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Huwaida Arraf : Profile and Biography

By Stand4Facts.org


Overview

Huwaida Arraf, a 27-year-old American of Palestinian descent, was one of the co-founders of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), [1] a group founded in 2001 in Ramallah that claims to be dedicated to “non-violent resistance” against the “Israeli occupation.” [2] Supporters laud how “Huwaida walks toward gunfire with an air of tranquil certainty that she belongs here and the soldiers, with their fences and guns and tanks, do not.” [3]

Arraf’s romance and subsequent marriage to Adam Shapiro fueled media attention. Shaprio had seized the media spotlight in March 2002 when he infiltrated Yasser Arafat’s compound to stand in solidarity with the besieged leader. Stories focused on the fact that he was Jewish and she was a Palestinian American, and included such titles as “A Love Under Fire.” [4]

The young wife and husband are the most prominent American spokespeople and activists for ISM. They often do joint presentations, giving audiences the impression they are getting a Jewish and Palestinian perspective on the conflict. But their presentations only describe the plight of the Palestinians, show graphic videos and photos of the “occupation” and detail their own resistance activities in the Territories. [5] They draw sympathetic audiences who are on occasion moved to tears by tales of Palestinian suffering.

Arraf and Shapiro call themselves “peace activists,” and portray themselves as heroic resisters of Israeli oppression. The media buys this image and plays it up. In fact, however, Arraf is not a pacifist or a peacemaker, nor does she present a balanced view of the conflict. Consider some of her positions:

  • “The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics - both nonviolent and violent. …No other successful nonviolent movement was able to achieve what it did without a concurrent violent movement…..” Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, 1/29/02 [6]
  • “Hamas claims it has many men ready to be suicide bombers-we advocate that these men (use non-violent resistance)….This is no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation.” Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, 1/29/02 [7]
  • “While we do not advocate adopting the methods of Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr., we do believe that learning from their experience and informing a Palestinian movement with this knowledge can be quite valuable and of great utility…”Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, 1/29/02 [8]
  • “I was among the civilians who went into Yasser Arafat’s compound to protest the siege and express solidarity.” [9] Huwaida Arraf on the IDF’s Operation Defensive Shield in Ramallah Spring, 2002.
  • “Let us reiterate, we accept that Palestinians have a right to resist with arms….”Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, 1/29/02 [10]
  • “[1]t’s true that there isn’t a broad acceptance of or participation in strategic non-violence because there is no popular leadership willing to commit to this strategy and use it….” Adam Shapiro interview July/August 2002[11]
  • “The soldiers kept telling me to leave the area, as I was in a closed military zone and preventing them from doing their job - really annoying them. I refused, telling them that there was no way I was going to leave.” Huwaida Arraf protecting Palestinians at the Huwwara checkpoint near Nablus June 18 2003[12]
  • “In April 2002, international activists with help from Palestinians were able to out-manoeuvre the Israeli military during two of its biggest and most important military operations in recent Israeli history. At the Presidential Compound in Ramallah, we walked past the Israeli military three times, despite threats and shooting. At the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, we made our way through sniper-ridden alleys and tank-patrolled streets to break through the cordons of the Israeli military, delivering food and water to the trapped people inside and putting a kink in the plans of the Israeli army.” Huwaida Arraf June 2003[13] “President Arafat, who greeted each [ISM]activist personally, thanked the groupfor their support. ‘We are in need of your help, ’”headded.” ISM Press Release December 18, 2001 [14]
  • “[My father] grew up [in Israel] oppressed by a people who, under Israeli law, had more rights to his land than he did.” Huwaida Arraf, May 31 2003 [15]
  • “We don’t have an official dialogue with armed groups, but we talk to them and they consider nonviolence as a legitimate strategy, but not the only way to resist. They’re not trying to prevent us from doing our work….” Adam Shapiro, Interview July/August 2002 [16]
  • The ISM website informs potential ISM activists that “the level of risk dramatically increased in the April ISM campaign with internationals on the receiving end of shrapnel, live fire over their heads, tear-gassing, rubber bullets, sound bombs, beatings, interrogations, arrests and deportations. Without sounding crass, the benefits were many and obvious:…”[17]
  • Arraf was one of the ISM members who tried to assist the Palestinians terrorists who had seized the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in May 2002. “We had tried to get into the basilica before, but this time the coordination was better.” [18]

