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Faysal el-Husseini: the Palestine Ghandi


Father Raed Awad Abusahlia


I had the honour of marching in the funerary cortege of martyr Faysal el-Husseini more than forty days ago and listen to the eulogies that were given at the Noble Mosque courtyard after the body was inhumed alongside that of his martyred father, Abdel-Qader el-Husseini. I also had the honour of participating in the commemoration that was held at the Orient House on the occasion of his 61st birthday, which coincided with the fortieth day of his death and again listened to the eulogies. I have also reviewed most of the articles that were written in the local press and read the book that was distributed at the commemoration entitled Faysal el-Husseini: Prince of Jerusalem, as well as the special issue of the Abir magazine dedicated to Faysal. I was very much impressed with every word that I have read or heard about him, but the title in al-Quds newspaper issue of last Tuesday Faysal el-Husseini: the Arab Ghandi captured my attention. Because I am a proponent of non-violence and a follower of Ghandi, I stopped at it with the hope that I would find how the author proved the appropriateness of this resounding title to the departed great man. Unfortunately, I did not find sufficient proof provided. So I undertook to complete the mission since I am convinced of it and because of my knowledge of both Ghandi and Faysal and of our need for this type of political action, specially in these difficult times.

Non-violence does not mean weakness but real strength

His son Abdel-Qader stated in his eulogy that once his father answered a soldier saying: You can break my head but you cannot make it bow. This is indicative of a real non-violent method, which refuses to succumb to oppression and depends upon inner strength. Ghandi always said: Non-violence does not mean weakness; I prefer that Indians carry arms against the British rather than resist with non-violence if they were weak. Faysal experienced this method when he joined the armed resistance in the early sixties and graduated from a Syrian military academy then turned to non-violence at the beginning of the eighties.

Non-violence is the dream for a better future for both parties of the conflict

Uri Avnery, in his eulogy, mentioned that Faysal always liked to say that he dreamt of a day to come when the Palestinian saying our Jerusalem would mean the Jerusalem of equally both the Palestinian and the Israeli and when the Israeli says our Jerusalem he would also mean the Jerusalem of equally both the Israeli and the Palestinian. These words are reminiscent of Martin Luther King who said in his famous address I have a dream! that he is dreaming that the progeny of the former slaves and those of the masters sit together at the table of brotherhood and play in the same prairies. This, of course, with the distinction that we entirely refuse the policy of racial discrimination between slaves and masters which was practiced in the United States of America until a short while ago.

Non-violence is a peaceful means for claiming rights in all-conceivable means

If we peruse the special issue of Abir magazine dedicated to Faysal el-Husseini we will find many stances and pictures showing that he was always at the forefront of the lines: there he is holding hands with his companions in a peaceful march towards a military check post; or he is standing in front of an Israeli bulldozer trying to demolish a Palestinian house; or arguing with soldiers and inhaling their gases or sustaining the blows of their cudgels over his head; or his hands are shackled in chains behind the occupation prison bars; attending popular assemblies and addressing the populace with serious but wise words; debating with Israeli peace movements and organizing protest marches with them on the site of a confiscated land; visiting the sick and wounded in hospitals and participating in the funerals of martyrs; shaking hands with Moslem and Christian religious clergy with a humble smile on his face; attending international conferences, meeting foreign delegations and conferring with Western countries consuls; standing in solidarity with the political prisoners; eating in a Bedouin tent in solidarity with its owners who are threatened by forcible eviction; visiting refugee camps in the country and in the Diaspora; holding high an olive twig in the march that encircled the ramparts of Jerusalem; sitting in the midst of the two-week long hunger strikers at the Red Cross headquarters; playing football with his guards; and eating a cone of ice-cream with a peddler; standing high near the trunk of an ancient olive tree and looking into the far horizon with widespread dreams; and his body carried over the shoulders of the mourners and finally sown like a grain of wheat in the spaces of the Jerusalem Noble Mosque like a wheat corn that withers will fill the valley with corns and other pictures and stances, all of which form a picture of a non-violent popular strategy incarnated in a person who, during his life-time and in his death, was similar to his predecessors who struggled for freedom, such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King.

Non-violence is an attempt at turning enemies into friends

We find this non-violent trait in Faysal through his marvellous invocation that he himself authored at the time of the horrendous al-Aqsa massacre on October 8, 1990, when he miraculously escaped a bullet that whizzed in front of his head. At this moment he felt that he was reborn. Though the place was seething with hatred and spite, fear and doubts, a spirit of blood-thirsty vengeance, tempests blowing away all human values that he had to inhale along with the tear gas launched by the police in the Holy Place, he, in the midst of all this suffocating atmosphere, covered with the heavy clouds of death and tragedy, started to prepare his invocation:

Oh God, the chest is replete with bitterness do not turn that into spite.

Oh God, the heart is replete with pain, do not turn that into vengeance.

Oh God, the soul is replete with fear do not turn that into hatred.

Oh God, my body is weakdo not turn my weakness into despair.

Oh God, I, your servant, am holding the embers so, help me maintain my steadfastness.

Oh God, faith is love Oh God, faith is forgiveness Oh God, faith is conviction

Oh God, do not put off the flame of faith in my chest.

Oh God, we wanted for the Intifada to be a white one, so protect it.

Oh God, we wanted freedom for our people; we did not want slavery for others.

Oh God, we wanted a homeland for our people to be gathered; we did not attempt to destroy states of others nor demolish their homes.

Oh God, our people is stripped of all, except for his belief in his right.

Oh God, our people is weak, except in his faith and in his victory.

Oh God, grant us conviction, mercy and tolerance in our ranks and do not make us war against ourselves.

Oh God, turn the blood that was shed into light that will guide us and strengthen our arms and do not turn it into fuel for hatred and vengeance.

Oh God, help us over our enemy so that we could help him reconcile with himself.

Oh God, this is my prayer to you my invocation. So listen to it and grant us our supplication and guide us to the Straight Path.

As we read this beautiful invocation we recall Christs words: Love your enemies and pray for your oppressors and be kind to those who hate you. We also recall St. Francis of Assisis famous prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. At last, we remember Tagores words: Teach me your love, oh Lord. If people do me wrong grant me the courage to forgive, and if I wrong people grant me the courage for apology.

These are the humane and sublime spiritual values which great men, such as Faysal el-Husseini, live and call for. They make him truly deserve the title of Ghandi of Palestine. How much do we miss him and need men of his stature!

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Father Raed Awad Abusahlia


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