Adam Shapiro, Call Your Mother

Strange things happen in strange places, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that a young American from Brooklyn has emerged from Yasser Arafat’s besieged compound in Ramallah. Adam Shapiro, who has lived in Ramallah for three years and is engaged to a Palestinian woman, is an activist with the International Solidarity Movement, which advocates nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. Shapiro entered Arafat’s compound on Friday, in an ambulance with a doctor, and soon sent a text message to his fiancee: “Phone lines have been cut. Need Red Cross.” He later called her and told of sharing a meal with Arafat. As his fiancee put it, “He was like, ‘I just had breakfast with the president.'”

Shapiro’s work in Ramallah revolved around organizing nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation, and this article, which the 30-year old American wrote with his fiancee, outlines a strategy the Palestinians should have adopted long ago. If their goal is to have a state alongside Israel (a very big “if” these days), the use of violence to achieve it has been an abysmal and deadly failure. Shapiro’s views were shaped by Gene Sharp, the Clausewitz of nonviolent theory. Sharp’s how-to handbook, From Dictatorship to Democracy, deeply influenced the Serbian students who played a crucial role in overthrowing Slobodan Milosevic.

UPDATE: Adam’s parents have left their Brooklyn apartment after receiving death threats from anonymous callers who regard their son as a traitor and/or terrorist. The Times notes that Adam, who remains in Ramallah but plans to return to the United States next month for his wedding, told his brother to add “getting a security detail” to a checklist of things to do before his marriage.

Author: Peter Maass

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. In 1983, after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, I went to Brussels as a copy editor for The Wall Street Journal/Europe. I left the Journal in 1985 to write for The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune, covering NATO and the European Union. In 1987 I moved to Seoul, South Korea, where I wrote primarily for The Washington Post. After three years in Asia I moved to Budapest to cover Eastern Europe and the Balkans. I spent most of 1992 and 1993 covering the war in Bosnia for the Post.