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George Rishmawi: Profile

By Stand4Facts.org


Overview

If George Rishmawi comes to your campus, you will face one of the heaviest hitters in the anti-Israel ‘peace’ movement. Young, attractive and energetic, Rishmawi, a Palestinian Christian, seems to be the brains and central organizer behind the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) [see ISM profile] and its many precursors and more recent incarnations, from Alternative Tourism to the new Palestine Summer Encounter.[1] Rishmawi is at the hub of Palestinian-based groups trying to enlist international support against Israel. One could track them by simply following the organizations Rishmawi belongs to and the projects he has started, from the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund[2] to the Cycle for Peace,[3] the Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People[4] and the Holy Land Trust’s Travel and Encounter and Division.[5]

Rishmawi is also charismatic. “Before I left for the West Bank, everyone told me how great it would be to work with George…George is one of the leaders of the active, non-violent peace movement in Palestine. Everyone who works with Middle East peace groups knows him” one US ISM activist reported enthusiastically.[6] Though he spends most of his time in the West Bank organizing, directing ISM volunteers, building websites, inventing ways to spin Palestinian propaganda and to bring internationals to the West Bank so they can become pro-Palestinian ambassadors, he does occasionally go on the international campus lecture circuit as he did in 2002.[7]

Rishmawi has honed into a fine art ways to present his anti-Israel agenda as a human rights cause for the suffering Palestinians whom he invariably describes as blameless victims. In essence, he is a PR guru intent on building sympathy for the Palestinians and on demonizing Israel. You can expect the usual litany of precise numbers about Israel’s evil-doing--the number of olive trees and homes destroyed and the number of Palestinians, especially children, who have been killed, imprisoned or left homeless or ghettoized by the security wall.[8] Rishmawi will present it all cloaked under the rhetoric of how much he wants “peace,” “rapprochement,” “justice” and an end to violence and how his organizations only use non-violence.

What you won’t hear is that Rishmawi’s idea of peace is a one-state solution and the return of refugees, that while he doesn’t engage in violence, he nonetheless endorses terrorism. He will portray Beit Sahour as an intimate, warm town where “everybody knows everybody.”[9] You will never hear how PA Muslims have terrorized and persecuted the Christians who live there. Among the things you are likely to hear are:

>“We are just good dreamers if we ever think that Palestinians can have Peace with Zionist Israel. I do not think this will happen ever. I believe the right of return is the most important issue because it helps finishing Zionist Israel.”[10]

>“I believe that Peace is very very hard with Zionist Israel and our only choice is to continue the struggle for Justice and against Zionism.”[11]

>“When I travel here [Canada], or in the US, or in Europe, it's a different feeling because I'm able to drive for hours and not be stopped at a checkpoint. It's a different feeling because here you don't feel like someone is constantly trying to push you out.”[12]

> “Palestinians are shooting in order to say 'we don't accept the occupation, we have a bad experience'.”[13]

>“Israel, fully backed by the U.S. administration is practicing all kinds of Human Rights violations, kicking aside all Human Rights charters and conventions and throwing the International Law in the trash.”[14] Nov. 29 2004

>“The Road Map does not restore much of the violated Palestinian
Rights, yet Israel insists that it should not be implemented.”[15] Nov. 29 2004

> “The roadblocks…were a major problem, dividing the West Bank into 64 separate cantons. They make 15-minute journeys into journeys of 3 or 4 hours. Babies have been born at these roadblocks. People have died in ambulances at them. The roadblocks are for the settlers…”[16] >“You need to know the source of the conflict and the source of the suffering that pushes people to kill themselves and others. I do not want to see anybody killed but we need to say that taking people's rights and freedom is the source of the problem and when this stops there should be not need for anymore killing. This is what we should advocate for right now.”[17] >“Palestinians who have suffered through more than thirty years of Occupation often feel that the world has abandoned them. As more and more of their land is confiscated, more and more of their homes are demolished and more and more of their citizens are killed they wonder: why is no one standing up for us in the world community? This is why some Palestinians are cheered by the presence of international witnesses…”[18]



 


[1] Lee Kaplan, “Foreign Exchange Program for Terror,” FrontPageMagazine.com, March 25 2005 at www.frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=17450

[2] www.pcwf.org/events/events04/movementconvention.htm

[3] www.pngo.net/GIPP/GIPPprogram/program.htm

[4] www.pngo.net/GIPP/GIPPprogram/program.htm

[5] www.discoverthenetwork.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=1461

[6] Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[7] http://list.web.net/archives/e-left-l/2002-November/002026.html

