Palestinian peace activist to speak at ASU

Sari Nusseibeh, a Harvard- and Oxford-educated Palestinian scholar whose focus is on peace in the Palestine-Israel area, will deliver the Annual Lecture on Religion, Conflict and Peace Studies sponsored by the Arizona State University Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.

The free lecture, titled “Religion, Values and the Search for Peace,” will take place at 2:30 p.m., April 13, in West Hall room 135 on ASU’s Tempe campus.

His voice is an important one on the subject, said Yasmin Saikia, who holds the Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies and is a professor of history at ASU.

“Sari Nussiebeh provides us a bold and creative language for thinking about peace to resolve the Palestine and Israel problem,” she said. “His compassionate outlook, concern for humanity, and sense of individual responsibility to forge a new direction for peace is inspirational and shines as a beacon of hope.”

Nusseibeh, a scholar of Islamic and political philosophy, was born in Damascus and brought up in Jerusalem, where he is currently president of Al-Quds University. His family website notes that the Nusseibehs have been in Jerusalem for 1,300 years – one of the first Muslim families in the city – and the family holds the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, along with an obligation to keep the Holy Rock clean.

Nusseibeh taught at Birzeit University in the West Bank from 1978 until 1991, when he was placed under administrative detention in an Israeli jail for three months. Following his release, he joined his colleagues in the Palestinian negotiating team with Israel, heading the technical and advisory committees.

Nusseibeh has written and lectured widely, his ever-increasing focus being the subject of war and peace in his region of the world. His books include “Once Upon A Country,” with co-author Anthony David, and “What’s a Palestinian State Worth?”

The latter has been described as “a tight, philosophical examination of what's actually at stake in the quest for Palestinian statehood.” The book is structured around a series of questions such as “How did we come to this?” “What makes life worth living?” and “Can values bring us together?”

The New York Times said of “Once Upon a Country” that it is “largely a political memoir, about a reluctantly political Palestinian trying to bring politics to his people, as the forces of occupation, religion and terrorism interfere with the very possibility of politics.”

After he was released from detention, Nusseibeh also co-founded the Fatah Higher Committee in the Occupied Territories, serving as its deputy chairman. After the death of his colleague, Faisal Husseini, Nusseibeh briefly served as PLO point man in Jerusalem.

Nusseibeh, a voice for non-violence in the Middle East, said, in an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered, that “a feeling of shared humanity is key to any future peace. The average Israelis are just the same as the average Palestinians … and just as human."

Saikia said, “His will to act non-violently for peace in Palestine-Israel promises a moral order based on human values that should be a priority for all of us concerned who live in this interconnected world.

“In a world full of conflicting identities that violate the basic right to humanity, Sari Nusseibeh’s reflective thinking on peace enables us to think about what is ‘good’ as well as ‘right’ for the well-being of humanity in the Middle East and beyond.”

Although the lecture is free and open to the public, due to limited seating please RSVP to or 480-727-6736. For more information on the lecture, go to