He’s a Palestinian activist, but here’s the catch: He’s Jewish

Adam Shapiro — a Jew and a Palestinian rights activist — garnered international media attention in 2002 when he slept in Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s compound during an Israeli siege.

He comes to USF tonight in a lecture for Palestinian Awareness week.

Shapiro’s actions have angered many American Jews and brought death threats against his family.

He helped organize the International Solidarity Movement, which promotes a peaceful resolution in Palestine and confronting what he calls the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine.

But in an interview with CNN in April, Shapiro said he does not feel like he has betrayed fellow Jews. He also told CNN that his desire for a peaceful resolution, including the establishment of two independent states in the region, would benefit both Palestinians and Jews in the world.

The ISM is a network that strives to unite international activists and small community organizations for an end to the occupation of Palestine.

The presentation, “Voices of Conscience: Witnessing the Occupation,” will include a lecture by Shapiro as well as participation from Lauren Anzaldo, an ISM volunteer.

“(Shapiro) is very experienced in speaking on the issues in Palestine,” said MSA chair Layelle Saad. “It is important for students to hear what he has to say because his experience enables him to make the issues more real.

“A lot of people have the idea that Palestinians are terrorists, but he offers education on the issues presented and shows that this is not the case.”

Shapiro earned a master’s in politics from New York University and a master’s in Arab Studies from Georgetown University. He is also a Ph.D. candidate in international studies at American University.

In addition, Shapiro is a former director of the Seeds of Peace Center for Coexistence in Jerusalem, a group dedicated to educating youth in areas of religious conflict.

Shapiro has worked in countries throughout the Middle East and Northeast Africa and has won several international awards for his struggle for peace.

“(The lecture) is aimed at opening people’s minds and trying to refute some of the stereotypes people hold,” Saad said.

The same motivation is what led MSA students to organize this week’s events.

“We want to encourage open-mindedness and education in society,” Saad said. “The best way we can do that is to put our culture out there and show it to people.

“We want people to understand who we are and that we are not bad people.”

The lecture will be this week’s second event. The week opened with a Palestinian cultural festival held Monday.

Reaction to the cultural festival and a similar one-day event that took place last spring at USF encouraged the MSA in its attempt to educate.

“(Reaction to past events) shows you that people are receptive and willing to have an open mind,” Saad said. “People understand what we are offering and we think they want to learn.”

The week will also include a film night Wednesday, featuring a documentary on the life of Palestinian refugees, and a presentation Thursday on Islamic views concerning war and the opposition to oppression.

For more information on PAW visit MSA’s Web site http://www.ctr.usf.edu/msa .