Maher Bitar

  • Anti-Israel activist
  • Was an intern at the Foundation for Middle East Peace
  • Was an executive board member of Georgetown University's chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine
  • Supporter of the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement
  • Worked on Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign
  • Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council under President Joe Biden
Additional Resources

Born in the early 1980s, Maher Brian Samir Bitar has been a left-wing activist for many years. In 2003-04 he served as a counselor at Seeds of Peace, which describes itself as an organization opposed to “dynamics, institutions, and structures that are obstacles to peace, including Racism, Sexism, Classism, Political Violence, Colonialism, Military Occupation, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia.”

In 2002 Bitar enrolled at Georgetown University, where he became an executive board member of the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an anti-Israel hate group. In 2006 he was a principal organizer of a pro-Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) conference held at Georgetown by the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM). StandWithUs.com describes some of what was taught at this event:

“Maher Bitar and Nadeem Muaddi told people how to infiltrate [Christian] churches in order to gain support for an anti-Israel agenda. They emphasized ‘targeting’ small churches that don’t have their own political agendas already. ‘Be patient about bringing up the divestment issue with your new Christian friends,’ Mauddi advised. To win the congregants’ trust, he encouraged activists to deceive their new prospective friends by ‘looking and acting Christian.’ ‘Dress conservatively,’ he said. No kyffias, sandals or jeans. Instead, ‘men should wear button-down shirts, sports coats or khakis.’ He went on to say that women should wear mid-length skirts with colored pantyhose. He told them to be well-groomed and to speak nicely, avoiding curse words and slang. ‘Mind your manners,’ he said. ‘If someone sneezes, say God Bless you. And always come bearing gifts, especially something from the Holy Land like holy water or rosary beads.’ He further advised the activists to get involved in the church community. ‘Don’t look down on the church ladies’ clubs — join them.’ [… The goal was] to deceive and manipulate the churches so they could spread the virus of hatred through well-meaning religious communities.

“In another session, University of Wisconsin philosophy graduate student Mohammed Abed told participants that the two-state paradigm would never give Palestinians their full right to ‘cultural self-determination.’ In order to flourish, he said, the Palestinians need access to the ENTIRETY [emphasis in original] of their homeland, not just the West Bank and Gaza. Abed was giving a clear message to eliminate Israel.

“Other sessions focused on training college students how to work more effectively with the media and how to plan and implement divestment campaigns. Students were encouraged to monitor and become involved with the school paper and to make news dramatic enough so journalists would report the stories. The goal, of course, is to get the Palestinian message out — which is implicitly translated by the speakers at the PSM conference as the demonization of Israel. Students were also told to build coalitions in order to bring a multi-cultural face to their (anti-Israel) efforts. Even though this might mean that groups will have to listen to people with other agendas, that’s part of the way to build a larger group that will ultimately promote divestment or other anti-Israel agendas on campus. […]

“There was no mention of suicide bombing unless it was brought up in questions, and the answers always referred to Israel’s responsibility for any acts of Palestinian terrorism and equated Israel’s methods of self-defense with terrorist attacks.”

A photo from the 2006 PSM conference shows Bitar dancing in a keffiyah in front of a banner reading, “Divest from Israeli Apartheid[.]”[1]

In 2006 as well, Bitar earned a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (BSFS) degree in International Politics from Georgetown University. His senior convocation speech was an anti-Israel rant in which he said the following:

“I came to Georgetown angry. Angry at the world for forcing my family into exile; angry because of the dispossession I had inherited; angry because these crimes continue. I am Palestinian and Egyptian, Arab and Melkite, or Greek Catholic, American and Canadian. Especially in a post-9/11 context, I, like many others with names and faces like mine, have been unfairly cast as the Other, as different, even, at times here at Georgetown, as unwelcome. But at Georgetown I have also found a unique place, where I could actively and productively confront such prejudice. As a result, Georgetown has encouraged me to embrace the challenge of belonging to a minority, of being on the margins of political discourse, of needing to advocate, loudly [emphasis in original], on behalf of people who are dispossessed. Some of you here today have also experienced the disempowerment that comes from being marginalized — be it because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or belief.[…]

