Leading Palestinian Moderate Retires as East Jerusalem University President

Sari Nusseibeh's announcement comes soon after Islamist rally at Al Quds University, but he ascribes decision to his lengthy tenure and age.

Prof. Sari Nusseibeh.
Reuters / Archive

Sari Nusseibeh, one of the leading Palestinian political moderates and intellectuals since the first intifada in the late 1980s, has resigned as president of East Jerusalem's Al-Quds University after a 20-year tenure, JTA reported Thursday.

Nusseibeh's announcement came on Wednesday, three days after a reportedly strident protest on campus by hundreds of Hamas supporters. However, Nusseibeh said in a statement that he was leaving office because he had held it so long and reached the retirement age of 65, adding that he would stay on at Al-Quds as a philosophy professor.

A November rally on campus featuring Islamists wearing black ski masks and carrying plastic rifles – similar to the reported features of Sunday's march - led to an ongoing rift in the close collegial relationship between Al-Quds and Brandeis University, a dispute with Nusseibeh at its center.

In the wake of that rally, Brandeis broke relations with Al-Quds and suspended Nusseibeh indefinitely from the board of its International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life. However, in December a Brandeis faculty committee led by the director of the International Center said that in contrast to Brandeis administrators' findings, Nusseibeh and his staff "responded promply and appropriately" to the incendiary rally.

Nusseibeh, who comes from one of Jerusalem's oldest and most prominent families, made his name politically as perhaps the most articulate Palestinian voice of the first intifada. Later, he became a critic of the terrorism of the second intifada in the early 2000s. During that period he teamed up with former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon to form The People's Voice, whose two-state peace plan reportedly garnered the signatures of support of over 250,000 Israelis along with some 160,000 Palestinians.