Husseini inherited the mantle of leadership of eastern Jerusalem's large al-Husseini clan from his father, Abdel Kader, and his uncle, Haj Amin al-Husseini, both Palestinian heroes in the armed struggle against the Zionist movement. His father commanded local Arab forces during Israel's War of Independence in 1948 and was killed in the battle for Jerusalem.
His uncle Haj Amin was the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem whose agitations against British mandatory rule and Jewish immigration sparked the Arab riots of 1936-1939. He later fled to Baghdad, where he aided the pro-Nazi revolt of 1941. Haj Amin then spent the rest of World War II as Hitler's special guest in Berlin, advocating the extermination of Jews in radio broadcasts back to the Middle East and recruiting Balkan Muslims for infamous SS "mountain divisions" that tried to wipe out Jewish communities throughout the region.
Husseini himself joined the Fatah movement founded by his distant cousin Arafat, spent time in Israeli prisons, and eventually became a key symbol of the PLO quest for Jerusalem. Though he later learned Hebrew and engaged Israeli leftists in dialogue, his image as a "moderate" towards Israel is somewhat deceptive.
Husseini earned the label by publicly accepting a "two-state solution" to the conflict, rather than Israel's immediate destruction. Yet he also was on record throughout the Oslo era as insisting that the "demographic time-bomb" - the higher Palestinian birthrate - would ensure that the Jewish state would be "absorbed" within the greater Arab world within a generation.
Beilin claimed today that Husseini "was a partner for many small understandings and agreements about Jerusalem in order to prevent eruption of violence." Yet he was on the Temple Mount last September 28 and joined several Israeli Arab MKs in inciting a Muslim crowd to rioting just as Ariel Sharon was ending his visit there - an episode that exploded into what is now a low-level war.
And one month ago, Husseini told an audience in Lebanon that while the goal of the current intifada was to win independence for a Palestinian state along the June 1967 borders, this did not mean having to abandon the ultimate "ideological" goal of a Palestinian state "from the River to the Sea."
Palestinian accolades of Husseini's "honesty" have an interesting background as well. For years, members of the ruling Saudi oil families have been reluctant to trust Arafat and his corrupt cronies with their financial contributions towards the Palestinian cause. Instead, they established the "Jeddah Fund," managed by Faisal Husseini, which has poured some US$30 million annually into the greater Jerusalem area "to maintain and expand the Islamic presence."
Husseini's oversight of these funds, his perceived lack of corruption and his position vis-a-vis Arafat within the same extended clan contributed to a simmering rivalry with the PLO chief. This rivalry was reflected in Arafat's appointment of Ziad Abu Zayyad as the Palestinian Authority's Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, a title Husseini already commanded within the PLO hierarchy.
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