Faisal al-Husseini, the top PLO figure in Jerusalem, died of a heart attack while visiting Kuwait on Thursday. Mourning Palestinians are calling him an "honest" leader and world media are hailing his "moderate" credentials, but both labels beg explanations.
Special Update: August 20, 2001
See Also :
Faysal Al-Husseini in his Last Interview: "The Oslo Accords Were a Trojan Horse; The Strategic Goal is the Liberation of Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea"
Some Relevant Husseini Quotes;Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Faisal Husseini has said the Palestinians are waging a war of independence that will end only when the last Israeli settler leaves the territories, and that when Palestinians become a majority in the Holy Land, they will decide whether to allow the Jews to have a state, Israel Radio reported Wednesday. It quoted Husseini as saying that the clashes in the territories are not another intifada, or uprising, but a war of independence that will end only when the last Israeli leaves land captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. Husseini also said that in another few dozen years the Palestinians will constitute a majority in the area, and that it will be they who will decide whether to grant Israelis a state, if Israel continues with its present policies. (IMRA/Ha'aretz Dec 6, 2000)
"On May 4, 1999, we will announce the independence of the Palestinian state, at which time the Palestinian Authority will forcefully open up our borders with Jordan and Egypt ... there will be violent confrontation and death, but this time on both sides … The Israelis [are] more numerous and better equipped... but the superiority of us Palestinians lies in the fact that we are willing to lay down our lives, whereas for them every death is a tragedy that society cannot bear." (Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, Aug 27)
Faisal Husseini told Syrian television all Palestinians agree that the "just boundaries" of Palestine are the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Whatever territory could be obtained now should be accepted, and future events, perhaps in the next 15 or 20 years, would present opportunities to realise these "just boundaries". (Nov.'96)
Palestinian businesses are being ordered closed for three days in honor of Husseini, a leading spokesman of the Palestinian nationalist movement whose body was to be flown to Amman today for eventual burial in Jerusalem. Hundreds of grieving Palestinians were paying their respects today at his offices in Orient House, the historic family home of his prominent al-Husseini clan that has also served for years as the highly-symbolic PLO headquarters in "Al Quds."
Husseini, 61, died early today in his hotel room in Kuwait City. PLO chief Yasser Arafat cut short a visit to Belgium to return to Ramallah to receive Husseini's coffin. On Friday morning, his body is to pass from Ramallah to Orient House and then through Damascus Gate, to be buried in a family plot near the Al-Aqsa mosque compound - otherwise known as the Temple Mount - in Jerusalem.
It is still unclear whether or not Arafat will be permitted to attend Husseini's burial on the Temple Mount. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is to make the final decision on whether Israel will allow Arafat into the Old City, where he has not stepped foot since the 1967 Six-Day War.
"We have lost today one of our honest men," top PLO official Ahmed Abdel Rahman said today. Leading Israeli dove Yossi Beilin spoke of him reverently as a "partner for peace" and a "voice of sanity."
In what became his last mission for the PLO, Husseini headed a Palestinian delegation attending a conference in Kuwait on freezing "normalization" with Israel. He was the highest ranking PLO official to visit Kuwait since the 1991 Gulf War, when Arafat sided with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Palestinians working in Kuwait assisted Iraqi troops invading the small Arab oil emirate. After Kuwait was liberated, over 300,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled and ties with the PLO were severed. Though he was allowed in on an unofficial visit, Husseini riled the sensitivities of many Kuwaitis on Wednesday by announcing that Arafat hoped to pay a visit of his own soon. Angry Kuwaiti members of parliament told him Arafat was not welcome.
Husseini's relatives claimed today that the Kuwait government is responsible for his death, which happened soon after a local Kuwaiti police officer attacked his bodyguard. Apparently, the policeman accused Husseini's bodyguard with taking part in the Iraqi invasion in 1991.
Husseini inherited the mantle of leadership of eastern Jerusalem's large al-Husseini clan from his father, Abdel Kader, and his uncle, Haj Amin al-Husseini, both Palestinian heroes in the armed struggle against the Zionist movement. His father commanded local Arab forces during Israel's War of Independence in 1948 and was killed in the battle for Jerusalem.
His uncle Haj Amin was the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem whose agitations against British mandatory rule and Jewish immigration sparked the Arab riots of 1936-1939. He later fled to Baghdad, where he aided the pro-Nazi revolt of 1941. Haj Amin then spent the rest of World War II as Hitler's special guest in Berlin, advocating the extermination of Jews in radio broadcasts back to the Middle East and recruiting Balkan Muslims for infamous SS "mountain divisions" that tried to wipe out Jewish communities throughout the region. (See THE ARAB/MUSLIM NAZI CONNECTION)
Husseini himself joined the Fatah movement founded by his distant cousin Arafat, spent time in Israeli prisons, and eventually became a key symbol of the PLO quest for Jerusalem. Though he later learned Hebrew and engaged Israeli leftists in dialogue, his image as a "moderate" towards Israel is somewhat deceptive.
Husseini earned the label by publicly accepting a "two-state solution" to the conflict, rather than Israel's immediate destruction. Yet he also was on record throughout the Oslo era as insisting that the "demographic time-bomb" - the higher Palestinian birthrate - would ensure that the Jewish state would be "absorbed" within the greater Arab world within a generation.
Beilin claimed today that Husseini "was a partner for many small understandings and agreements about Jerusalem in order to prevent eruption of violence." Yet he was on the Temple Mount last September 28 and joined several Israeli Arab MKs in inciting a Muslim crowd to rioting just as Ariel Sharon was ending his visit there - an episode that exploded into what is now a low-level war.
And one month ago, Husseini told an audience in Lebanon that while the goal of the current intifada was to win independence for a Palestinian state along the June 1967 borders, this did not mean having to abandon the ultimate "ideological" goal of a Palestinian state "from the River to the Sea."
Palestinian accolades of Husseini's "honesty" have an interesting background as well. For years, members of the ruling Saudi oil families have been reluctant to trust Arafat and his corrupt cronies with their financial contributions towards the Palestinian cause. Instead, they established the "Jeddah Fund," managed by Faisal Husseini, which has poured some US$30 million annually into the greater Jerusalem area "to maintain and expand the Islamic presence."
Husseini's oversight of these funds, his perceived lack of corruption and his position vis-a-vis Arafat within the same extended clan contributed to a simmering rivalry with the PLO chief. This rivalry was reflected in Arafat's appointment of Ziad Abu Zayyad as the Palestinian Authority's Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, a title Husseini already commanded within the PLO hierarchy.
©2001 - Jerusalem Post