Nonie Darwish, founder of Arabs for Israel, Speaks About Her Path to Peace at Israel Club Shabbaton

Nonie Darwish spoke twice at the Shabbaton.

Oct 23, 2008 — For many, the concept of a peace activist from Gaza whose father helped launch raids across Israel’s southern border and who was later declared a martyr by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser when assassinated by the Israeli Defense Force, is an impossibility. But Nonie Darwish, who spoke at the Israel Club Shabbaton this September, is exactly that: the founder of Arabs for Israel, which advocates for peace and reconciliation.

The Israel Club kicked off the year’s programming with this unique forum for conversation. “Exposing people to something different from what they always hear, listening to someone from the other side of the fence, that’s one of our goals,” said Rachel Aviv, president of the Israel Club and a senior at Stern College for Women. “It’s important to the college experience and to the growing mind to see things from other perspectives.”

With almost 400 students and guests in attendance at the Shabbaton, including some eager members of the public from the Washington Heights neighborhood, Darwish spoke twice over Shabbat to an enthralled crowd and made herself available at meals, telling her story and expressing her hopes and fears for peace.

She spoke about how she was exposed to Western culture and Israeli tolerance when her brother suffered a stroke and was treated at Hadassah Hospital. As a result, she began questioning the virulent anti-Israel sentiments she had known all her life.

Appalled at the lack of reaction among Arabs and Muslims in America to the Sept. 11 attacks, Darwish began writing and speaking out critically, ultimately founding her organization and providing a safe medium for moderates to express themselves. Her book “Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Effects of Shariya Law” will be published this November. She has also authored “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel and the War on Terror.”

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