JERUSALEM, April 17 - After more than two weeks under curfew in Ramallah, Adam
Shapiro and his fiancée came here this week for a brief respite and some
organizational work before returning to the battered West Bank city that is still
occupied by Israeli troops.
At an East Jerusalem hotel, the couple was fielding calls on three cellphones
from fellow activists in West Bank cities that have been invaded by the Israelis.
Later, they helped arrange shipments of food and medical supplies to Palestinians
confined to their homes.
Adam Shapiro, raised Jewish in America, and his fiancée, Huwaida Arraf,
a Palestinian-American, oppose Israeli actions in the West Bank. (Rina Castelnuovo
for The New York Times)
Mr. Shapiro, an American Jew from Brooklyn living in Ramallah, gained attention
when he entered Yasir Arafat's compound with an ambulance shortly after Israel
tanks broke through its walls last month.
His account of events inside the besieged offices of the Palestinian leader
were widely reported, earning him harsh criticism from right-wing Jewish groups
who labeled him a traitor. His parents moved out of their home in Sheepshead Bay,
Brooklyn, after receiving death threats, and the police still keep an eye on their
Arriving for an interview in a bandana, earrings and a stubbly beard, Mr. Shapiro,
30, seemed unfazed by the criticism, and intent on pursuing his work in Ramallah
with his fiancĄee, Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian-American from Detroit.
They plan to marry in Detroit next month, passing through New York on the way.
Police officers will be at the airport to deter possible violence, Mr. Shapiro
said. ``I'm not as scared of a sniper outside my house in Ramallah as I am of
some crazy in New York City,'' he added, half-jokingly.
Since leaving Mr. Arafat's compound, Mr. Shapiro and Ms. Arraf have been busy
challenging the Israeli curfew, defying Israeli snipers by walking the streets
and delivering food and medicine.
The couple say they want to provide humanitarian aid while nonviolently resisting
the Israelis. Those are the goals of a group of Palestinians and foreigners that
Ms. Arraf helped found, the International Solidarity Movement. It has been active
since the start of the current Palestinian uprising, planning marches, rebuilding
demolished Palestinian homes and planting trees to replace those uprooted by the
After Israeli forces smashed into Mr. Arafat's compound on March 29, several
members of the movement marched by Israeli tanks into the Palestinian leader's
Such activities have been anathema to Mr. Shapiro's Jewish critics, who say
he is betraying his people. He says he wants to end an occupation he considers
harmful to Israelis and Palestinians.
``I think there's an incorrect supposition that someone who is Jewish necessarily
has to stand with Israel, or that someone who is Arab or Muslim has to stand with
everything the Palestinians or the Arab countries do,'' Mr. Shapiro said. ``My
philosophy is that we're all human beings, and I don't buy into ethnicity and
sectarianism. I do what I think is right, and there are plenty of Israelis out
there standing with me.''
``Allowing the Palestinians to live in freedom is good for Israel and good
for the Jews,'' he said.
The International Solidarity Movement incorporates Palestinians and foreigners
in its actions, a method the group believes softens what would be a more violent
response by Israeli troops confronting only Palestinians. Yet the group has often
been met with tear gas and stun grenades, and once with gunfire.
Mr. Shapiro, who was raised Jewish but says he is an atheist, says he is acting
``as a human being, as an American who has grown up with freedom - seeing what's
happening, the injustice, and wanting to do something about it.''
That has also included contacts with the press to counter what he says is ``a
tremendous amount of misinformation'' in America.
In comments that have outraged his critics, he has compared some instances
of Israeli behavior toward Palestinians to that of the Nazis.
Mr. Shapiro wrote in an article that the demolition of Palestinian homes, the
seizure of the Palestinian political headquarters in East Jerusalem and the closure
of other offices serving Palestinians reminded him of Kristallnacht, a night of
anti-Jewish rioting in Nazi Germany in 1938 that destroyed hundreds of Jewish
shops, homes and synagogues and claimed 36 Jewish lives.
Mr. Shapiro insists that the comparisons are valid, and that he chose them
deliberately to resonate with Israelis and Jews.
He argues that Palestinian suicide bombers are products of the Israeli occupation
and that when occupation ends so will the suicide attacks.
Mr. Shapiro and Ms. Arraf met while working at the Jerusalem center of Seeds
of Peace, an American group that promotes dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian
Both had developed an interest in each other's culture and politics. Mr. Shapiro
had completed a master's degree in Arab studies at Georgetown University, and
had worked at a language school in Yemen.
Ms. Arraf, who is Christian, is the daughter of an Israeli Arab father and
a Palestinian mother. She majored in Arabic and Judaic studies and political science
at the University of Michigan. She spent a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem
and studied Hebrew on a kibbutz. She was a founder of an Arab-Jewish group on
the Michigan campus.
``I wanted to be involved in diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians,''
she said. ``I really wanted to understand the Jewish mentality and history, Israeli
culture and society, and the language, so I would have the legitimacy on both
sides that is needed to be a negotiator.''
Mr. Shapiro and Ms. Arraf seem focused now on helping Palestinians cope with
the Israeli occupation.
``I don't think I'm crossing any line,'' Mr. Shapiro said. ``The cause is justice
and freedom - these are human causes.''
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company