Anis Sayegh: Guardian of Palestinian Memory

Anis Sayegh: Guardian of Palestinian Memory

Reviewed by: Wfaa El-houseiny

Translated by: Zeinab Mohamed

Anis Sayegh: Guardian of Palestinian Memory

Sayegh lived dreaming of returning to Tiberias, Palestine, his birthplace, and expressed his position on the Palestinian cause, saying, “It is not a conflict of existence or borders, it is a conflict of civilizations. The existence of Israel is a big mistake, a historical mistake, and a mistake that is not consistent with the principles of the West.” He never ceased to denounce the position of the international community on the cause.

The great Arab thinker, Anis Sayegh, was born in the city of Tiberias, northern Palestine, on November 3, 1931. He was called the Guardian of Palestinian Memory. He was a Palestinian of Syrian origin and held Lebanese citizenship. He received his education in Tiberias and then joined the University of Jerusalem. After his first year, war broke out in Palestine, so Sayegh traveled to complete his studies at the Evangelical Arts School in Sidon, south of Lebanon. Then, he joined the American University in Beirut and graduated in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He then worked as a teacher of Arab history in the French department at the American University until 1957, after which he worked as a consultant for the World Organization for Cultural Freedom for two years. Then, he joined the University of Cambridge to obtain a doctorate from there in 1964, in Middle Eastern studies. During the same period, he was an assistant professor in the Department of Oriental Studies at the same university.

In the period from 1966 to 1976, Al-Sayegh moved to work for ten years as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Research Center in Beirut, during which he worked to establish a library containing more than 13 thousand books, in addition to documents. He continued his efforts and issued the Palestinian Affairs magazine, which was published on a monthly basis. Then, it was followed by the Palestinian Studies series. The Center also issued, under its leadership, the Israeli Radio Monitoring program.

During the same aforementioned period, Al-Sayegh also served as Dean of the Institute for Arab Research and Studies affiliated to the League of Arab States in Cairo, during which he supervised more than thirty master’s and doctoral theses in Beirut and Cairo. In the period from 1977 to 1987, he also worked as head of the Palestine Department at the Arab League. Then, he became a security advisor in 1980 and head of the magazines unit. He published the Arab Affairs magazine and was its editor-in-chief, and his work at the university continued until 1982.

Al-Sayegh was credited with issuing the Palestinian Encyclopedia, an idea that was adopted by the Arab Organization for Education, Science, and Culture affiliated with the League of Arab States, and he was its editor-in-chief. He was also chosen as a rapporteur for the encyclopedia and an advisor to its board of directors in 1983.

Among his most prominent books are his book Sectarian Lebanon, and his famous study From Faisal I to Gamal Abdel Nasser: A Reading into the Concept of Political Leadership, which he published in 1965, and his book Ignorance of the Palestinian Issue: A Study of Arab University Students’ Information About the Palestinian Issue, published in 1970, in addition to a study on Syria in Ancient Egyptian Literature, and The Arab Idea in Egypt, in addition to his book The Development of the National Concept among the Arabs, and others.

The great historian Anis Al-Sayegh was not immune to the methods of oppression and blatant violations practiced by the settlement entity on all honorable people, fighters, and defenders of the Palestinian cause. Our historian was subjected to more than one process of repression against his noble pen. In 1966, he was asked to sign a pledge not to write political articles. He was also subjected to more than one assassination attempt, to the point that in 1972 a package of mines exploded in his hands, causing the amputation of his hands. Violations also affected the center of Beirut, so in 1974 he was subjected to a bombing that caused heavy losses.