Celebrating Abdul Aziz Said, co-founder of Nonviolence International

Abdul Aziz Said Memorial

We are sad to report the news that Professor Abdul Aziz Said died on January 22, 2021. He was well loved and respected for his decades of service and leadership. 

In recognition of his lifelong contributions to peace and nonviolence, we would like to post your tributes and stories about Professor Abdul Aziz Said here on the Nonviolence International website.

Let us celebrate the great person he was and work to continue his proud legacy. Abdul Aziz Said co-founded Nonviolence International. He was a world-renowned educator, a Syrian-born writer and professor of international relations for 60 years at American University, where he was the founding director of the International Peace and Conflict Resolution department at the School of International Service.

In the coming days, we will posting tributes from those who knew and loved him best. Please check back on this page for updates. For now, please watch this touching tribute from his dear friend and our founder, Mubarak Awad. See also a short powerful video from Professor Abdul Aziz Said himself celebrating our 30th anniversary. 

We know he touched many lives and welcome your reflections on a life well lived. Please send them to us here.  




To see a list of his publications and more, please visit: https://www.american.edu/sis/faculty/asaid.cfm


In recognition of the many lifelong contributions to peace by Professor Abdul Aziz Said, Nonviolence International has started a new program under which interns will receive stipends for their service. This financial aid is provided to perpetuate the legacy of Abdul Aziz Said, who co-founded Nonviolence International in 1989 and devoted his life to inspiring students to promote peace and global understanding. In particular, this scholarship will ensure that international students and those of modest financial means will have an equal opportunity to gain professional experience. 

https://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/donate_scholarship_fund

You can also make contributions to support all the work of NVI at: https://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/donate


Professor Abdul Aziz Saՙid taught for many decades since 1956 at The American University in the School of International Service, where he helped ensure a Middle Eastern presence at AU with a focus on Arab issues, and (since 1995) on Peace & Conflict Resolution studies. In his later years Professor Saՙid increasingly focused on Islamic peace studies, while his engaged presence and informed dedication as an educator and advisor inspired many. I worked with him for several years in the late 1990’s when Saՙid was the first holder of the M. Said Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace, and founded AU’s Center for Global Peace. Saՙid maintained a life-long concern with Sufi ideas, bringing to bear his cross-cultural sensitivity as a Syrian Orthodox Christian. His lasting legacy was facilitating the promotion of Peace Studies within the American academy.

Professor Karim Douglas Crow 


Quick recollection of Prof Said: I remember when he insisted on being the one to bestow an honorary degree on then Israeli PM Rabin at the Kennedy Center in March 1977. It was also the same day of the Hanafi's attacks at three locations in DC, which caused Rabin to leave right after the ceremony. Prof Said was very gracious and the significance of his words and presence were not lost on Rabin and the audience. I took classes on the Middle East and US relations with the USSR/E. Europe, graduated in 1978, did a Masters in Jerusalem, then entered the US Foreign Service in 1987. I came back to AU once or twice and visited with the Professor, who remembered me and sat me down in his office for a chat. Only fond memories of him. He inspired me for years to come. I retired this past year after 38 years at the State Department. As an aside, here is a link to an article I wrote about my time at Camp David 1978, as an intern soon after graduation: http://www.afsa.org/being-there-camp-david-1978.

Respectfully, Frank J. Finver (Class of 1978)


It seems fitting that Abdul Aziz Said should have passed at a time when our nation cries out for an elusive unity.

Professor Said affected thousands as an educator. For six decades, year after year, thousands of students passed through American University’s School of International Service under his watch. He was equally well known as an advocate of peace, particularly but by no means solely in the Middle East. He was the founding director of AU’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution program. He was an advisor to both the Bush and Carter Administration and a frequent formal and informal envoy to the region.

But his influence also extended in a third arc: as a spiritual guide. Professor Said emerged from a Syrian Orthodox Christian family and the Sufi traditions in his native land; his “students” were typically touched in origin by one or more of the three Abrahamic faiths--Jewish, Christian, Muslim—though some had also followed Buddhist or other Eastern traditions and among them were even “Nones”. Perhaps central to his teaching was the concept of tawhid, that the Universe is One and its corollary, that we are all connected.