 


[1] “The Palestinian Struggle and the Global Intifada come home to Richmond VA,” November 8 2002 at http://richmond.indymedia.org/newswire/display/2009

[2] Palestine Solidarity Website at www.palsolidarity.org

[3] Johann Hari, “ISM United by Hatred of Oppression,” seattlepi.com at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/133346_hari03.html

[4] Nicholas Blincoe, “A Love Under Fire,” The Guardian, May 31, 2003 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,966226,00.html

[5] “A Zionist Goes to the University of Michigan Divestment Conference,” October 6, 2002 at http://elitzur.blogspot.com/2002_10_06_elitzur_archive.html

[6] Arraf and Shapiro, “Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada: A Response to Ramzy Baroud,” in The Palestine Chronicle, January 29, 2002. At http://palestinechronicle.com/article.php?story=20020129050221695

[7] Arraf and Shapiro, “Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada: A Response to Ramzy Baroud,” in The Palestine Chronicle, January 29, 2002. At http://palestinechronicle.com/article.php?story=20020129050221695

[8] Arraf and Shapiro, “Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada: A Response to Ramzy Baroud,” in The Palestine Chronicle, January 29, 2002. At http://palestinechronicle.com/article.php?story=20020129050221695

[9] Huwaida Arraf, “Palestinians Won’t Give Up the Struggle,” www.socialistworker.org/2002-1/405/405_06_HuwaidaArraf.shtml

[10] Arraf and Shapiro, “Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada: A Response to Ramzy Baroud,” in The Palestine Chronicle, January 29, 2002. At http://palestinechronicle.com/article.php?story=20020129050221695

[11] Mark LeVine, “An Interview with Adam Shapiro,” Tikkun Magazine, July/August 2002 at www.tikkun.org/magzine/index.cfm/action/tikkun/mode/printer_friendly/issue/tik0207

[12] Letter from Huwaida Arraf, June 19 2003 http://www.green-rainbow.org/pipermail/needtoknow/2003-June/001152.html

[13] Huwaida Arraf, “Fighting the Conspiracy of Silence,” Al-Ahram Weekly 29 May-4 June 2003 at http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/print/2003/640/re5.htm

[14] Cited at http://toogoodreports.com/column/general/stix/20020414-fss.htm

[15] Nicholas Blincoe, “A Love Under Fire,” The Guardian, May 31, 2003 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,966226,00.html

[16] Mark LeVine, “An Interview with Adam Shapiro,” Tikkun Magazine, July/August 2002 www.tikkun.org/magzine/index.cfm/action/tikkun/mode/printer_friendly/issue/tik0207

[17] http://www.palsolidarity.org/traveltopalestine/preparation.php

[18] Nicholas Blincoe, “A Love Under Fire,” The Guardian, May 31, 2003 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,966226,00.html

Biography

Huwaida Arraf, an American of Palestinian descent, is not from a family of Palestinian refugees who lost their home in the 1948 War. Her father, an Israeli Arab Catholic, was from a small Christian village in the Upper Galilee where much of his family still lives. He and his wife immigrated to Michigan in 1975, the year before Arraf was born.[1] Because of her father’s background, Arraf is an Israeli as well as a US citizen.

