Aaronovitch is the son of communist intellectual and economist Sam Aaronovitch, and brother of actor Owen Aaronovitch and scriptwriter and author Ben Aaronovitch. His parents were atheists whose "faith was Marxism", according to Aaronovitch, and he is ethnically half Jewish and half Irish. He has written that he was brought up "to react to wealth with a puritanical pout".
Aaronovitch attended Gospel Oak Primary School until 1965, Holloway County Comprehensive (now Holloway School) until 1968, and William Ellis School from 1968 to 1972, all in London. He studied Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford from October 1973 until April 1974, when he was expelled for failing the German language section of his history exams. Aaronovitch completed his education at the Victoria University of Manchester, graduating in 1978 with a 2:1 BA (Hons) in History.
While at Manchester, Aaronovitch was a member of the 1975 University Challenge team that lost in the first round after answering most questions with the name of a Marxist ("Trotsky", "Lenin", "Karl Marx" or "Che Guevara"). The tactics were a protest against the fact that Oxford University and Cambridge University were allowed to enter each of their colleges into the contest as a separate team, even though the colleges were not universities in themselves.
Aaronovitch was initially a Eurocommunist, and was active in the National Union of Students (NUS). There he got to know the president at the time, Charles Clarke, who later became Home Secretary. Aaronovitch himself succeeded Trevor Phillips as president of the NUS from 1980 to 1982. He was elected on a Left Alliance ticket.
Aaranovitch began his media career in the early 1980s as a television researcher and later producer for the ITV programme Weekend World. In 1988, he began working at the BBC as founding editor of the political current affairs programme On the Record.
He moved to print journalism in 1995, working for The Independent and Independent on Sunday as chief leader writer, television critic, parliamentary sketch writer and columnist until the end of 2002.
He began contributing to The Guardian and The Observer in 2003 as a columnist and feature writer. Aaronovitch's columns appeared in The Guardian's G2 section. His desire for his pieces to appear on the main comment pages, according to Peter Wilby, was reportedly vetoed by the section editor, Seumas Milne, although Aaronovitch himself does not know if Milne was involved in the decision. Since June 2005, he has written a regular column for The Times. He also writes a regular column for The Jewish Chronicle. Aaronovitch has also written for a variety of other major British news and opinion publications, such as the New Statesman. In addition, he has written for New Humanist, and is an "honorary associate" of its publisher, the Rationalist Association.
Aaronovitch also presents or contributes to radio and television programmes, including the BBC's Have I Got News for You and BBC News 24. In 2004 he presented The Norman Way, a three-part BBC Radio 4 documentary looking at régime change in 1066.
Aaronovitch also hosted the BBC series The Blair Years (2007), which examined the prime ministership of Tony Blair. The choice of Aaronovitch to interview Blair was criticised by the Daily Mail's Peter Oborne, who asserted in July 2007 that "over the past ten years Aaronovitch has never... ceased to extend a helping hand to Tony Blair... Whatever his merits as a journalist, Aaronovitch cannot be regarded as an independent figure who could be trusted to interrogate a former prime minister on behalf of the British public."
Aaronovitch gave strong support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Since the invasion he has taken the view that it liberated Iraqis, and has played down the significance of Iraq's putative weapons of mass destruction. However, he wrote in 2003: "If nothing is eventually found, I – as a supporter of the war – will never believe another thing that I am told by our government, or that of the US ever again. And, more to the point, neither will anyone else. Those weapons had better be there somewhere." He remains a strong supporter of Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In late 2005 Aaronovitch was co-author, with Oliver Kamm and journalist Francis Wheen, of a complaint to The Guardian after it published an apology to Noam Chomsky for an interview by Emma Brockes, in which she asserted that Chomsky had denied the Srebrenica massacre. A Guardian readers' editor found that the newspaper had misrepresented Chomsky's position on the Srebrenica massacre, and that judgement was upheld in May 2006 by an external ombudsman, John Willis.
In his column of 5 September 2013, Aaronovitch criticised the Labour leader Ed Miliband for providing no alternative to military intervention in Syria, after the use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta attacks of 21 August 2013. For Aaronovitch, "politically [Miliband] is not a presence at all, he is an absence" and "is neither hunter nor prey, he is scavenger. He is a political vulture."
During 2013, Aaronovitch became the chairman of the human rights organisation Index on Censorship, succeeding Jonathan Dimbleby in the role.
In May 2014 Aaronovitch criticized Glenn Greenwald's involvement in the Edward Snowden NSA revelations, and characterised Greenwald as "a stilted writer of overlong, dishonest and repetitive polemics."
In August 2014, Aaronovitch was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.
In 2016, Aaranovitch endorsed the United Kingdom's continued membership of the European Union in the June 23rd referendum.
A memoir about his family and early life, Party Animals: My Family and Other Communists, was published in January 2016.
Aaronovitch lives in London with his wife and three daughters.Paddling to Jerusalem: An Aquatic Tour of Our Small Country (Fourth Estate, 2000) ISBN 978-1-84115-540-1
No Excuses for Terror, a 45-minute documentary film that "criticizes how the anti-Israel views of the far-left and far-right have permeated the mainstream media and political discourse."
Blaming the Jews, a 45-minute documentary film that evaluates anti-Semitism in Arab media and culture.
God and the Politicians, 28 September 2005, a documentary film that looks at the important question of the increasing religious influence on politics in the UK
Voodoo Histories: The Role of Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, Jonathan Cape, 2009, ISBN 978-0-224-07470-4 Published in the US in 2010 by Riverhead Books, ISBN 978-1-59448-895-5
Party Animals: My Family and Other Communists. Jonathan Cape, 2016.