I first met Abdul Aziz at his office at American University on a winter solstice in the early 80s. He told me the following story. The student asked the teacher, where shall I go to find God. The teacher pointed to what appeared to be little more than a dot on a distant horizon. So the student set out and after months of travel saw the dot gradually growing into a vast, steep mountain. He thought he would never be able to climb the escarpment. But then he grew closer and saw that there was a path curving across the slope . Encouraged, he travelled further. When he arrived near the base of the mountain, he saw that there were in fact many paths going up the mountain and many people rising along the paths. The student went further and began to climb the mountain but as he came within sight of the top, he suddenly realized--together with the others who had climbed so far-- that there was in fact no mountain.

And so it is that I learned that in the search for our deepest identity, we find the unity that connects us all.

May the Peace and Unity of his Being remain and inspire us in the difficult months ahead.

Bill Espinosa


Last weekend my advisor in graduate school, Dr. Abul Aziz Said, died after a long life and a rich lifetime of service. It's impossible to list all the contributions this great human being made over the course of his lifetime, but I can say he was one of those whose support and friendship I will never forget. In 1988 I had been accepted to two masters programs in international affairs--one at Syracuse University and one at American University. I knew no one at either school, but Abdul Aziz was the director of the AU program in peace and conflict resolution and I wanted to go there, so I made an appointment, drove to Washington, DC and went to plead my case.

I told him my situation and that I preferred the AU program but I wasn't getting a large enough student loan package to manage it, and I wondered if he had any idea what I could do to change the financial aide offer. He heard me out and we had tea. He asked me about my family, how I had grown up, and why I went to study in India, making it obvious that he had read my application essay in detail. Then he asked what I wanted to do with a masters degree, and I said I wasn't sure, but whatever happened I wanted to be useful and contribute to something larger than myself. He nodded and got on the phone. The next thing I know, the dean of the School for International Service was in the room. Abdul Aziz tells him, "I'd like you to meet my graduate teaching assistant for the fall." And the rest is history.

He was a great soul and a great educator. Thank you, Abdul Aziz. I will miss you.

Laura Barnitz


I am deeply sad to learn of my professor’s passing. He was a mentor, collaborator, and friend. I am discovering more and more layers of the influence he had on my life and on who I am. I learned so much from him. And I learned in a space of love. Professor Said loved everyone, without exception. His love was a powerful, enriching love. He built people up, celebrated them, and welcomed them being their true selves. I was his teaching assistant, and saw how he empowered the leadership of everyone around him. Yes, there was much that was magical about him. He had the magic of not quickly accepting things that are unacceptable. He created magic by creating change. Thousands of his students have a model for how to move through the world as an empowered agent of change, and a loving leader of humans.

Barry Saiff

Latest posts

Kuttab Brothers Debate the Future of Palestine

June 28, 5:00 PM Jerusalem time, 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Kuttab Brothers Debate the Future of Palestine:

Where are We Now and Where are We Going?

Register Here!

The situation in Palestine is becoming increasingly dire. Daily ferocious and deadly attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continue, alongside the blockade of humanitarian aid and medical care for those most in need. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, ongoing violence from settlers and the Israeli army against Palestinians persists, including harming civilians, land confiscation, and destruction of property. In Israel (1948 territories), Palestinians are facing unprecedented levels of discrimination and violence. 

Public declarations and positions by Israeli officials are undermining efforts not only for a ceasefire but also for a genuine and viable solution that ensures peace and security for all residents of the region. Subjugating the Palestinians seems to be the only solution offered by these politicians and there seems to be wide support for them.

Additionally, many experts warn that the Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse, rendering it even more powerless than before to provide for its population and protect it from these relentless attacks and violations, even in statements of condemnation.

The ongoing struggle has left many around the world with questions about the future of Palestine and the nonviolence resistance movement.

The Crucial Questions:

  • Where is the Palestinian movement for liberation standing now?
  • What is the future of the Palestinian political leadership?
  • Is there any viable solution to the occupation and what does it look like?

Joining us to answer these questions and many more are two brothers who have dedicated their lives to Palestinian liberation and peace.

Featured Speakers:

Jonathan Kuttab: Jonathan Kuttab is a leading human rights lawyer. In 1979, he co-founded Al Haq, the first international human rights legal organization in Palestine. Later, he co-founded the Palestinian Center for the Study of Non-Violence (now Nonviolence International) and also founded the Mandela Institute for Prisoners. Jonathan is a Palestinian Christian, past chair of the Bethlehem Bible College, and serves on the board of the Sabeel Ecumenical Theology Center in Jerusalem. Jonathan was part of the 1994 legal team for the Cairo agreement that resulted in the Oslo II Accord. He was a visiting scholar at Osgoode Law School at York University in Toronto in the Fall of 2017 and is a founding director of Just Peace Advocates Mouvement pour une Paix Juste, a Canadian-based international law human rights not-for-profit. Jonathan is a resident of East Jerusalem and a partner of the Kuttab, Khoury, and Hanna Law Firm in East Jerusalem.


