Fouzi El-Asmar (photo courtesy of the International Council for Middle East Studies)
Renowned Palestinian poet, author, journalist and activist Fouzi El-Asmar died near his home in Bethesda, Maryland on 19 September, three weeks after the death of his wife, Maria T. El-Asmar. Both had been suffering from failing health in recent years. Fouzi was buried in Palestine, upon his request, today.
For more than fifty years, Fouzi El-Asmar was one of the most important public intellectuals of the Palestinian liberation struggle. Born in Haifa in 1937, he grew up in a Palestinian area of present-day Israel. In 1958, he became a member of the editorial board of the literary monthly Al-Fajr and in 1966 he became editor of the Arabic magazine Hadha Al-Alam. In 1979, after attending university in the US and graduate school in the UK, he became the managing editor of the London-based international newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat.
Fouzi’s work centered around Israel and the Palestinians, with particular focus on the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Following in the footsteps of his mother, Najla El-Asmar, who was an activist long before Israel’s establishment in 1948, Fouzi helped found al-Ard, an anti-Zionist political organization committed to the defense of the civil and political rights of “Israeli Arabs.”
Al-Ard predated the Palestine Liberation Organization and eschewed the sorts of compromises for which the PLO would eventually be criticized. Hence, al-Ard was banned in 1964 by the Israeli authorities, who found it threatening. The organization’s office was ransacked, and its property was confiscated.
Its prominent members, including Fouzi, were later imprisoned without charge. Fouzi was detained for well over a year in 1969-1970, then subject to a year of house arrest in 1971.
Fouzi El-Asmar was one of the first post-Nakba intellectuals to break into the Anglophone public sphere, with groundbreaking analyses of the everyday life and struggles of the Palestinian with Israeli citizenship. To Be an Arab in Israel (1975) was an autobiographical account published in several languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, English and Danish. (…)
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