A freelance business consultant who operates through his own consulting firm - Applied Information Management (AIM) - Mr. Sam Bahour specialises in business development with a niche focus on start-ups. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Palestine Telecommunications Company and the PLAZA Shopping Center, and recently completed a full term as a member of Birzeit University’s board of trustees, as well as at the Dalia Association, where he was a founding member. He is also a director at the Arab Islamic Bank and serves in various capacities in several community organisations. Mr. Bahour speaks and writes frequently on Palestinian affairs and has been widely published. He is co-editor of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians.
Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, a small town in the United States, he is the son of a Palestinian father and a Lebanese-American mother. Political awareness came early on in Mr. Bahour’s life. His town was, as he describes, “an ideal location to become attuned to the struggle.” He developed an affection for Palestine not only as his homeland but also as a cause and regularly visited during his summer vacations. While at Youngstown State University, where he studied computer technology, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon took place. From then on, activism became an integral part of his life and character. He worked with fellow students and friends in the Arab Community Center, where they planned and organised political activities and events.
One of their major achievements was mobilising the Palestinian cause in American politics during the Jessie Jackson campaign for presidency, which was the first time that the issue of a Palestinian state was addressed in American foreign politics. Another turning point in Mr. Bahour’s life was the first Palestinian uprising when he organised alternative tours for eye-witness delegations to see first-hand the effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian lives. Those trips further exposed him to the fragmentation of Palestinian society, which would later constitute the theme of his work: a private sector that is not distinct from society and that aims to create linkages.
In 1993, Mr. Bahour married and, after returning for a year to Ohio, decided to settle permanently in Palestine following the signing of the Oslo Agreement. This was a leap of faith for Mr. Bahour who did not have residency in Palestine and was aware that he would have to leave every three months to renew his visa. He applied for residency in 1994. In 2006, he was threatened by the issuing of his “last permit,” an event that drove him to join the “Right to Enter Campaign.” Along with other foreign Palestinians, this grassroots initiative raised the issue of access to Palestine. He finally obtained permanent residency in 2009, after living in uncertainty for 15 years. In 1998, Mr. Bahour completed his MBA at Tel Aviv University through a joint programme with Northwestern University.
His background in information technology and business serve him well in his mission to build bridges between the private sector and other sectors of Palestinian society. He finds the private sector detached from society, although it has the capacity needed to contribute to a better standard of living in Palestine. “Living under occupation is expensive,” he explains. “We need to reduce the cost of living, and with strategic planning, we will be able to.”
In addition to supporting individual artists, filmmakers and writers, he also supports Al-Kamandjati Association and the Palestinian Circus School. He also founded the Palestinian Diaspora Investment Company, a company that recruits Palestinians in the United States to invest in Palestine.
Mr. Bahour believes that the best thing for Palestinians is “to reconstruct our internal house to be able to produce a strategy to get us on track to ending the occupation. This strategy must include all parts of Palestinian society, regardless of where they reside, and it requires a high level of organisation.”