Daoud Kuttab: Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and media activist. He is the former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Daoud Kuttab is currently the director general of Community Media Network (CMN), a not-for-profit media organization dedicated to advancing independent media in the Arab region. CMN is registered in Jordan and Palestine and administers Radio al Balad in Amman and ammannet.net. He is a regular columnist on Palestinian issues with Al-Monitor, Arab News, and writes frequently in the Washington Post, LA Times, Al Jazeera, New Arab, Newsweek, The New Republic, and other publications.

Born in Jerusalem in 1955, Daoud studied in the United States and has worked in journalism since 1980. He has received several international awards, among them: the CPJ Freedom of Expression Award, the IPI World Press Freedom Hero, the PEN Club USA Writing Freedom Award, the Leipzig Courage in Freedom Award, the Next Foundation Peace in Journalism Award, and the Japanese Peace Award for producing Shara'a Simsim, the Palestinian version of Sesame Street.

Join us for an insightful and compelling discussion on the current state and future of the Palestinian movement, political leadership, and the quest for a viable solution to the occupation. We will be taking a limited number of questions from the participants. 

Register Here!

Direct Action by Solidarity Activists to Break the Siege

 

https://youtube.com/shorts/yD8V3kn-UKE?si=bGj0edTBl51e5Fst

 

 As we witness the daily horrific attacks against the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, we also see the global movement calling for a ceasefire and an end to Israeli genocide grow with protests taking place across every major city in the world today. Taking this activism a step further, many are also engaged in direct action to break the siege of Gaza that has lasted for over 17 years and intensified in the last 8 months. People that are ready to put their lives on the line to save others. These people represent us, the global nonviolence movement, coming together from different parts of the world and from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.These are the ones who said, in the face of the impossible, we want to do something.

This will be hosted by Sami Awad. Our impressive speakers updated us and answered our questions!

Freedom Flotilla-Ann Wright

Rabbis for a Ceasefire- Ilana Sumka

Host- Co-Director of Nonviolence International, Sami Awad


Register Now!

Stop Arms to Israel

NVI is supporting efforts to pressure governments, most notably the USA, to halt its weapons transfers to Israel so as not to contribute to further war crimes and human rights abuses.

Control Arms (which has recently spun-off from NVI) issued a statement that calls on governments to abide by the Arms Trade Treaty.  US Pres. Trump withdrew from the ATT and the Biden administration has shamefully refused to re-sign.  NVI is proud to have supported Control Arms and the Arms Trade Treaty and encourages all to support this valuable citizens' network and this humanitarian disarmament treaty.

May 2024 - #Stop Sending Arms - Control Arms Statement on the Israel - Palestine Conflict

1. Control Arms, in partnership with the Ceasefire Now coalition of 688 NGOs, calls attention to the role of transferred weapons, parts, and ammunition in facilitating the atrocities taking place in Gaza, and demands a halt to these transfers and the immediate establishment of a ceasefire.

2. Israel’s bombardment and siege are depriving the civilian population of the basics to survive and rendering Gaza uninhabitable. Today, the civilian population in Gaza faces a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented severity and scale caused by systematic, deliberate destruction of the basics of life. Palestinian armed groups have indiscriminately fired rockets into Israel without concern for the protection of civilians and with open disregard for international humanitarian law (IHL). 

3. We have witnessed more than six months of relentless Israeli attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, including the use of starvation as a weapon of war. The International Court of Justice has ruled it is plausible that this could amount to genocide. All States have an obligation to prevent atrocities. In these circumstances, the Arms Trade Treaty is clear: any transfer of weapons, ammunition, parts and components that are at risk of being used in Gaza is likely to violate international humanitarian law and therefore, must cease immediately. 

4. The four Geneva Conventions and customary international law obligates all states to ensure respect for international humanitarian law. By ending their supply of items that are at risk of being used in the conflict, major arms exporting states can help to bring an end to serious violation of IHL and most importantly to the suffering being witnessed in Gaza. As close partners to Israel, the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom shoulder a distinct duty in this regard.

