Anwar Nusseibeh

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Anwar Nuseibeh
Anwar Nusseibeh.jpg
Minister of Defense
In office
24 October 1954 – 28 May 1955
Minister of Defense , Minister of Education
In office
4 May 1954 – 21 October 1954
Minister of Defense, Minister of Construction and Building
In office
7 October 1952 – 5 May 1953
Minister of Construction and Building
In office
30 September 1952 – 7 October 1952
Personal details
Born 1913
Died 1986

Anwar Nuseibeh ( Arabic: أنور نسيبة‎ ) Anwar Bey Nuseibeh (1913–1986), was from an aristocratic Arab family descended from Nusaybah, the woman chieftain who defended the Prophet in the Battle of Uhud in 625. He was an Arab nationalist who believed in parliamentary democracy and in maintaining Arab consensus, on the grounds that Arab unity was more important than individual differences. He also believed in accepting the will of the majority, hence his participation in Jordanian politics following the Jericho Conference of 1948. He believed that holding fast to one's principles does not preclude one from dialogue with the other, hence his reputation for openness and accessibility. He always maintained that the Jews, as Semites, were Arabs and had all the rights due to Arabs throughout the Arab world. Before 1947 several Jewish lawyers took their articles in his offices. This belief led to his support for a single state solution for Palestine in 1939, his opposition to the fascist dogmas in Europe in the 1930s and later as postulated by the Ba'ath movement. When invited to become a founding member by Michel Aflaq, he declined in a telegram with a single line of 'I have always opposed Nazism'. He also opposed the expelling of Jews from Arab states post 1947.

Nuseibeh was born in Jerusalem. He was the first Palestinian Arab to be sent to an English public school, when he was sent to Perse in Cambridgeshire. He then went to Queens' College, Cambridge where he studied law. He was a keen sportsman who captained the Cambridge tennis team, an accomplished horseman and a talented pianist. After Cambridge he went on to Gray's Inn where he was called to the bar.

He worked for the British administration of Palestine first as Land Officer, then as magistrate in Nazareth, then Jaffa. At the same time, he worked with his father in law, Ya'coub Bey al-Ghussein, in the anti British nationalist movement, often helping in clandestine operations to source weapons for the Palestinian nationalist rebels. In 1939 he supported the Malcolm MacDonald White Paper which essentially called for the creation of a single democratic state for all citizens in Palestine irrespective of race. This was rejected by the Zionist movement. In 1945, he went to London at the behest of Abd al-Rahman Pasha Azzam (the well known Egyptian statesman who was a friend of Ya'coub Bey and founder of the Arab League) to Head the Arab Office there. This was seen as a counter move to the Mufti's move to Berlin.

In 1947 he was appointed Secretary to the Arab National Committee and was responsible for co-ordinating the defence of Jerusalem when the hostilities broke out in 1948. His band of 'gentleman' volunteers and their followers gave a good showing for themselves, notably Abd al-Rahman Bey Darwish, who held up the Israeli advance on the old city in the final stages of the war with a single company, but were inevitably beaten by the more professional Israeli forces. During the final stages of the 1948 Palestine war, Mr Nuseibeh had his leg amputated after being ambushed by Israeli forces on his return with his convoy from a failed mission to convince King Abdullah, then at Shuna in Jordan, to lend a single piece of artillery to hold the valley approach to Jerusalem against the advance by Israeli militias. After a brief period recuperating in Beirut, he returned to Palestine to become Secretary to the Cabinet of the Government of all Palestine in Gaza. After 1948 he led the Arab delegation to discuss the terms of the armistice and the cease fire line with the newly founded Israeli government. He originally opposed the Jericho conference (favoured by his brother Hazem) in 1948, but accepted the will of the majority and returned to Jerusalem to serve in the Jordanian government.

He held a number of cabinet posts in the Jordanian government, including Defence, Interior and Education, and stood for Parliament as well as serving in the Senate. By the late 1950s he had moved away from the government in Amman as he gave up on convincing the young King Hussein to accept Parliamentary democracy. In 1961 he became governor of Jerusalem but was dismissed after he refused to allow a US Senator to cross the Mandelbaum check point from Israel into Jerusalem on the basis that such an act would be a de facto admission that the border was legal, as opposed to simply a cease fire line. He was dismissed by the King which led to riots in Jerusalem in his support. In 1965, he became the Jordanian Ambassador to the Court of St. James. During his time as an ambassador in London, Nuseibeh established a warm relationship with members of the British Royal Family.

He returned to Jerusalem just before the 1967 war (technically abandoning his post) and continued to live there under occupation. In 1970 he fell out with the PLO because he thought their war with the Jordanian authorities was ill conceived and dishonorable (since they were effectively 'guests' in Jordan). In 1974 he moved further from the Palestinian nationalist cause when he opposed the Rabat Conference for two reasons. First, he believed that King Hussein and President Nasser had a moral duty to the Palestinians to restore the 1967 borders, because it was lost 'on their watch'. Secondly, he believed that making the PLO the 'sole representative of the Palestinian people' was merely a precursor to their accepting the legality of the State of Israel, which he never did. That is why he was adamant that the first step was always UN resolution 242, then a discussion of democratic principles as the only moral solution to the problem. He always held the view that his implacable refusal to accept the legality of the State of Israel did not preclude conversation with a people he viewed as fellow Arabs with a different religion, and so became one of the first Palestinians involved in contacts with Israel after it captured the Arab sector of the city.[1] His final act of public service was taking on the post of Chairman of the East Jerusalem Electric company,[1] which had become the center for a tug of war over the legality of Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem. It is notable that at the death of this essentially patrician Arab, his large funeral was led by the socialist labour unions.

During his life, he filled the following positions;[2]

  • Land Officer of Jerusalem, 1936.
  • Magistrate Nazareth, then Jafa.
  • Head of Arab Offices London 1945.
  • Secretary to the Arab National Committee 1947-48 (Coordinating Defense of Jerusalem).
  • Cabinet Secretary of the All-Palestine Government, formed by Amin al-Husseini in Gaza, September–October 1948.
  • Elected in 1950 as a Palestinian representative to the lower house (Chamber of Deputies) of the Parliament of Jordan.
  • Appointed in September 1952, as the Jordanian Cabinet (Minister of Minister of Defense, later Minister of Development and Reconstruction, later and Minister of Interior and finally of Education).
  • Appointed in 1963, to the Upper House (Senate).
  • Appointed as the Governor of Jerusalem, 1961.
  • Appointed as the Ambassador to the United Kingdom1965-67.
  • Legal Council to the UNRWA 1967-1979.
  • Appointed as Executive Chairman to the East Jerusalem Electric Company 1979-86.

Mr. Nuseibeh was also a guardian of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the walled Old City of Jerusalem.

Mr. Nuseibeh died on 22 November 1986 at his home in Jerusalem at the age of 74.[1] He was buried at the gates of the Noble Sanctuary within the confines of Haram as-Sharif Al-Aqsa Mosque. His funeral was attended by thousands of people.


  1. ^ a b c "Anwar Nuseibeh, 74; Palestinian Moderate". The New York Times. 24 November 1986. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  2. ^ "Anwar Nuseibeh". Archived from the original on 2009-10-25. 

The London Times Obituary, 24 November 1986. Al-Qus Obituary, 23 November 1986

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