- Former board member of the Arab American Action Network
- Anti-Israeli activist
- Co-founder of the website Electronic Intifada
Born in Washington, DC on December 29, 1971, Ali Abunimah is a Palestinian-American graduate of Princeton University and the University of Chicago. A former board-of-directors member (and vice president) of the Arab American Action Network, he co-founded the Electronic Intifada website and is closely affiliated with the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. His personal website, Abunimah.org, acts as a clearinghouse for his writings, which are fiercely hostile toward Israel and the United States.
Abunimah authored the 2006 book One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which rejects a two-state solution for the Mideast conflict and proposes instead the creation of a single, united, democratic state for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
In Abunimah’s calculus, Palestinian terrorism is caused entirely by Israel’s “land confiscation,” its “ongoing orgy of violence,” and its “routine human-rights abuses” that have “made life under a seemingly endless occupation so intolerable.” In February 2002 Abunimah characterized “Israel’s humiliation and virtual imprisonment of [Yasser] Arafat“—after the Palestinian leader had failed to prevent a host of recent suicide bombings against Israeli civilians—as confirmation that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his supporters had “never given up the dream of a Greater Israel stretching from the Mediterrannean to the Jordan River and perhaps beyond.”
Abunimah condemned America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq as a “massive assault on a small, defenseless country by an uncontrollable superpower” whose armed forces were “disproportionately composed of the economically and socially disenfranchised, people who, denied a slice of the ‘American dream’ at home by failing schools, racism, the prison industry, and growing economic inequality, must seek to escape by joining the military.”
In a January 2009 article titled “Why Israel Won’t Survive,” Abunimah wrote: “[T]he other pillar of Israeli power—Western support and complicity—is starting to crack. We must do all we can to push it over.” Accusing Israel of practicing “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “attempted genocide” against the Palestinians, he said: “Israel’s problem is not, as its propaganda insists, ‘terrorism’ to be defeated by sufficient application of high explosives.” Rather, Abunimah explained, “its problem is legitimacy, or rather a profound and irreversible lack of it.… Israel simply cannot bomb its way to legitimacy.”
In January 2012, Abunimah tweeted, “Isn’t it time for a popular Palestinian revolution in the form of a third intifada?” The following month, he was a guest speaker at an anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) conference at the University of Pennsylvania. Abunimah is a strong supporter of the BDS movement.
Abunimah has a history of significant ties to Barack Obama, whom he first met in the late 1990s when Obama was an Illinois state senator. All told, Abunimah claims to have met Obama “about half a dozen times” over the years, “often at Palestinian and Arab-American community events in Chicago,” which Obama used to attend “all the time.” For instance, Abunimah crossed paths with Obama at a May 1998 community fundraiser at which Edward Said was the keynote speaker; at a 1999 event for a West Bank refugee camp where Abunimah himself personally introduced Obama, who spoke against “Israeli occupation”; and at a 2000 congressional campaign fundraiser at the home of pro-PLO professor Rashid Khalidi.
At these events, says Abunimah, Obama was “forthright in his criticism of U.S. policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict”; “critical of U.S. bias toward Israel and lack of sensitivity to Arabs”; “very supportive of U.S. pressure on Israel”; “very comfortable speaking up for and being associated with Palestinian rights and opposing the Israeli occupation”; and “quite frank that the U.S. needed to be more evenhanded, that it leaned too much toward Israel.”1
In a March 2007 article, Abunimah reported that the last time he had spoken to Obama was at a gathering in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood three years earlier, when Obama was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat. Wrote Abunimah: “I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, ‘Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.’ He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and U.S. policy, ‘Keep up the good work!’”
In the same piece, however, Abunimah alleged, with displeasure, that Obama’s rhetoric had become less overtly critical of Israel in recent years: “If disappointing, given his historically close relations to Palestinian-Americans, Obama’s about-face is not surprising. He is merely doing what he thinks is necessary to get elected [president] and he will continue doing it as long as it keeps him in power.”
1 By Abunimah’s reckoning, Obama’s comments “were the kind of statements I’d never heard from a U.S. politician who seemed like he was going somewhere, rather than at the end of his career.” “He [Obama] impressed me as progressive, intelligent and charismatic,” Abunimah recalls. “I distinctly remember thinking, ‘if only a man of this caliber could become president one day.’”