5. Despite the United States and its allies repeatedly urging Israel to protect civilians in Gaza, the United States has decided to provide over US$14 billion in further military support without any new conditions to protect human rights. This aid includes expanded authorities for arms transfers and subsidizing Israel's defense industry. The U.S. should withhold this assistance or enforce existing laws, such as Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act, which prevents aiding countries that restrict humanitarian assistance. Failure to act risks prolonging civilian suffering in Gaza and escalating regional tensions.

Here is another coalition Letter to US State Department calling for a Halt of Weapons Transfers to Israel

For more information on Control Arms, here is a link to Control Arms work seeking to halt weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen. Otherwise, one can go to the website Controlarms.org

Nonviolence Can Heal National Traumas, by Jonathan Kuttab

Dear reader,

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and more generalized trauma are not only personal and individual in character but often afflict whole nations and peoples. Frequently historical in nature, trauma can be passed down intergenerationally. 

One of the greatest examples of such trauma afflicting  humanity is that of the Holocaust, compounding the historical experience of centuries of persecution, hatred, and discrimination against Jewish people. This is a trauma that made it easy for many to succumb to the doctrines of Zionism, offering Jewish empowerment via Jewish supremacy in a Jewish-dominated state as the only cure for their ongoing suffering. It has made many easy prey for fascist doctrines, of belief in the value of violence and military overkill as the only path to survival. It has also made it difficult for many to take seriously any path towards peace and reconciliation that is not firmly rooted in their military power and supremacy. And while many cynically exploit the traumas of the Holocaust for political ends, there exists a genuine phenomenon of authentic fear that cries out for healing and needs to be addressed.

That rabbit hole of domination and “deterrence” will likely doom Israeli Jews to eternal strife and enmity with their neighbors, leading to ever increased militarization since in their traumatized state no amount of military power will ever be sufficient, and any attempt by Palestinians to resist that domination is only likely to reinforce the trauma. Similarly, all peace efforts will be viewed with deep suspicion and reticence, particularly if they require concessions that seem to reduce Israeli military domination or appear to make Israel weaker or more vulnerable to the risk of future attacks.

As a Palestinian, I am keenly aware of these traumas. I realize, however unjust it is, that our liberation is tied to the healing of our oppressors from the traumas of the past, for which we are the current victims.

Rubble from a destroyed school in Palestine

I am also aware that armed struggle by Palestinians, however legitimate under international law—and even if it were directed solely at armed soldiers and settlers—still risks reinforcing rather than healing the trauma.

In addition to this, we cannot forget that the Palestinians also have a long history of trauma, are now being traumatized, and are in great need healing, especially when the current genocide stops and the difficult process of rebuilding Gaza commences. Tens of thousands of orphans, bereaved families, over 70,000 wounded, and millions who have lost their homes require not only justice but also time and space to undertake a long process of healing.

I am also deeply conscious of how attractive the call to violence can be for oppressed and traumatized peoples. The events of October 7—apart from the attacks on civilians at the music festival and the kibbutzim as well as the taking of civilian hostages, which are properly to be condemned in no uncertain terms—were also viewed by many Palestinians as a brilliantly successful military operation whereby resistance fighters armed with primitive hand held weapons simultaneously breached the sophisticated walls imprisoning Gaza in 30 locations, captured two army bases, including the headquarters of the Gaza Battalion, killing 340 soldiers and capturing about 40 others, and carried the fight into the territory held by their enemies (rather than their own). Despite the massiveness of the Israeli retaliation and the utter destruction of Gaza, the events of that day will likely hold an appeal to those who preach armed resistance for many years to come.

So we clearly need to resist the siren call for violence, especially in our pursuit of justice. But what can we do to bring about some measure of healing to these deep traumas that are currently feeding the cycle of violence and without the healing of which, no peace is possible?

NVI's fiscal partner, Holy Land Trust along with FOSNA held an extensive series of trainings, attended by over 70 Palestinians in the West Bank, to work on the process of dealing with ongoing trauma. We are also committed to pursuing such healing globally. 

Another conversation between NVI's new Co-Director, Sami Awad and Gabor Mate “From Pain to Healing: Healing Collective Trauma in Israel/Palestine” deals with this problem as well. It is this healing process that is urgently needed by all sides, and it is one area that supporters of nonviolence, can be part of the solution.

Peace,

Jonathan Kuttab, Co-Founder and Board Member

P.S.The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is delayed in Turkey, but another boat is headed from Sweden and is currently near Eurovision raising awareness of the ongoing blockade and siege of Gaza.

 

(Art Credit - Kayla Ginsburg - from CJNV)

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