From martyrdom to hope

Nasser Abufarha (far right) serves tea to the Kerr family in an olive grove.

Nasser Abufarha, scholar, writer and founder of the Palestinian Fair Trade Association (PFTA) and Canaan Fair Trade (CFT), will be visiting Northeast Ohio this month to discuss how his research on suicide bombers led to the founding of the largest fair trade producers’ union in Palestine. Dr. Abufarha will be speaking at John Carroll University’s Lombardo Student Center on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. and at Oberlin College on Friday, Sept. 17, at noon in West Hall. His talk is titled "Insisting on Life."

Established only five years ago, PFTA now has 49 national cooperatives with more than 1,700 small farmers participating. CFT, its corporate partner, has a state-of-the-art olive oil refinery and is a worldwide distributor of certified organic fair trade olive oil. CFT sells its products to major corporations in Europe, North America, and the Middle East, including Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma. CFT also supports economic and social empowerment programs, including college scholarships, micro-loans for women and the marketing of their products, replanting thousands of uprooted olive trees, and jobs for the growing olive industry.

Nasser Abufarha was born near the West Bank city of Jenin, once a hot bed of young militants and home to many suicide bombers. Now PFTA and CFT have given Jenin’s citizens reason to live and hope. While creating a national union of fair trade cooperatives, processors and exporters, Abufarha completed his doctorate in anthropology at the University of Wisconsin. His book, The Making of a Human Bomb: An Ethnography of Palestinian Resistance, based on his dissertation, was published by Duke University Press in 2009.

Abufarha’s work merited an invitation to the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship in Washington, DC, last April. President Obama described this meeting of international Muslim entrepreneurs and American business and government leaders as a "new beginning" in strengthening business ties with the Muslim world.

For more information, contact Mary Ann Kerr at 216-371-1855 or by e-mail at

Mary Ann Kerr and her husband, Douglas, are longtime residents of Cleveland Heights.They became involved with Middle East peace issues after Doug's brother, Malcolm Kerr, president of American University of Beirut, was assassinated in 1984. The Kerrs have visited Israel and the Palestinian territories several times.


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Volume 3, Issue 9, Posted 4:53 PM, 07.28.2010