[8] http://www.rapprochement.org/pmalert/index.htm

[9] George Rishmawi, Text of Speech for his Peace Tour of North America, archived at Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[10] http://umkahlil.blogspot.com/2005/04/rishmawi-no-peace-with-zionist-israel.html

[11] http://umkahlil.blogspot.com/2005/04/rishmawi-no-peace-with-zionist-israel.html

[12] George Rishmawi, Text of Speech for his Peace Tour of North America, archived at Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[13] George Rishmawi, Text of Speech for his Peace Tour of North America, archived at Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[14] “On the day of International Solidarity with the Palestinian People
Opinion” George Rishmawi & Agencies, November 29, 2004 at www.internationalbridgebuilders.org/History%20Log/11-30-04.htm

[15] “On the day of International Solidarity with the Palestinian People
Opinion” George Rishmawi & Agencies, November 29, 2004 at www.internationalbridgebuilders.org/History%20Log/11-30-04.htm

[16] George Rishmawi, Text of Speech for his Peace Tour of North America, archived at Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[17] Message From George Rishmawi, Co-Founder of ISM,” World and Middle East Forum, June 6 2002 at http://home.comcast.net/~jat.action/ISM_essay_ref11.htm

[18] Rishmawi, “Eight Reasons to Go To Palestine This Summer,” http://shire.symonds.net/pipermail/discuss/2005-January/000044.html

Biography

In many ways, George Rishwami has been at the hub of the new anti-Israel activism since 1991 and has managed to constantly invent and reinvent programs and groups to fulfill what appears to be his central mission-not peace, but rather marshalling international rejection of the existence of the Jewish state.

Rishmawi was born in 1973 in Beit Sahour, a prosperous town in the West Bank that is 80% Christian. His autobiographical descriptions give a window into the advocacy techniques he has perfected. He claims his awareness and resentment of the Occupation began at age 8 when his 24-year-old cousin was “kidnapped” and killed by the Israeli army. “It was then that I understood that we were living under an occupation…that steals your land, your freedom, your cousin away-and one day it could steal you away as well.” Oddly, although Rishmawi admits that what happened to his cousin was a “rare occurrence” in 1981, he doesn’t bother to mention what his cousin had done that led to this rare IDF action, a crucial omission of context that characterizes most of his other autobiographical information and his analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict.[1]

Nor does Rishmawi address the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic atmosphere he grew up with in Beit Sahour, though one of his former neighbors, Walid Shoebat, who became a Christian and an outspoken critic of the PA and of Palestinian culture, has detailed the “jihad doctrine” and anti-Semitism with which he and other children were reared.[2]

Rishmawi became an activist at the young age of 14, when the first Intifada broke out. He claims he sided with a non-violent group, but again with characteristic double talk adds, “But of course I started by throwing rocks, chasing soldiers and running away from them, like everyone else.”[3] The IDF later arrested and jailed him for two months, an episode that was so benign that he “is shy to talk about it.”[4] Nonetheless, after his release, he yearned to tell Israelis how much he had suffered. “I was in prison and missed university. I missed Christmas, New Year's Eve, and my birthday.”[5] Rishmawi neglects to mention that he was guilty of wrong-doing, that young people who violently attack soldiers or policemen generally do get arrested in any country in the world or that governments rarely make allowances for the offender’s college classes, birthdays or holidays. But Rishwami tries to transform this calendar coincidence into a great injustice perpetrated by Israel even though he also adds that as soon as he left prison, he was back on the streets demonstrating against Israel.

Rishmawi had affiliated with the radical communist Palestinian PFLP,[6] but in 1991 he joined the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between Peoples (PCR), an organization founded just as the 1st Intifada began in 1988, because “it gave me a chance to tell Israelis, without using violence, what I thought of the occupation and what I had gone through.”[7] Though the PCR, founded by Bir Zeit University physics professor Ghassan Andoni in 1988 in Beit Sahour,[8] was ostensibly dedicated to community service, non-violence and advocacy, it was to serve primarily as an international P.R. organ for the Palestinian cause.[9]

In fact, the PCR marked a turning point in Palestinian advocacy strategies. It seemed to abandon the radical Palestinian rhetoric of earlier times and adopted the themes of non-violence and human rights and tried to rouse sympathy for Palestinians as helpless victims of the cruel military giant, Israel, and as the innocent and wronged indigenous people who were a live example of post-colonial and Third World ideology. The PCR hoped to recruit Christian groups dedicated to social justice and to win the sympathy of college students. But despite the words of conciliation and peace, the PCR’s goals were no different than the earlier goals of radical Palestinian groups-the vilification and dismantlement of Israel.