Arraf graduated from the University of Michigan in 1998 with a degree in political science, Arabic and Hebrew. She spent a semester at Hebrew University as part of her degree program, lived on a kibbutz and after graduation, worked for the Arab-American Institute, a lobby group in Washington DC. She subsequently took a position as Program Coordinator for the Seeds of Peace Youth Center in Jerusalem, though with some reservations. “The problem is not that we cannot speak together, the problem is the occupation,” she explained to journalist Nicholas Blincoe.[2] There she met Shapiro who was director of the Center.

When the Intifada broke out in September 2000, Arraf became more radical, left Seeds of Peace, co-founded the International Solidarity Movement in August, 2001 and moved to Ramallah. Shapiro later joined her in ISM. [3]

Arraf and ISM are different from other pro-Palestinian groups because they claim to advocate non-violent resistance against the occupation and try to mobilize international activists to join them in non-violent actions against Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, such as defying curfews and checkpoints, obstructing home demolitions and literally taking down the security fence. Convinced that the media has a “conspiracy of silence”[4] about exposing Palestinian suffering, they hoped the international ISM volunteers would bring heightened media sympathy to the Palestinian cause and also would internationalize the conflict by forcing Western governments to take a more active role to protect their citizens in the Territories.

Despite claiming to be different, Arraf and Shapiro present the standard pro-Palestinian view of the conflict-Israel is illegitimate, has Nazi-like goals of ethnic cleansing, uses Nazi-like tactics and must grant the right of return. They also have made it clear that they advocate non-violent resistance only as a tactic, one to be used in conjunction with “violent” resistance, and that they are not advocating the pacifism of Ghandi or Martin Luther King.[5] In addition, though ISM boasts it is “Palestinian led,” it is unclear who actually directs and funds the organization.

Arraf and Shapiro grabbed media attention when Israel launched Defensive Shield against Palestinian terrorists in March 2002. Shapiro entered Arafat’s compound to stand in solidarity with the besieged leader. Arraf was arrested in May 2002 when she and other ISM activists tried to enter the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to help the besieged Palestinian gunmen inside. She agreed to leave the country, but returned in the summer and continued her activism, sending graphic emails about the suffering of Palestinians and the brutality of the IDF.[6] Arraf uses various Israeli human rights groups to help the Palestinians, such as HaMoked which reports abuses to the military,[7] but their existence has not tempered her view of Israel. When several ISM activists were injured or killed in the spring of 2003, Arraf did not suggest that ISM reconsider bringing internationals to the area where they might be endangered. Instead, she wrote that “We have no plan to abandon our efforts and we renew our call for you to join us…”[8] She also used the incidents as a call to action to Westerners to begin a campaign to ask their governments “that action be taken to stop Israel’s targeting of innocent, unarmed civilians…”[9]

Shapiro was deported from Israel in August 2002 and reportedly cannot return for ten years, according to an email circulated by Arraf[10] , but she still works in Ramallah, though she and Shapiro frequently go on joint speaking tours on US campuses. In June 2003, they toured Arab countries “to encourage “Arabs to join and support our campaigns whether it is by sponsoring another individual to visit Palestine or by contributing to the foundation,” according to Al-Jazeera.[11] In addition, Arraf handles the regular ISM reports and calls to action posted on the web at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/palsolidarity/messages/1 .

Recently, Echoing Green, a global social venture fund, awarded Arraf and Shaprio $75,000 in seed money to launch the Palestinian Strategic Nonviolence Initiative in Ramallah, according to an Echoing Green report.[12]


[1] Nicholas Blincoe, “A Love Under Fire,” The Guardian, May 31, 2003 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,966226,00.html

[2] Nicholas Blincoe, “A Love Under Fire,” The Guardian, May 31, 2003 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,966226,00.html

[3] Nicholas Blincoe, “A Love Under Fire,” The Guardian, May 31, 2003 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,966226,00.html

[4] Huwaida Arraf, “Fighting the Conspiracy of Silence,” Al-Ahram Weekly 29 May-4 June 2003 at http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/print/2003/640/re5.htm

