According to Mahatma Gandhi, nothing poses more of a threat to an oppressive regime than well organized, non-violent resistance. Mubarak Awad — some call him the Arab Gandhi — is a case in point. Awad’s call for peaceful resistance against Israeli occupation in the early phase of the First Intifada (1987-1990) led the Israeli government to deport him.
Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian Christian, was born in Jerusalem in 1943. When Jerusalem and the West Bank fell to the Jordanians at the close of the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli war (in keeping with a covert deal between the Zionists and Jordan’s King Abdullah), Awad became a Jordanian citizen. Israel offered him citizenship in 1967, following its conquest of the West Bank and annexation of East Jerusalem, but he refused. Shortly after, Awad emigrated to the United States. He became a U.S. citizen. He pursued degrees in social work, sociology, psychology, and education, and involved himself in national youth advocacy work. Listen to Mubarak here:
But Jerusalem beckoned. In 1983 Awad returned to the city. He founded the Palestinian Center for the Study of Non-Violence. In December 1987 — the First Intifada erupting around him — Awad called upon Palestinians to boycott Israeli goods, to stop paying taxes, and to plant olive trees on Jewish settlement sites.
Israel was not amused. In June 1988, following a lengthy legal battle (and over Reagan Administration objections), Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (himself a former terrorist) ordered Awad deported. Back in the U.S., Awad founded Non-Violence International and began teaching in Washington, D.C.. Today, he is an adjunct professor and lecturer in the American University’s School of International Service.
Mubarak Awad and I sat down for a chat this past June, beside a photo of Rachel Corrie — that young American activist crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in March 2003 while trying to peacefully stop the demolition of Palestinian homes.