Rishmawi’s connection with the PCR also marked a turning point in his life. He and Andoni teamed up and began a series of interlocking organizations to get the new message out to the world and to bring internationals to the West Bank and Gaza so they could return to their home countries and campuses as ‘ambassadors’ of the Palestinian cause.

Rishmawi and Andoni’s first effort was Alternative Tourism, (ATG) formed in 1995, to bring Christian and other tourists to the Territories and live in the homes of Palestinians sothey could “listen to and learn the human consequences of the conflict between the aspirations of the Palestinian Arabs and the Jewish Israelis”first hand.[10] Tourism dropped precipitously when the Intifada broke out in 2000, so in response, the two men formed a slightly different organization, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) with American-Palestinian Huwaida Arraf and Israeli Neta Golan under the auspices of the PCR[11] in 2001.Like the ATG, its primary purpose was to recruit American and European activists to “witness” and participate in ISM resistance actions in the Territories and to spread Palestinian propaganda on campuses, in churches and in communities. [See ISM profile on Stand4Facts]. Rishmawi handled the internationals on the ground.

When the ISM began to falter because of its support for terrorism, the accidental deaths of two of its activists, Israel’s crackdown and expose of the organization and the shifting political climate after the Iraq War and Arafat’s death, Rishmawi came up with yet another idea geared to recruit college students to the Territories-the Palestine Summer Encounter (PSE) which started in 2004.[12] Rishmawi sweetened the inducement by promising low-cost accommodations-essentially, students living with Palestinian families-and by linking with the Bethlehem Bible College where students could get college credit for studying Arabic.[13] Despite this new incarnation, PSE’s purpose was still like the ISM’s: to “see the situation firsthand,” show support for the Palestinians by remindingthem “that there are still people in the international community who believe that Palestinians should be able to live with freedom, peace, security and independence. It helps bring a small amount of hope into a situation that has caused an enormous amount of suffering,” and to serve as a “witness for peace.”[14] Though Rishmawi denied that PSE people would engage in direct political action as ISM activists did, he said that "if… they want to take part in a demonstration, we will not prevent them from doing it."[15] In essence, they would be taking part in political action as ISM activists did.

That same year, 2004, the creative Rishmawi also started the Cycle for Peace (no doubt a pun on the term “cycle of violence”) in which internationals came to the Territories for a bike trip where they could see the plight of the Palestinians first hand. Rishmawi explained that the cyclists purpose was to spread the message “that a just and lasting peace is based on the return of Palestinian rights and granting them their right to self-determination, which also includes the right of return. The cyclists are carrying this message in order to raise the awareness of Europeans to the true meaning of peace and to bring their attention to the suffering of the Palestinian people.”[16]

Rishmawi’s activities have not been limited to these organizations. He has spawned and participates in other organizations as well. True to his passion for bringing internationals to the Territories, Rishmawi is also the director of the Travel and Encounter division of the Holy Land Trust (HLT), a ‘humanitarian’ organization founded in 1998 with offices in the US, Iraq and the PA.[17] Critics have claimed that “The lies this group tells in the name of Christianity are big and bold. They include the standard lines about Jews robbing the homes of Arabs, stealing their land and brutalizing them in a repressive state of military occupation. These so-called Christians even rationalize terrorism.”[18] Others have condemned the HLT as “recruiting for jihad.”[19] Rishmawi started the PSE under the HLT banner.

Nor do the links stop there. Anti-Israel groups keep looping back into one another. The PSE program through the HLT is also co-sponsored by the Middle East Fellowship,[20] a Pasadena, California-based group that merged with the Middle East Fellowship of Southern California[21] which regularly supports both anti-Israel events and the Christian replacement theology coming out of the Sabeel Center in Jerusalem which claims Jews have been superceded by Christians and have no religious or historical claims to the Holy Land. [See profile on Mitri Raheb]

Rishmawi has also played a central role in the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund (PCWF), an organization that bills itself as a children’s charity committed to improving the lives of Palestinian children.[22] But critics have noted that while the PCWF does some valuable humanitarian work, it is overshadowed by politicization, a radical agenda and incitement, including“publishing drawings by small children depicting the burning maps of the State of Israel. The T-shirt on sale with the poem alluding to martyrdom only helps to push Palestinian children deeper into more misery. The message board includes outrageous claims that reflect the propaganda of those wishing to pursue the conflict without end.”[23] Rishmawi coordinated the PCWF’s “Why I Love Palestine” essay contest which granted first prize to the image of burning maps of Israel.[24]

Admirers call Rishmawi a “computer guru” and expert on photo shop tricks,[25] and he has also been busy using these skills to set up websites and news sites to get the Palestinian propaganda to the public, including the PRC’s Media Alert Project.[26]

It is not surprising that one ISM admirer described Rishmawi as “a busy man with a lot on his plate. I think he has half a dozen mobile phones, and they're all ringing all the time.”[27] Nor is it surprising that Rishmawi must make his case for the Palestinians by performing photo shop-like tricks with language and reality.

