May 31, 2001-- Faisal el Husseini passed away this morning from a heart attack. I will miss him dearly as I am sure that many others who knew him as well. His death is a great blow to those of us who believe in Israeli-Palestinian peace. I have known Faisel since I founded IPCRI. My first encounter with him was on the evening when he was released from Israeli prison during the first intifada in 1989. I had been meeting with Palestinian personalities for months after suggesting that we create IPCRI. My meetings with tens of Palestinian leaders and public figures were both encouraging and frustrating. The general response that I received at that time from them was: This is a great idea, but it’s too early. No one would allow me to “use” their name, but no one suggested to me to stop my efforts. In fact, they all said, that if I found someone to support the idea of IPCRI, I should contact them again.
On the evening that Faisel was released from prison, I joined the hundreds of people who went to his home in Jerusalem to greet him and to meet him. Faisel’s house looked like a royal palace – not in its grandeur, but in the respect that hundreds and thousands of people expressed by wishing to kiss Faisel’s cheeks and to wish him well. I had never seen anything like it before.
I too greeted Faisel. He didn’t know who I was. I gave a letter describing the idea of IPCRI and asking for his support. I don’t know when he possibility had the time to read the letter, but the next day, around noon, I was asked by one of his assistants to come and see him later that day in the early evening. Faisel took me into the private family living room while hundreds of people waited outside. He spoke with me for about half an hour, asking me a lot of questions and evaluating what kind of person I was and what I really wanted. At the end of the half hour he rose from his chair and said: “You have my support, tell everyone that I will take an active role in creating IPCRI”. From that day onward, Faisel had been a constant and active supporter of the work of IPCRI. Before the Orient House was reopened Faisel even consider the offer that we made to him to share IPCRI’s office that was in East Jerusalem at that time. The office was too small for his needs and he didn’t accept. I often wondered what would have happened during those days if we had shared the office with him
We invited Faisel to be a keynote speaker at our Ten Year Anniversary Celebration. Faisel spoke warmly about IPCRI and he once again spelled out his vision for a peaceful Palestinian state living alongside a peaceful Israel in cooperation and mutual prosperity. I know that he believed deeply in that vision.
Three weeks ago I had a long conversation with him regarding the continuous work we are doing on the question of Jerusalem. Faisel once again expressed his full support and proposed that we arrange for a joint meeting to see if we can make more progress on finding solutions for Jerusalem. Over the past two weeks we have been engaged in preparing for that work.
I had tremendous respect for Faisel. I always enjoyed talking with him. I think he was a man of courage and leadership. It is so sad that Faisel is no longer with us. He did not finish his work. He did not live long enough to see his dream of a city of Jerusalem shared in peace, the capital of Israel and the capital of Palestine. One open, undivided city for all people who love Jerusalem. Faisel, your dream will come true and you will not be forgotten.
About Faisal: Born in 1940 in Baghdad; studied in Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus; founding member of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) in 1959; worked for the PLO after its initial establishment in Jerusalem as deputy manager of the Public Organisation Dept. (1964-65); received military training at a Syrian officer's academy and joined the Palestinian Liberation Army in 1967; graduate from Damascus Military College 1967; founder and chairman of the Arab Studies Society, since 1979; in the 1980s placed repea-tedly under house and city arrest; several times imprisoned; member of the Supreme Muslim Council, Jerusalem, since 1982; Palestinian spokesperson; head of the Jerusalem National Council/Palestine; head of Palestinian delegation to the Middle East Peace Conference; head of Fatah faction in the West Bank; Arafat's chief representative in the OPT; active in developing and promoting Israeli-Palestinian dialogue; Palestinian national movement's local mediator for peace.