Tayseer Arouri Commemoration and Book Launch: universalist thinker, trenchant educator, and peace advocate

Friends, family, and comrades of the marxist thinker and leader Tayseer Arouri will come together to commemorate his legacy on Tuesday April 11th, at 5:30 pm, at Naseeb Aziz Shaheen Auditorium at Birzeit University, where he served for over five decades that stand witness to his various public engagements.

The ceremony starts with the launch of the book TAYSEER: Recounting an Engaged Story Yet-to-be Twinned; a compilation of 33 testimonies that unravel the multiple faces of his personality and reflect on milestones throughout his life. Included is a visual exhibition that further sheds light on his love for life, in spite of the challenges of his political career and circumstances of public engagement, underground work, administrative detention, exile, peace negotiations, endeavours in building community institutions, and uniting democratic forces among others.

Keynotes by persons who shared pivotal experiences with Tayseer Arouri will be accompanied by music, and will link to each other through readings of some of Tayseer’s writings, and other passages by contributors to the book. Combined, these narrate some of Arouri’s key messages as seen from our contemporary history perspective – as a people struggling against colonization – to deduce lessons from his lifeworks to achieve social justice, advance progressive thought, and counter regression and rising extremisms.

Speakers include: on behalf of Birzeit University, Assistant to the President Dr. Aziz Shawabkeh; on behalf of the Palestinian People’s Party, Secretary General Bassam Salhi; on behalf of the Israeli Communist Party, Secretary General Adel Amer; on behalf of the National Factions, Vice President of Fatah Mahmoud alAloul; on behalf of the High Arab Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, Chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh; on behalf of colleagues in Civil Society Organisations and friends, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre, Issam Aruri, and; his life companion Amal Ghadban-Arouri.

Tayseer Arouri was born in 1946 in the village of Burham, near Ramallah. He obtained his high school diploma from the Hashemite School in Al-Bireh, ranking 1st  in his school and 18th in the Jordanian Kingdom. In light of his academic excellence and political activism, he was awarded a scholarship to continue higher education in the Soviet Union. He completed his Masters in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics from Lomonosov Moscow State University in 1973. He returned to work as a lecturer at Birzeit University, where he worked until his passing, with the exception of the years of imprisonment and exile.

Arouri is a national figure and peace advocate, a prominent marxist thinker and educator. Since early age he became politically active in the service of his people and cause, and continued with perseverance for over fifty years. His contribution to the building and activation of popular mobilisation frameworks such as grassroots organisations, empowerment of undermined sectors, and defending human rights was substantial. He described his work in the introduction of his book as “my illness, of which I never wanted to be cured”, where “I confess, I practiced all those duties and still do – out of passion, love, and drive – as their fulfillment gives me mental relief.”

When arrested in 1974 he was held in administrative detention for 45 consecutive months, under the allegation that he was “thinking of doing something against Israel”. After a wide popular campaign that reached international platforms demanding his release, Amnesty International declared him as Prisoner of Conscience. He was released in 1978, and returned to teaching at Birzeit University.

Nevertheless, his prosecution persisted after the release based on charges of building and working with community-based groups and institutions, and later his leading role in the Unified National Leadership of the Intifada of 1987.

On 8.8.1988 Tayseer was arrested again from the streets of Ramallah. Ten days later he was informed of a deportation order against him and 26 other activists. Contrary to customs at the time, he read a self-written appeal before the Israeli Military Objections Committee refuting all claims against him and the deportation order.

Arouri’s battle against his deportation was met with significant international solidarity, building up pressures until the Israeli government suspended its deportation policy for some years.

Yet deported and in exile, Tayseer continued work to build solidarities with the Palestinian cause. He played an influential role in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), and in peace talks held in Madrid and Washington.

Upon his return, Arouri resumed his endeavours to build platforms that help materialise the dream of freedom through education and human rights. He was involved in a number of civic, academic and political organisations and coalitions such as the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre, the Palestinian Centre for Peace and Democracy, the Fuad Nassar Association for Development Studies and its Knowledge and Socialist Thought Institute, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the Municipal Committee for Naming and Numbering the Streets of Ramallah, among others.

Tayseer Arouri has many published articles and interviews, some of which were  compiled and re-published in a book in 2013, that was meant to be his first, but became his only, bearing his main message: “Defeats are Not Destined”.

He passed away on July 26th, 2016.  He is outlived by his wife Amal and their four children.