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Husayni, Faysal Al- (Husseini, Feisal; 1940–2001)

HUSAYNI, FAYSAL AL- (Husseini, Feisal; 1940–2001)

Palestinian politician. Faysal al-Husayni was born in Baghdad into the prominent and influential Husayni family. His father, Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, a Palestinian nationalist leader, was killed in combat on 9 April 1948 at the Battle of al-Qastal, just before the proclamation of the State of Israel. His grandfather, Musa Kazim al-Husayni, was one of the leaders of the Arab struggle against the British occupation. His great-uncle was Hajj Amin al-Husayni. After his father's death, he was raised by his uncle's family. In 1958, after studying science in Baghdad, he enrolled in the University of Cairo, where he was acquainted briefly with Yasir Arafat, whom he replaced as head of the Palestinian Students Union. In May 1964, while living in Jerusalem, he joined the newly created Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In 1966 he underwent military training in a Palestinian camp in Syria. In 1967, after returning to Israel, he was imprisoned for a number of months by Israeli authorities. In 1979, as a member of the Supreme Islamic Council of Jerusalem, he founded the Arab Studies Society in East Jerusalem. Between 1982 and 1987 he was under sentence of house arrest and then accused of being an underground leader of Fatah and again imprisoned. On 12 September 1987 he was sentenced to six months of detention for having had contact with a Likud leader, Moshe Amirav. On 30 July 1988 he was sentenced to six months in prison after the Israelis occupied his office and found a document dealing with the creation of an independent Palestinian state and the formation of a government-in-exile. When this document was published it provoked a controversy in Israel.

In March 1989 he was able for the first time to obtain an exit visa from Israel to travel to London and New York to attend a peace conference. On 29 July he was invited to speak by Israel Labor Party authorities and proposed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. On 23 January 1990, after the intervention of the U.S. ambassador to Israel, he was released from confinement by Israeli authorities. In mid-April, after being questioned a number of times by Israeli authorities, he participated in a conference in Brussels, where he was the invited guest of the Jewish Lay Community Center. On 27 June, he attended an Israeli-Palestinian meeting in Stockholm organized by Swedish authorities. After this meeting, he went to the United States, where he pleaded the Palestinian cause before influential American figures. In March 1991 he met three times with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker. On 8 May, accompanied by Hanan Ashrawi, he had discussions with Douglas Hurd, the British foreign secretary, in London. In the course of the summer, his popularity rose in the Palestinian territory.

On 28 October, in spite of Israeli reluctance, he was named to head the Palestinian delegation's commission of orientation for the Middle East peace conference in Madrid. However, Israel refused to allow Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem and PLO members in the delegation, and he did not participate directly. This did not prevent him, in the two years that followed, from being one of the principal negotiators of the peace process that had started in Madrid. Between March and April 1993, he met many times with heads of state and government leaders involved in these discussions. On 26 March he was in Washington with Ashrawi to try to restart the peace process. During his stay, he had a one-on-one conversation with the secretary of state, Warren Christopher. On 9 April Israel officially accepted him as part the Palestinian delegation at peace negotiations. On 8 June he was received by the Amir of Qatar in an attempt to end the stalemate in relations between the emirate and the PLO, which had been broken off at the time of the Gulf War.

On 8 August, disapproving of the parallel negotiations in which the leadership of the PLO was engaged, he, Ashwari, and Saib Erekat, principal negotiators in the peace process, threatened to resign from the Palestinian delegation. On 4 May 1994 he declined to go to Cairo for the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian accord on the application of Palestinian autonomy in order to express his opposition to its content. At the end of the month, after much negotiating, he joined the Palestinian Authority (PA) as minister-without-portfolio in charge of the Jerusalem question. His offices were in Orient House in East Jerusalem, which had been built in the nineteenth century by a member of the Husayni family and was the headquarters of the PA representatives in Jerusalem and considered by Palestinians the seat of their future national government. Israel, which had annexed East Jerusalem and considered it Israeli territory, disputed their right to be there. A majority of the inhabitants of the occupied territories considered Faysal al-Husayni a leader of Palestinian nationalism. He favored the constitution of a Palestinian state, integrated into a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation. He died in Kuwait of a heart attack. In August 2001 Israeli authorities seized Orient House, closing the Arab Studies Society and the PA offices and seizing all archives, documents, and property.


SEE ALSO Arafat, Yasir; Ashrawi, Hanan Daouda; Christopher, Warren; Erekat, Saib Muhammad; Fatah, al-; Husayni, Hajj Amin al-; Israel Labor Party; Likud; Orient House;Palestine Liberation Organization; Palestinian Authority.

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