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Adam Shapiro calls for Palestinian civil resistance: "No peace can be achieved with occupation"
Being dubbed as the "Jewish Taliban" by New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser didn"t change Adam Shapiro"s firm stance against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
July 06, 2003, 10:15 AM
By Ghassan Joha, Star Staff Writer
JORDAN (Star) - Being dubbed as the "Jewish Taliban" by New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser didn"t change Adam Shapiro"s firm stance against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Undeterred by the campaign against him, the 32-year-old Shapiro described how he never felt so committed to humanity as he does now.
A Jewish American from Brooklyn, Shapiro sees himself distant from many Jews" attitudes towards the Palestinians . He defies all the guidelines that Israel and Zionist extremists have been promoting in the west.
Shapiro is a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) that exposes the Israeli military atrocities against the Palestinians. But he sees in the ISM membership another dimension. "I"m protesting here the American involvement and support of the Israeli military escalation in the Occupied Territories," he told The Star. "No peace can be achieved in the Palestinian territories as long as the Israeli occupation persists."
The ISM is an international voluntary network that brings together Palestinian and international activists and grassroots community groups from around the world in the struggle to end the Israeli occupation. The movement is working in the Occupied Territories through Palestinian and foreign volunteers and activists who are spread around the West Bank and Gaza.
Shapiro was in Jordan on his way to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Last week, the Israeli authorities denied him permission to enter the West Bank as they added Shapiro"s name to the black list of those considered opposing the Jewish state. The Israeli procedures have failed to subdue his determination to support the Palestinians, nor forced him to change his tactics.
In fact, Shapiro has never paid attention to the daily death threats he receives in view of the fact that he strongly believes he is on the right side. "I do not expect the Israelis to change their minds soon. I have been very active lately speaking publicly about the occupation. They know well who I am," said Shapiro, who holds two MAs in Arab Studies and Politics.
Shapiro made headlines in April 2002 when he was caught in the Israeli siege of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat"s office in Ramallah. He was trying then to aid some of the injured that were shot during the Israeli attack on Arafat"s office. He defied the Israeli tanks and soldiers and entered the compound, where he remained captive for weeks before being exchanged for Palestinian doctors.
"It is not easy to affect change there," stressed Shapiro, who has been often maltreated at the hands of Israeli army officers during his stay in the Occupied Territories. "The Palestinians are being left with no options, no bargaining chips to trade in negotiations. Intifada is their last resort."
Shapiro is working closely with his Palestinian American wife, Huwaida Arraf who was detained by the Israelis last year. Arraf is now living in Ramallah where she continues her support of Palestinian families. In recognition for his peaceful efforts, the Jewish Council for Racial and Economic Justice in New York honored Shapiro with a special award in April. This stirred much controversy among other Jewish organizations in the US, notably the American Jewish Congress, which denounced Shapiro for "helping Palestinians to hold a poisonous view of Israel and Jewish interests."
Shapiro made it clear that he and his fellow ISM colleagues want to pursue a new strategy in resisting the occupation and bring changes on the ground. This strategy depends mostly on the tenets of civil resistance. "We held meetings with a lot of Palestinian activists who are committed to civil resistance strategy, as a measure to combat oppression," he said.
Among the ideas that Shapiro and his colleagues are thinking of is what he calls "economic sabotage" inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This idea, he said, mainly concentrates on how to disrupt the Israeli military and settlement build-up in the Occupied Territories. The new ISM strategy thrives on more internationals coming from the US, Europe and other parts of the world.
ISM provides training for the new volunteers on ways of nonviolent resistance. The idea behind bringing foreigners to join the resistance is to mobilize the international community and mass media to the developments on the ground. "We need to change the picture in the media and provide some sort of protection for the Palestinians. People are coming around to promote Palestinian freedom, not to put down Israel."
Shapiro noted that volunteers taking part in ISM activities are often taught that they are going to be led by Palestinian partners and not the other way around.
Asked if there are any Jewish partners or Israelis taking part in the ISM activities, Shapiro said that hundreds of Israelis who believe in peace are already participating in some of these activities. This shows the slow change in the Israeli public approach towards the Palestinian issue, according to Shapiro.
"There has been a positive shift in the Israeli public opinion. And it is not quite easy to have that change overnight," Shapiro noted.
Nevertheless, he justifies the Palestinian armed resistance against Israel as long as it is targeting Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Otherwise, he is not in favor of suicide bombings.
If the Israelis still refuse to allow Shapiro into the Palestinian territories, he has plans to visit Iraq and produce a documentary on the situation there following the American and British occupation of the country. Shapiro was one of the most active protesters against the US war in Iraq, saying it is a pretext for the American administration to dominate the world affairs.
"The US government is turning into a "united empire". I think it is becoming a bully. We, as American citizens, need to take responsibility of the policy that our government is pursuing in the world."
Shapiro does not believe in the US peace initiative, better known as the roadmap, which he said is making the same mistakes that previous initiatives and efforts have made before. His utopian wish is to bring the Palestinians and Israelis to live together within a united state. He even has a proposal for Palestinian refugees to stand up for their right of return. "I am not in a position to tell the refugees what to do, but I think they can all start a march towards the Occupied Territories to return to their homes." Shapiro is confident that Israel will not shoot them for two reasons; first of all, because all the world will be watching the march under the close scrutiny of the media; secondly, the ISM volunteers and activists will be at the forefront of the march, including some of the prominent world figures that may take part in the march.
"It has to be clear that we will not end up living in a better world while we are still looking at each other from behind guns," he determined.