Sari Nusseibeh’s writings and spoken word grab me as does this photo of him as a boy in Jerusalem.
He has spent a lifetime researching, thinking on and writing about Arab culture and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. His family has deep roots in Palestine. They are still the holders of the key for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. His own thoughts sprout from his research on the ancient Persian philosopher, poet and Islamic theologian, Avicenna and many others. Dr. Nusseibeh’s take on nearly anything comes from penetrating angles. But, he doesn’t just benefit from an academic, free-to-think, removed-from-the-streets perspective. He has been in East Jerusalem for much of his life. He has been striving for a peaceful resolution for this highly contested land and all of its people – even when neither side wanted his contribution – for decades. He is knowledgeable and unrelentingly passionate and creative about finding a way. What’s not to like?
Sari Nusseibeh’s idea of a workable solution has morphed throughout the years and is firmly based in the concept that ideas do not easily flow into reality exactly as they are formed in the mind. He lives out the philosophical approach that says that one only believes and defends an idea as long as it resembles truth. If it no longer is believable, then one must simply accept a new truth and move on.
His approach to finding a peaceful solution over the years has contained the following and more:
- Holding to a utopian idea of a one state “Palest-El” solution where everyone benefits from and appreciates the other’s unique attributes
- As a professor, challenging the views of his fundamentalist students
- Opening The Lemon Tree Café to allow a place for open discussion to thrive
- Funneling ideas out of the Palestinian Territories via swallowed capsules because Israel had disallowed organized meetings of more than 10 people among other restrictions imposed via Military Orders (You’ll be shocked at the limitations!)
- Organizing a student union in spite of restrictions
- Being beaten by fundamentalists for meeting with Israeli leaders searching for a peaceful solution and sustaining a broken arm and other injuries
- Imprisoned by Israel for allegedly being an Iraqi spy despite working heavily with Israeli Peace Now
- Authoring information leaflets sustaining the First Intifada while attempting to ensure it remained a protest of nonviolent civil disobedience. – Israel worked hard to squash information realizing the power of words.
- Repositioning to support a two-state solution when the idea of Palest-El was clearly not going to come to pass
As I have been inching through his autobiography for two years now, I couldn’t believe when I received an email that he would be speaking in Nicosia. There was no way I was going to miss this. His unending energy, his drive for his people, in spite of trials and disappointment inspire and confound. Also of note: His talk just happened to take place on the same day of Gilad Shalit and the Palestinian prisoner swap – solidifying this as a surely-not-to-miss event.
Now that you have a bit of history and plenty of links to background information, I’ll close this post. The next post will deal with his talk. The third post will be my response.