[5] Arraf and Shapiro, “Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada: A Response to Ramzy Baroud,” in The Palestine Chronicle, January 29, 2002. At http://palestinechronicle.com/article.php?story=20020129050221695

[6] See for example, Huwaida Arraf, “Tell the World,” March 8 2002 at www.palsolidarity.org/reports/writings/arraf_08mar.htm and www.distanceeddesign.com/rachel/ism/huwaida_arraf.htm

[7] Arraf’s report on Huwwara checkpoint at www.green-rainbow.org/pipermail/needtoknow/2003-June/01152.html

[8] Huwaida Arraf email April 12, 2003 at www.distanceeddesign.com/rachel/ism/huwaida_arraf.htm

[9] Huwaida Arraf, “Letter from Gaza about Thomas Hurndall,” April 17, 2003 at http://westbynorthwest.org/artman/publish/printer_412.shtml

[10] http://www.gush-shalom.org/diary/diary32.html

[11] http://aljazeerah.info/News%20archives/2003%20News%20archives/June%202003%20News/21n/Volunteers%20plan%20protest%20against%20Israeli%20brutality.htm

[12] Echoing Green report at www.echoinggreen.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageID=183

Strategy

Arraf and Shapiro give effective presentations. They are sexy, speak gently, portray themselves as humanitarians who support non-violence, and appeal directly to the audience’s emotions and sympathy. With graphic photographs and their first-hand, eyewitness accounts, they detail the daily suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Israel. They also underscore how the international activists-usually young adults similar to those in college audiences-bravely resist the evils of the Occupation and assist the Palestinians. Arraf especially claims the moral high ground:

“I am stronger than some soldier turning his tank barrel at me. When I stand in front of him, unarmed and in peace as I walk around my own city, I know that he is the weak one. Non-violence is much more threatening to the occupation because it shows we are morally strong.” August 3 2003[1]

It’s an emotional presentation that goes straight to the idealism of young people and their yearning for heroism. The fact that Arraf and Shapiro, a Palestinian and a Jew, met and married during their activism lends a romantic Romeo and Juliet quality to their story.

Arraf’s main techniques are:

  • Vivid, exaggerated eyewitness accounts of Palestinian suffering. Her case against Israel relies largely on anecdotal evidence of Israeli “brutalities.” She reports what she personally witnessed, shows photographs, often tells stories from the point of view of children or sick people affected by Israel’s policies and sways audiences using graphic descriptions and emotional rather than logical arguments, and by playing on audience sympathy. This is powerful, especially for audiences who are ill-informed about the facts.
  • Ignoring context. Arraf offers little, if any, information about the conflict or the immediate events that produce Israeli actions so they seem to occur in a vacuum. Her reports are bald morality tales with Israel always the ‘bad guy.”
  • Not giving crucial information. Arraf often leaves out specific information that would affect an audience’s view of a story, such as identifying why a particular home or family member would be arrested or stopped at a checkpoint.
  • Claiming the moral high ground. Arraf uses humanitarian language, simplistic slogans that are difficult to counter and moral outrage, and paints the Palestinians as helpless victims who have had no agency or influence on the conflict. She describes ISM and her own activities as rescuing these hapless people who otherwise would be ignored and forgotten by the world.
  • Comparing ISM to the American civil rights movement under Martin Luther King. Shapiro does this more than Arraf, but it underlies much of their position. They have tried to claim that they model ISM on Martin Luther King’s movement and make explicit comparisons between Palestinian leaders and MLK and between their actions and the Civil Rights non-violent protests. This is an appeal that resonates with Americans. In fact, however, there is no remote comparison. Palestinian radicals have unleashed a violent war of terrorism against Israelis which ISM in effect protects and excuses. Nothing comparable existed in the US-African Americans had not gone on a jihad against white Americans. MLK was vehemently opposed to all forms of violence.
  • Distorting history and facts. Arraf assumes that the Palestinian version of Israel’s history is accurate. However, she isn’t terribly well-informed about the history. In addition, she will often make charges that come from Palestinian sources. These are the same sources that reported mass deaths and graves in Jenin in the spring of 2002.


