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A Voice of Moderation
College President Sari Nusseibeh Enters Middle East Political Fray

Start streaming audioListen to Robert Siegel's interview with Sari Nusseibeh.

Dr. Sari Nusseibeh

Dr. Sari Nusseibeh
Photo: Al-Quds University

Oct. 18, 2001 -- Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al Quds University in Jerusalem, has long been considered one of the leading intellectuals among Palestinians, and one of the most impassioned advocates for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Israel and the occupied territories.

He was recently appointed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to be the top Palestinian politician in Jerusalem. In that post, Nusseibeh hopes that he can inject a spirit of moderation and dialogue into a tattered peace process.

Nusseibeh has critics and fans among both Palestinians and Jews because he has been equally critical of both sides for escalating the violence in the Middle East. His speeches rail against the atmosphere of retribution and hatred that he says perpetuates the war - mostly at the expense of Palestinians. He also called the current Palestinian uprising a "convulsion" and not a revolt.

“The average Israelis are just the same as the average Palestinians… and just as human.”

Dr. Sair Nusseibeh

He is reportedly under close surveillance by the Israeli military, and has also been attacked by militant students for talking with right-wing Jewish groups. An Oxford-educated professor of philosophy, he withdrew from political life in 1994 to focus on his academic career. But he recently agreed to represent the Palestinian Authority because it is "important for reason to prevail on both sides."

Nusseibeh told All Things Considered senior host Robert Siegel that the future of Israel and the Palestinian state hinge on a mutual trust and cooperation.

"I felt the need to come back and speak my mind," he said. "I’m waiting for people to wake up and come back to their senses."

A feeling of shared humanity, Nusseibeh said, is key to any future peace. "The average Israelis are just the same as the average Palestinians… and just as human."

Other Resources

Al-Quds University Web site.

The Nusseibeh Family Web site, with family history and lore.