HISHAM SHARABI WAS ONE of the twentieth century’s most renowned Arab American intellectuals. He was the peer of men such as Philip Hitti, Amin Rihani, and Edward Said. Like them, Sharabi was a teacher and a scholar; like Rihani and Said, he was also an activist. He was a public intellectual who fought for a cause. That cause was Palestinian rights. Because that cause was misunderstood and maligned in the United States, his achievements are at once less publicly appreciated and more impressive, for those who fight earnestly and consistently against the odds created by stereotyping and propaganda are among the greatest assets of their community.
I knew Hisham in all these roles. He was my instructor and academic mentor at Georgetown University from 1967 to 1970. He was also an ally in the struggle to change an exploitative and destructive American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. When we met in the fall of 1967, my own struggle was focused against the U.S. war in Vietnam. In June of that year, Hisham had been summoned by the Arab-Israeli war from his “silence in exile” to renew his struggle for Palestinian justice. For both of us, the student movement of the 1960s was an inspiration. For the next thirty-seven years we corresponded and saw each other at the very least once a year, often more. We constantly exchanged analyses as well as ideas on strategy and tactics. In the process, we became very close. Apart from family members, I feel I knew him as well as any American could.
LAWRENCE DAVIDSON, professor of history at West Chester University, is the author of America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood (University Press of Florida, 2001).