village, west of Ramallah, in the northern part of the West Bank. They are members of the International Solidarity Movement, a group of activists founded in 2001, dedicated to "nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation of Palestinian farmland." Operating under the theory that the media will be more sympathetic when Westerners are involved, some ISM members believe their presence ensures a degree of protection for the Palestinians.

However, the Anti-Defamation League's website lists the ISM as a "well-organized movement that spreads anti-Israel propaganda and misinformation" while supporting those engaged "in armed resistance against Israel."

I'm not taking any sides and don't pretend to understand the complexity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Presson's e-mail presented a disturbing front-line account of the protest marches, which, she says, have occurred every Friday since January 2005. The impassioned plea attached at the end of her e-mail was hard to ignore:

"If you know anyone in the media, please pass this on . . ."

Members of the ISM, which received international attention in 2002 when they entered the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem during a standoff between Israeli and Palestinian forces, place themselves in the midst confrontations, hoping to discourage bloodshed.

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