Mubarek Awad

Mubarek Awad


* Professor of Conflict Resolution at American University
* A leader in the First Palestinian Intifada until Israel deported him in 1988
* “Palestinian armed struggle against the occupation is both morally and legally legitimate.”
* “I am telling you loud and clear there can not be a Jewish state in the Middle East. It is impossible.”
* When asked in 1988 how he could call himself a follower of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. if he did not condemn violence, he answered that he was “more pragmatic than they were.”

Mubarak Awad has been hailed as the “Palestinian Gandhi” for advocating as far back as 1983 that Palestinians should use non-violence to resist Israel. The founder of Nonviolence International, his philosophy and principles have made him popular on the “peace and justice” and church lecture circuits. But Awad is not what he seems. He is not a pacifist and he is profoundly opposed to the Jewish State.

Awad seems to say and do all the right things. Palestinian-born and a naturalized American citizen, Awad is a dignified, articulate clinical child psychologist, professor of Conflict Resolution at American University, and founder of National Youth Advocate Programs for troubled young people as well as of Nonviolence International. He can sound conciliatory about Israel. In 2000, he described steps that Israelis and Palestinians had to take to bring peace. Palestinian steps included: apologizing “to the Israelis for Palestinian violence against Jews”; acknowledging “the tragedy of the Holocaust . . . and that the Jewish people have a historical connection to the Old City of Jerusalem (including the Temple Mount)”; and agreeing that “Israel must be included in Arab maps, sports and regional gatherings.”

But such comments hide much more rabid, hostile views and an extremist agenda. When Awad spoke at Princeton University in September 2002, many students found the lecture “outrageous” and “racist” because of his anti-Israel comments.

Nor is Awad a pacifist. From his earliest writings in 1984 through to his writings in 2003, he made it explicitly clear that he advocated non-violence simply because it would be a more effective tactic for Palestinians in the Territories. He never condemned violence: rather he legitimized it. In his seminal 1984 article, he wrote that “[T]he thesis is that during this historical period, and with regard only to the 1.3 million Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation, non-violence is the most effective method to obstruct the policy of ‘Judaization.’” He added that this “did not determine the methods open to Palestinians on the outside” (that is, the PLO in Tunis), and that it did not “constitute a rejection of the concept of armed struggled.” He even added that non-violence might merely be a temporary strategy. “It does not rule out the possibility that the struggle on the inside may turn into an armed struggle at a later stage,” he said. His ideas had not changed twenty years later. In 2003, he wrote: “Although Palestinian armed struggle against the occupation is both morally and legally legitimate, it may be ineffective, futile, and counterproductive. If Palestinians choose non-violence, it would only be because they are convinced that it can achieve results.” When asked in 1988 how he could call himself a follower of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. if he did not condemn violence, he answered that he was “more pragmatic than they were.”

Awad was also a leader in the First Intifada until Israel deported him in 1988, creating a storm of controversy that gave Awad prominence and made him a sought-after speaker. Again, despite his claims of non-violence, the tactics he used included “cutting telephone, water and electric lines and blocking roads; all are measures which can cause casualties and defy the sense of non-violence.”

Awad considered Camp David an “unjust” solution, is inflexible on the Palestinian “right of return,” and demands wholesale sanctions against Israel. Among his commonly stated positions are the following:

  • “Palestinian armed struggle against the occupation is both morally and legally legitimate.” (2003)
  • “For the Palestinians who are living in the West Bank and Gaza during this period, the most effective strategy is one of non-violence. This does not determine the methods open to Palestinians on the outside; nor does it constitute rejection of the concept of armed struggle. It does not rule out the possibility that the struggle on the inside may turn into an armed struggle at a later stage.” (1984)
  • An emphasis on “the Arab people’s inherent non-violent nature.” (Princeton lecture in 2002)
  • “In the occupied territories today [2003], the resistance against the occupation does not generally reflect violent methods.”
  • “I am telling you loud and clear there can not be a Jewish state in the Middle East. It is impossible.” (Princeton lecture in 2002)
  • “The history of the Jewish religion has contributed to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and Israel cannot continue to exist.” (Princeton lecture in 2002)
  • “Our culture has been deprived and destroyed by Israel. We have been deprived of our land; our land has been taken from us.” (Princeton lecture in 2002)
  • “Israel should acknowledge its role in creating the plight of Palestinian refugees. Those refugees should be given the choice to live where they want”
  • “We are not going to kneel and will continue to reject unjust solutions like Camp David.”
  • (Demanding the right of return): “We do this not because we hate or because we like confronting a powerful enemy; we are like salmon — we were born there and life will take us back.”
  • “Destroy all the refugee camps. Just burn them. When you are hundreds of thousands of refugees there is no place to go but home.”
  • “Israel needs to recognize the legitimacy of Islam.”
  • “Israel must also see itself as a Middle East country, not as a superior Western country, oblivious to its actual geography, an attitude that rekindles Arab resentment.”
  • “Those who support [Israeli] occupation and its crimes must be shamed and challenged everywhere. This creates a worldwide arena for a non-violent struggle based on morality and international law. South Africa’s apartheid regime faced such a fight and ultimately collapsed.”
  • “Massive boycotts of Israeli products and services, as well as cultural, sports, educational, and diplomatic activities, should be conducted.”
  • “The Palestinian cause is just and is based on morality and international law . . . challenge the illegal nature of the occupation.”
  • “You [Palestinians] will get no justice in an Israeli court or when you go to the police. If a settler’s car hit you, don’t bother complaining because he is always right and you are wrong.”
  • “If you have land, Israel will use all kinds of laws to take it from you. If Turkish law doesn’t work, they use British law. Or Jordanian law. Or Israeli law. Or military law.”
  • “Your home can be destroyed, just for being Palestinian, whether or not you are involved in an action or demonstration.”
  • “Non-violence is not an innovation in the struggle of the Palestinian people. Palestinians have used non-violent methods since the beginning of the 1930s side by side with the armed struggle in their attempts to achieve their goals against Zionism.”


Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian Christian, was born in 1943 near Jerusalem when it was still part of the Palestinian Mandate. In June 1948, he reports, an Israeli shot and “murdered” his father — though he neglects to mention that this occurred during Israel’s War of Independence when Arabs in the Mandate and then five Arab nations went to war to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state. He does not say whether his father was a soldier when the death occurred. Awad’s mother was left to raise her seven children alone. Awad tells audiences that his mother’s response helped turn him into an advocate of non-violence: “My mother always always would say ‘Don’t kill any person because the one who killed your father did not know he left a widow with seven children to feed and make life miserable for all of us.’ ”

Awad lived under Jordanian sovereignty until the 1967 War, when Israel captured the Territories. Awad refused the offer of citizenship that Israel made to Jerusalemites, and in 1969 he moved to the United States. There, he completed a doctorate in clinical child psychology, married an American woman and became an American citizen.

Awad attended a college run by Christians who advocated non-violence, and a former professor recalled that Awad had been forceful in defending the use of violence, but Awad’s views began to change and in 1982 he published an article advocating Palestinian nonviolent resistance against Israel. He did not reject violence. Rather, he advocated nonviolence as the most “effective strategy” for combating Israel.

In 1983, Awad tried to put his new principles into practice. He moved back to Jerusalem, opened the Palestinian Center for the Study of Non-violence, and was prominent in the First Intifada. He later boasted about the non-violent resistance he introduced, such as a Palestinian tax revolt, general strikes, and planting olive trees on land Israel had marked for Jewish communities because Israeli law prohibited using land on which fruit trees were growing. Awad admitted that non-violence was not popular among Palestinians and, as Israeli Dr. Joseph Lerner noted, Awad’s methods were not strictly non-violent: “His non-violence includes cutting telephone, water and electric lines and blocking roads; all are measures which can cause casualties and defy the sense of non-violence.”

The Intifada grew violent quickly, and when Israel identified Awad as a leader in the uprising, it moved to deport him in 1988. Awad protested, and his case reached the Israeli Supreme Court. He argued that since he had been born in Jerusalem, he could not be deported. The Court ruled that Awad’s residency papers had expired years before and that he had taken on another citizenship so was not protected by permanent residency laws.

The deportation triggered a storm of protest from Christian and human rights groups and turned Awad into a public figure who became a sought-after speaker by church and ‘peace and justice’ groups. While these groups described him as a victim prevented from returning to his birthplace and claimed that Israel was afraid of non-violence, Awad had said in a 1988 interview that he supported coalitions between non-violent and violent Palestinian groups.

Awad returned to the U.S., where he practiced psychology and established Nonviolence International, which focuses on the Arab-Israeli conflict and also on youth in other trouble spots around the world. He also set up an Ohio Youth Advocacy Program (YAP) which gradually expanded to cover other states, and in 2004 he expanded it into an international program which “promotes the rights and well-being of the world’s youth, giving particular attention to the plight of troubled and needy youth and to those victimized by conflict, exploitation and state and personal violence.” The nine trustees of this organization include six Awad family members.

Awad has received awards and commendation for his work on non-violence and with youth: the Indianapolis City Council passed a resolution commending him in 2005 for “the international hard work of Dr. Awad as a youth advocate, educator and nonviolent activist.”

Awad’s family has also been active in the anti-Israel cause, and they have set up different organizations that work closely together. His nephew, Sami Awad, runs the Holy Land Trust (founded in 1998), which works with other anti-Israeli groups such as International Solidarity Movement co-founder George Rishmawi and the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund, which has praised suicide bombers. Mubarak Awad’s Nonviolence International is identified as an affiliate of the Holy Land Trust. Together they organized a conference on nonviolence in Bethlehem for December 2005, and they jointly sponsor tours to the Territories. Mubarak Awad’s brother, Dr. Bishara Awad, is a trustee of Nonviolence International and president and founder of the Bethlehem Bible College. It, too, works closely with the Holy Land Trust and Nonviolence International.

Mubarak Awad is a featured speaker for the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. Sabeel has spearheaded the drive for mainline churches to divest from Israel and organized conferences across the U.S. to demonize Israel and encourage divestment. Awad spoke at Sabeel conferences in Decatur, Georgia in February 2005, and in Cedar Rapids in October 2005.

This profile is adapted, with permission, from

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