“Founder of non-violent Palestinian resistance movement speaks at AU”
by Ryan Westerdahl, The Evening Tribune 12 April 2007
ALFRED – For Huwaida Arraf, a young woman who has stared down armed soldiers, a speaking engagement at Alfred University presented a different challenge – persuasion.
Arraf, who spoke for more than an hour in AU’s Nevins Theater Wednesday, is co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a civilian movement dedicated to non-violent resistance against the Israeli presence in Palestine. She began her speech with an appeal to her audience for open-mindedness.
“I would hope that what I have to say is not controversial,” she said.
Arraf is a Palestinian-American whose parents were born in Palestine, and a third-year student at American University’s Washington College of Law. She divides her time between America and Israel/Palestine, studying and organizing resistance. Arraf said that Palestinians under Israeli governance are deprived of basic freedoms.
“We were treated like second and third-class citizens,” she said.
Arraf began her career in activism working with Seeds of Peace, an organization that brings Palestinian and Israeli young people together to create dialogue and bridge perceived differences between the groups. She said the children discovered that they shared common ground.
“The same likes and dislikes, hopes and aspirations,” she said.
While working for Seeds of Peace, Arraf met her future husband and co-founder of the ISM, Adam Shapiro. The couple started the ISM in 2001, and have dedicated themselves to expanding and promoting the movement. Palestinians have a history of non-violent resistance that often goes unnoticed amidst reports of terrorism, according to Arraf. She described tying cans to cats’ tails to confuse Israeli soldiers trying to impose a curfew, and resisting Israeli control in the town where her mother was born.
“We organized a tax boycott,” Arraf said.
Arraf encouraged her audience to get involved with the ISM, adding that international support for the Palestinian cause is vital. She described the difficulty of finding major news outlets to publish detailed accounts of Palestinian civilian deaths.
“Palestinians feel completely abandoned by the international community,” Arraf said.
While the ISM is predicated on non-violence, it has been accused of supporting violent resistance – such as suicide bombing – behind the scenes. Arraf denied that the ISM supports violence, but she said that Palestinians have the right to engage in violent resistance directed at military targets.
“If you make the decision to resist, then you have to choose how to resist,” Arraf said. “Personally, I believe we should all live together.”
Arraf encouraged the audience to research the conflict, form their own opinions, and get involved with finding a solution.
“We need that little bit of hope,” she said.