Accusations and Defamations

  • “While the process (home demolitions) is slower and more methodical, one cannot help but be reminded of Kristallnacht during World War II when the Nazi government sought to erase all symbols and elements of Jewish culture and Jewish religion from Berlin.” Adam Shapiro, “Solving the Refugee Issue,” 2002[1] .
  • The ISM website informs potential ISM activists that “the level of risk dramatically increased in the April ISM campaign with internationals on the receiving end of shrapnel, live fire over their heads, tear-gassing, rubber bullets, sound bombs, beatings, interrogations, arrests and deportations. Without sounding crass, the
    benefits were many and obvious:…”[2]
  • “[N]ot only has Israel managed to carry out …vicious and diabolical atrocities, it has also managed to cover them up or define them in the parlance of ‘defense’…” Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, 1/29/02[3]
  • “This isn’t about terrorism. It’s about occupation, freedom, human rights….” Adam Shapiro at University of Michigan Divestment Conference, October 2002.[4]
  • “The long-chanted mantra of the Israeli defense establishment and the right-wing in Israel has been that the Arabs are seeking to destroy the Jewish state and to drive its inhabitants into the sea. Well, it seems that this is truly a case of the kettle calling the pot black.” Adam Shapiro, “Solving the Refugee Issue,” 2002[5] .
  • “Now, and since the beginning of the Intifada, caught up in the general violence and state terrorism perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces and settlers, is the unannounced policy of targeting the refugees. While launching attacks against camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria is beyond the radar screen for Israel’s politicians and generals (often the same), those refugees who are displaced in the West Bank and Gaza are easy targets for tanks, helicopters and bulldozers.” Adam Shapiro, “Solving the Refugee Issue,” 2002.[6]
  • “This government of Israel does not wish the world to see or know of what its forces are doing in the name of occupation-for silence is the greatest asset of oppression…” Adam Shapiro Statement August 2002.[7]
  • “I arrive here (New York City) having been forced, along with 8 fellow peace activists….out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We were physically assaulted and abducted by armed gunmen from Israel’s para-military Border Police in the heart of the West Bank.” Adam Shapiro Statement August 2002.[8]
  • “I don’t identify as Jewish. I see it as a religion rather than an ethnicity and, as I have no religious feelings, I don’t regard myself as Jewish.” Adam Shapiro, May 2003[9]

 


[1] Adam Shapiro, “Solving the Refugee Issue,” 2002, at www.mediamonitors.net/adamshapiro1.html

[2] http://www.palsolidarity.org/traveltopalestine/preparation.php

[3] Arraf and Shapiro, “Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada: A Response to Ramzy Baroud,” in The Palestine Chronicle, January 29, 2002. At http://palestinechronicle.com/article.php?story=20020129050221695

[4] Reported at “A Zionist Goes to the University of Michigan Divestment Conference,” October 6, 2002 at http://elitzur.blogspot.com/2002_10_06_elitzur_archive.html

[5] Adam Shapiro, “Solving the Refugee Issue,” 2002, at www.mediamonitors.net/adamshapiro1.html

[6] Adam Shapiro, “Solving the Refugee Issue,” 2002, at www.mediamonitors.net/adamshapiro1.html

[7] Adam Shapiro statement upon ISM’s arrival at JFK, NY, August 2002, reported by Huwaida Arraf at www.gush-shalom.org/diary/diary32.html

[8] Adam Shapiro statement upon ISM’s arrival at JFK, NY, August 2002, reported by Huwaida Arraf at www.gush-shalom.org/diary/diary32.html

[9] Nicholas Blincoe, “A Love Under Fire,” The Guardian, May 31, 2003 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,966226,00.html



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