Born in the Palestinian city of Beit Sahour, George N. Rishmawi holds a Diploma in Translation and a BA degree in English Language and Literature, both from Birzeit University. He is a lifelong communist and is allied with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Rishmawi supported the First Palestinian Intifada from its beginnings in 1987. The following year, he became a board member of the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement Between People (PCR), which not only opposes Israeli military measures against Hamas and Hezbollah strongholds in the Palestinian Territories, but also condemns all Israeli home construction in the disputed West Bank “settlements.” Today Rishmawi is PCR's executive director.
In 2001 Rishmawi collaborated with Ghassan Andoni, Huwaida Arraf, Adam Shapiro , George Qassis, and Neta Golan in co-founding the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), whose mission was to recruit American volunteers to disrupt the counter-terrorism efforts of the Israeli Defense Forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “When Palestinians get shot by Israeli soldiers,” said Rishmawi, “no one is interested anymore. But if some of these foreign volunteers get shot or even killed, then the international media will sit up and take notice.”
By early 2005, ISM's numbers were dwindling due to heightened scrutiny of terrorist organizations worldwide, a recent Israeli crackdown on ISM leaders, and the much-publicized deaths of two ISM-affiliated students, American Rachel Corrie and Englishman Tom Hurndall. In an effort to inject new life into his organization, Rishmawi initiated a Palestine Summer Encounter (PSE) program that carried out ISM's traditional activities under a new name. Much of PSE's funding came from the Holy Land Trust.
Soon thereafter, Rishmawi broke off his relations with ISM because of personal differences with co-founders Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf. In 2005 he co-founded the Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies, to bring “tourists” to the Palestinian Territories and indoctrinate them with anti-Israel propaganda. Today Rishmawi serves as coordinator of this organization.
Roz Rothstein, founder of the pro-Israel group Stand With Us, reports that in the mid-2000s she personally witnessed Rishmawi tell a Christian group in Chicago that Israeli scientists had recently developed a gas that was designed to neurologically impair Palestinians -- for the purpose of slowing down their movements so Israelis could more easily gun them down from behind.
In addition to his work with the Siraj Center and PCR, Rishmawi is also currently a board member of the Network of Christian Organizations, a member of the World Council of Churches' Palestinian-Israel Ecumenical Forum, and an executive board member of the Arab Orthodox Cultural Club in Beit Sahour.
In the past, Rishmawi has served variously as: a co-founder and steering-committee member of the Nonviolence Network in Arab Countries; executive director of the Abraham Path; director of Alternative Tourism; advocacy officer for the Near East Council of Churches in Jerusalem; coordinator of the Holy Land Trust's Travel and Encounter Program; and an official of the Guiding Star Tour Agency (Jerusalem).
Rishmawi endorses the organization Al-Awda and works closely with the Sabeel Liberation Theology Center, both of which advocate the dissolution of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state.
A staunch supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, Rishmawi has given training in non-violent protest techniques to groups throughout the Palestinian Territories. During numerous speaking tours across Europe and North America, he has routinely condemned Israel for its propensity to “violat[e] international law” and “harass” Palestinians. Rishmawi denies that Christians are persecuted by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, and claims to be unaware of the anti-Semitic propaganda that is transmitted incessantly via PA schools and media outlets. While Rishmawi assiduously avoids denouncing, or even acknowledging the existence of, Palestinian terrorism, he portrays Israel’s anti-terrorism measures – such as its use of checkpoints and its construction of the separation barrier in the West Bank – as egregious examples of state-sponsored terrorism. When historian Roberta Seid asked him if Hamas members were permitted to participate in the demonstrations which he organized, Rishmawi replied: “We accept everybody. We don’t discriminate against anyone.”