Huwaida Arraf

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Huwaida Arraf
Huwaida Arraf, departure of Spirit of Humanity.jpg
Arraf in 2009
Born 1976
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Nationality American
Ethnicity Palestinian
Citizenship American
Education University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
American University
Occupation lawyer, activist
Spouse(s) Adam Shapiro

Huwaida Arraf (born 1976 in Detroit, Michigan) is an American Palestinian Christian human rights activist, lawyer and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-led organization focused on assisting the Palestinian side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict using non-violent protests. Her law practice is based in Ramallah.[1]

Family and education[edit]

Arraf is Christian and has two Palestinian parents. Under Israeli law, she has Israeli citizenship through her father, an Israeli-Arab. Her parents moved from the West Bank to Detroit, Michigan, Arraf's birthplace, to be able to raise her away from the violence in the West Bank. She and her parents were able to visit Israel every few years until Arraf was ten years old.[2]

Arraf majored in Arabic and Judaic studies and political science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She spent a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and studied Hebrew on a kibbutz.[3] Arraf later earned a J.D. at American University's Washington College of Law. Her focus was on International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, with a particular interest in war crimes prosecution.

As a law student Arraf conducted research for the Public International Law and Policy Group, which provides pro bono legal assistance to governments involved in conflicts. Arraf also worked with the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the Washington College of Law, where she represented clients before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on issues ranging from indigenous lands rights to cross-border abductions and irregular rendition.[4]

Professional activities[edit]

In the spring of 2000, Arraf traveled to Jerusalem to serve as program coordinator for Seeds of Peace, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that seeks to foster dialogue between Jewish and Palestinian youth.[5]

In 2001 her title at the Center for Coexistence in Jerusalem was Regional Coordinator.[6] Arraf married Adam Shapiro, another ISM co-founder, in 2002. They met while both were working at the Jerusalem center of Seeds of Peace.[7]

In 2003 Arraf and her husband were jointly awarded a Fellowship by the Echoing Green Foundation in New York, which they subsequently declined.

Involvement with the International Solidarity Movement[edit]

Arraf co-founded the ISM in 2001, while living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She founded the ISM with members of two Palestinian foundations with strong international ties, the Holy Land Trust and the Rapprochement Centre. At the ISM, she has participated in the training of thousands of volunteers from around the world in non-violence and in human-rights monitoring and reporting.

Arraf ’s ISM brands its method as “nonviolent direct action”: the members of the group knowingly place themselves in controversial situations and intentionally provoke physical confrontation. Arraf and Shapiro made clear the difference between their own philosophy and that of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. They stress that it is important to understand “that Palestinians have a right to resist with arms, as they are an occupied people upon whom force and violence is being used.” They also advocate that Hamas send men eager for jihad to stand out in roadblocks as martyrs, saying this is as noble as carrying out a suicide bombing and that they would still be considered shaheed Allah.[8]

Huwaida Arraf and Mairead Maguire aboard the MV Spirit of Humanity, June 2009
Arraf and Mairead Maguire, 2009

Arraf has acknowledged that the ISM has direct contact with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP—all US-designated terror organizations. She later clarified, saying that, in acknowledging those connections, but has insisted that in acknowledging those connections, she was “offering concrete examples of the ways in which these groups were engaging in nonviolent resistance.”[9]

During the second Intifada, Arraf organized what she termed a demonstration against Jewish settlers in the West Bank.[citation needed]

Gaza Freedom Flotilla[edit]

Arraf was the chair of the Free Gaza Movement,[10] the organization behind the Gaza Freedom Flotillas - a series of groups of ships carrying Pro-Palestinian activists that were organized to break Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. She was aboard the 2008 Free Gaza boats[3] as well as the 2010 flotilla that was raided by Israeli commandos on May 31.[11] Using a satellite phone on board, Arraf stated that their plan was to have the boats keep heading toward Gaza “until they either disable our boats or jump on board.”[11]

At the time of the raid, Arraf was aboard the Challenger 1,[11] one of the smallest ships (30 feet) of the flotilla. On Thursday, 3 June 2010, she provided her version of the events on Challenger 1 in an interview on Democracy Now.[12]

Arraf resigned from this position in October, 2012, following a series of anti-Semitic tweets posted on the official Twitter feed of the Free Gaza Movement.[13]