HUSSEINI, Faisal

Palestinian politician, born in Baghdad in 1940. Son of Abdelkhader Husseini, military leader who died during the battle for Jerusalem in April 1948, nephew of Hajj Amin Husseini, then Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini came from an aristocratic Palestinian family. He was regarded as the most important leader of Fatah in the West Bank. Husseini died of a heart attack during a visit to Kuwait on 31 May 2001.

His involvement with the PLO went back to 1964, after his sciences studies, when he worked for the organisation’s office in Jerusalem. Founder and head of the famed Arab Studies Society (1979) based in East-Jerusalem, he has also been a pioneer in Palestinian-Israeli dialogue efforts.

Jailed by Israel for one year in 1967, he was placed under constant house arrest in 1982-87. He then served numerous administrative detention terms, one lasting ten months in 1987-88. The last time he was detained, without trial, was in October 1990 when he was held in police custody for 16 days following the killing by Israeli forces of 18 Palestinians at the al-Aqsa Mosque. His pugnacity made him one of the most famous « internal » Palestinian leaders, very active during the Intifada.

Because he was an East-Jerusalemite he was refused as a negotiator by the Israeli side in the negotiation process which started in Madrid in 1991. But he nonetheless became leader of the unofficial PLO-linked advisory committee of the Palestinian delegation to the Peace Conference.

Although he had no role in the secret negotiations between the PLO and Israel, he was present at the signing ceremony of the Declaration of Principles in Washington in September 1993 (see « Oslo peace process ») as one of the most prominent Palestinians. Later he was actively and successfully involved in the process of reconciliation between the PLO leadership and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, he strongly opposed the human rights abuses by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

Running the Orient House, he welcomed prominent foreign personalities visiting East-Jerusalem. He did not run for the 1996 Palestinian legislative elections because he should therefore have moved his official residence to the West Bank and, consequently, leave Jerusalem. Minister without Portfolio in the PNA, he was unofficially in charge of the Jerusalem file.

He was politically very close to Hanan Ashrawi and Haïdar Abdel Shafi.