Rishmawi never gives the context for Israeli actions. You will hear little about the terrorist war launched against Israel in 2000, or you will hear that Israel caused the terrorism because of its policies. Terrorism itself is whitewashed: “Palestinians are shooting in order to say 'we don't accept the occupation, we have a bad experience'.”[28]

You will never hear about the tensions and conflict between Muslims, the PA security forces and the Christians who live in the PA. When Rishmawi complains about IDF actions against his hometown of Beit Sahour, you will never hear that Palestinian terrorists had intentionally chosen to fight from Beit Sahour because they knew the international Christian community would be alarmed by the IDF shelling Christians. Nor will you hear that In August, 1997, Palestinian policemen in Beit Sahur opened fire on a crowd of Christian Arabs, wounding six of them. Arafat attempted to cover up the incident and warned the Arab media against publicizing the story.[29]

Finally, you will hear Rishmawi contradicting himself. On the one hand, he argues that Palestinians are constantly endangered because of the Occupation and IDF actions. On the other hand, he still encourages tourists and students to visit without mentioning one word about whether they might be endangered. Either it is dangerous in the Territories-or it is not. Similarly, Rishmawi speaks often of the impoverishment and hunger of the Palestinians-and yet he encourages tourists and students to come in part because “the food is excellent.”[30]

In short, Rishmawi is an adept propagandist who presents a picture of the PA and the Arab-Israeli conflict that has little to do with reality. Instead, he has devoted his energies to building a narrative intended to persuade the world that Israel should not longer exist.

 


[1] George Rishmawi, Text of Speech for his Peace Tour of North America, archived at Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[2] Alyssa A. Lappen, “The Ravages of the Jihad-Occupied Mind,” Front Page Magazine, Feb. 17, 2004 at www.frontpagemag.com/articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=12210

[3] George Rishmawi, Text of Speech for his Peace Tour of North America, archived at Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[4] George Rishmawi, Text of Speech for his Peace Tour of North America, archived at Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[5] George Rishmawi, Text of Speech for his Peace Tour of North America, archived at Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[6] Matthew Kalman and Teresa Castle, “SF Jewish Activist Held as Security Threat in Israel, Chronicle Foreign Service, July 14 2004 at www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/07/14/MNGBS7L5V71.DTL

[7] George Rishmawi, Text of Speech for his Peace Tour of North America, archived at Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[8] John Bacher, “Palestinian Pacifism,” Peace Magazine, Oct-Dec 2002 at http://www.peacemagazine.org/archive/v18n4p16.htm

[9] http://www.rapprochement.org/

[10] http://www.patg.org/profile.htm

[11] http://www.rapprochement.org/

[12] Nathan Guttman, “Come to Palestine, Come Stay with Friends,” Haaretz, Feb 14 2005 at www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=539778

[13] Nathan Guttman, “Come to Palestine, Come Stay with Friends,” Haaretz, Feb 14 2005 at www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=539778

[14] http://www.pngo.net/events/palestine_summer_encounter_2005.htm

[15] Nathan Guttman, “Come to Palestine, Come Stay with Friends,” Haaretz, Feb 14 2005 at www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=539778

[16] http://www.palestinereport.org/art.php?article=521

[17] http://www.holylandtrust.org/about.html

[18] Joseph Farrah, cited in Joe Kaufman, “Recruiting for Jihad,” Front Page Magazine June 16 2003 at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=8394

[19] Joseph Farrah, cited in Joe Kaufman, “Recruiting for Jihad,” Front Page Magazine June 16 2003 at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=8394

[20] http://www.holylandtrust.org/

[21] http://www.middleeastfellowship.org/about.html

[22] http://www.pcwf.org/

[23] http://www.ngo-monitor.org/editions/v1n10/v1n10-2.htm

[24] www.pcwf.org/events/events04/movementconvention.htm

[25] Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[26] http://www.rapprochement.org/

[27] Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[28] George Rishmawi, Text of Speech for his Peace Tour of North America, archived at Bob May Journal, “Personality Profile: George Rishmawi,” at http://www.bobmay.info/profile_george_rishmawi.htm

[29] Fact Sheet #7: Palestinian Treatment of Arabs at www.sullivan-county.com/id4/christian_arabs.htm

[30] Rishmawi, “8 Reasons to Go to Palestine in the Summer 2005” at http://shire.symonds.net/pipermail/discuss/2005-January/000044.html



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