Eulogy for Feisal Husseini by ADC COO Ziad Asali


Delivered by Ziad Asali, Chief Operating Officer, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC); Chairman American Committee on Jerusalem (ACJ)
 
Memorial Service held in Washington DC
 
June 3, 2001
 
Feisal was born in Baghdad, grew up in Cairo, educated in Aleppo, and died in Kuwait, but he lived in Jerusalem and it lived in him.  We are here today to pay respect to the man who was the embodiment of the city of Jerusalem and the cause of Palestine.  You will hear today about Feisal the public man.  He was the grandson of Musa Kazem, the mayor of Jerusalem who fought for his city on horseback when he was 82 years old.  His father, Abdul Kader, led the armed resistance of the Palestinians and was killed in battle at Al Qastal in 1948.  You will hear about Feisal's steady, sustained struggle for Arab Jerusalem, a quest that took him to all the Arab capitals as well as Madrid, Washington and other power centers.  You will hear about the dignity and vision that earned him the stature of a world-class statesman.  The UN Security Council stood for one minute of silence in memory of this man who does not even belong to a state.
 
But let me talk to you about Feisal the man, my friend and my brother. I have known him since 1971 when we were both waiting to receive permission from the Israeli military to remain in Jerusalem.  We talked and walked, recited poetry and discussed politics.  We have spoken of politics and so many other things since those days in many places, in Jerusalem, Amman, London and Washington.  Our last conversation, around three weeks ago in this city, was about politics and memories.  He was the same gentle Feisal with his usual smile, but it was a tired smile. We parted and he went on to buy presents for his wife and children.
 
Feisal was a decent man who would not hold grudges.  His political opponents could not drag him down because he would not stoop.  He was a shy man who forced himself to become a public speaker.  He was a disciplined man who taught himself Hebrew in order to communicate with his enemies.  He was a man of distinguished lineage who was modest and identified with the common man.  He once worked as an x-ray technician and used to till his family's farm.  He was a hard-working man who filled the role of the mokhtar, the mayor, the public defender and the arbiter of conflicts between family members and neighbors in Jerusalem. He was a man of integrity and honor.
 
These are commendable attributes, but they cannot explain why the Security Council would stand for a minute of silence in memory of such a man.  So, what is it that earned him the adoration of the Jerusalemites, the respect of the world, even the grudging respect of his enemies? Perhaps the answer lies in these two additional qualities.  Firstly, he identified with his city and the Palestinian cause with the whole of his mind, body and soul, and this genuine commitment rang true for others because it was true to him.  Secondly, he was a strategic thinker who identified an achievable objective in reaching a historical compromise by establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with Arab Jerusalem as its capital.  He understood reality and the power imperatives and so continued to confront the occupation by acceptable and defensible means and with personal courage and unfaltering dignity. He, more than most, understood the need for unity within and dialogue with the other.  It was up to someone else to scream and yell and cast aspersions in the rejection of compromise.  He was a man on a mission, and, for that mission, he gave his last breath.
 
Jerusalem granted him leadership because he was the son of Abdul Kader the martyr, but she bestowed her heart on him because he was Feisal. She crowned him as her prince, her knight and her guardian.  The crowded, boisterous and spontaneous festival Jerusalem threw for him in the streets and the Haram on the day of his departure was an outpouring of the city's abundant love, and her sense of calamity and orphaned grief.
 
But noble Jerusalem, the Jerusalem of al Haram al Sharif and the Holy Sepulcher, will raise the banner of her knight until the day the flag of  independence waves at her walls.
 
It is my honor today to convey to you, on behalf of Feisal’s family, the Husseinis, and his other family at the Orient House, as well as the people of Jerusalem, their gratitude and appreciation for your kind condolence. They pledge to you that they will persist in their acts of giving, and that they will continue to march in his footsteps and the footsteps of those who preceded him until the day of independence. They have asked me to read for you what Feisal wrote on the day of the first massacre at al Aqsa, October 8th 1990. Feisal was walking that day, with his usual demeanor of modesty and pride, when something inside him made him stop. He felt a bullet whizzing by his head, and so he evaded certain death.
 
He wrote:
 
“When that bullet whizzed by my head I knew that it was not an accident.  It was supposed, or expected, to lodge in my head. It was an involuntary movement that I made to evade death, to face a new beginning. I continued to wonder if that bullet did not really strike me in the head. Has that bullet and the ones following it, really not killed me? I mean has it not killed the human being that lived in this body up till that moment? Has that human being died and I am now another one? That place was full of hatred and anger, of fears and doubts, of the spirit of revenge thirsting for blood, of hurricanes that wreck human values. I was forced to breathe in all that with the tear gas that the police had fired in the holy place…

No, that human being that lived in my body for years did not die, but was born again, with a new will, a new strength and a profound faith. It was a new birth, where things were more refined, more clear and illuminated, with a light that guides and almost builds the pathway. All around me, moans were filling the air; curses were rising up in the holy place.  The smell of blood mixed with gas and gunpowder congested noses and eyes. In the midst of this stifling atmosphere, gloomy with death and catastrophe, I began to prepare my plea and my prayer:

Oh God the chest is full of bitterness…do not change it to hate…
Oh God the heart is full of pain… do not change it to vengeance…
Oh God the spirit is full of fears… do not change them to hatred…
Oh God my body is weak… do not change my weakness to despair…
Oh God I am your servant who holds burning coal in his fist...help me persist and persevere.
Oh God faith is love…
Oh God faith is forgiveness…
Oh God faith is certainty…
Oh God do not extinguish the flame of faith in my chest…
Oh God we wanted a clean Intifada so protect it…
Oh God we wanted freedom for our people and not to enslave others…
Oh God we wanted a home for our people that gathers our dispersion, and we did not seek to destroy other people's states nor to demolish their homes…
Oh God our people are lacking everything but belief in our right…
Oh God our people are weak but for their faith in victory…
Oh God grant us strength and steadfastness so that this Intifada remains white…
Oh God grant us faith, mercy and tolerance amongst each other, and do not turn us into war unto ourselves…
Oh God make the blood spilled a light that guides us and instruct us and give us strength...
Do not make it fodder for our hatred and vengeance…
Oh God this is my prayer…my plea…so listen to it and answer it, and guide us to the right path"


ADC is the largest Arab-American grassroots organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980 by former Senator James Abourezk.
 


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