“Though I arrived on campus angry, I now leave empowered. […] I have learned each of us has a responsibility to remain unsatisfied with the state of the world around us; unsatisfied with the way our privilege is inextricably tied to the oppression of others. […] I have discovered what it means to be a public intellectual who merges intellectual inquiry with activism. It is Georgetown’s unique environment that has shown me how to productively channel the frustration with which I arrived. In the words of the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said, being an engaged member of humanity means embodying the ‘audacity of daring.’ I take this to mean daring to confront the forces of inequality, of poverty, of conflict; daring to speak truth to power – be it in our own communities or globally. At Georgetown I have been known as ‘the Palestinian,’ and I am proud to leave Georgetown still known as ‘the Palestinian,’ but also speaking as part of a large chorus of voices forced to the margins. Next year, I will be studying forced migration at Oxford University. Others of you will be working directly with immigrant populations in inner-city schools.

“But all of us, no matter what we are studying or where we are working, leave Georgetown understanding that call for human dignity and for action so memorably formulated by the great anti-colonialist writer and [Marxist] activist Frantz Fanon in ‘Peau Noire, Masques Blancs’ – ‘Black Skin, White Masks.’ “Fanon wrote: […] “Man is a yes….Yes to life. Yes to love. Yes to generosity. But man is also a no. No to the scorn of man. No to the degradation of man. No to the exploitation of man. No to the butchery of what is most human in man: freedom.”

In 2007, Bitar facilitated a Palestinian Student Society summit addressed by Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, who believes that Israel is a “racist” state and Zionism is the equivalent of “anti-Semitism.”

On another occasion, Bitar presented at a Sabeel conference featuring Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Richard Falk, who endorsed a book that asked if “Hitler might have been right after all.”

Bitar was a research intern at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in 2007.

In 2007 as well, Bitar enrolled in a Ph.D. program in International Relations at the University of Oxford, where he would receive his doctorate five years later.

Bitar became an intern at the Israel-hating Foundation for Middle East Peace, and while at Oxford he wrote papers on the so-called Nakba (Arabic for “Catastrophe,” a pejorative reference to the creation of the State of Israel).

In 2008 Bitar wrote a paper titled “Unprotected Among Brothers: Palestinians in the Arab World,” wherein he argued that Israel’s “political existence as a state is the cause for Palestinian dispossession and statelessness,” and that “Israel’s rejection of their [Palestinians’] right to return remains the main obstacle to finding a durable solution.” On another occasion, Bitar wrote a paper titled “Ethnic Cleansing and the Falling Apart of Palestinian Society.”

In 2008, Bitar volunteered for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

That same year, Bitar enrolled at Georgetown University Law Center, where he became a Global Law Scholar and eventually earned a JD in 2012.

Bitar married the Maryland lawyer and fellow left-wing activist Astrid Marie Dorelien on June 11, 2011. Dorelien had served in internships with the World Health Organization’s Office of Legal Counsel and the Brady Center for Gun Violence Prevention’s Legal Action Project. She also had been a 2010 Presidential Management Fellow in the Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator.

After completing his formal schooling, Bitar worked for the Office of the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace (in the Obama Administration). From there, he went on to serve as the National Security Council’s Director for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs and as Ambassador Samantha Power’s deputy at the United Nations.

In 2013, Bitar was admitted to the Maryland bar as a licensed attorney.

In a 2016 speech at Georgetown University, Bitar urged students “who might feel conflicted about or even disagree with American policy and want to change it,” to become politically active and help facilitate such change.

After Donald Trump became U.S. President in 2016, Bitar worked as general counsel to House Intelligence Committee Democrats, serving as a top legal adviser to Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff and playing an active role in the first impeachment of President Trump in 2020.

In January 2021, Bitar became Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council under President Joe Biden.

Further Reading:Maher Bitar” (Linkedin.com)

Footnotes

  1. 2006 Georgetown student yearbook, page 115.

Additional Resources

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