Born in Detroit in 1976 to Arab Christian parents, Huwaida Arraf graduated (in 1998) with a degree in political science from the University of Michigan, where she was active in anti-Israel politics. In August 2001, Arraf co-founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) with Adam Shapiro (her husband), Ghassan Andoni, and George Rishmawi.
Functioning as a spokeswoman for the ISM, Arraf clears most ISM communications personally through the organization’s media office; she frequently leads demonstrations in the West Bank and addresses anti-Israel audiences in the United States on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). During her visits to the U.S., she also recruits people to go to the West Bank as ISM “internationals” to interfere with the anti-terrorist activities of the Israeli Defense Forces.
Arraf counsels her fellow ISM activists to publicly use the lexicon of “nonviolence” as a means of characterizing the organization's intentions. ISM training manuals teach volunteers, in language cleared by Arraf personally, to do the following:
“Instead of HUMAN SHIELDS, we refer to ourselves as INTERNATIONAL PEACE ACTIVISTS or PEACE ACTIVISTS/WORKERS … When possible say ETHNIC CLEANSING. This can be used to refer to the expulsion of Palestinians from historic Palestine in 1948 as well as the current situation.”
When speaking to audiences in the United States, Arraf effusively extols the virtues of nonviolent resistance as practiced by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Away from Western cameras and microphones, however, Arraf has stated unequivocally that suicide bombings are a “noble” means of “legitimate resistance” to what she portrays as Israeli oppression.
In a January 29, 2002 piece in the Palestinian Authority’s mouthpiece, the Palestine Chronicle, Arraf and Adam Shapiro spoke out in favor of a Palestinian “right to resist with arms.” They also advocated the strategic use of the nonviolent “methods of Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr.” – not because they deemed such methods preferable to violent ones, but rather as a means of winning public support. “[T]hose who maintain nonviolence and exploit the use of violence by the oppressor maintain control and power,” they wrote, “which is something that can be manipulated to present a story, a case or an image.”
At a national Palestine Solidarity Conference at Duke University, Arraf was recorded telling a seminar of potential recruits that the ISM works willingly with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front For The Liberation of Palestine -- all designated as terrorist groups by the U.S. State Department. On another occasion, Arraf held a seminar on how people could use the Israel Birthright program under false pretenses in order to procure free airplane tickets to the Jewish state, where they could work with the ISM.
When Israel in March 2002 launched its Defensive Shield operation against Palestinian terrorists and trapped Yasser Arafat inside his Ramallah compound, Arraf and Shapiro entered the compound to stand in solidarity with the besieged PLO leader.
Two months later, Arraf was arrested when she and other ISM activists tried to enter the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to bring supplies to Palestinian terrorists who were holding the clergy and staff as hostages inside.
In 2008, Arraf became chairman of the newly formed Free Gaza Movement. In this role, she and ISM worked closely with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Arraf also worked closely with:
Arraf is a member of the list of speakers that Global Exchange makes available for politically oriented events. Other notables on that list include Medea Benjamin, Kevin Danaher, Jodie Evans, Cynthia McKinney, and Stephen Zunes.
In May 2010, Arraf was aboard one of the vessels in a six-ship flotilla that attempted to dock in Gaza and break Israel's naval blockade of the region -- a blockade that had been implemented to prevent Gaza's Hamas-led government from continuing to import weapons from Iran and other allies abroad. The flotilla was organized by the Turkish organization Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) and was led by the Free Gaza Movement.
Arraf currently serves on the advisory board of KinderUSA, and on the steering committee of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.