Biography

Najib Nassar

Journalists

Najib Nassar

1873, Ayn Unub, Lebanon
12 March 1948, Nazareth, Palestine

Najib Nassar was born in the village of Ayn Unub, in Lebanon. He had four brothers, Rashid, Ibrahim, Niqula, and Isbir, and two sisters, Lydia and Emilie. His wife was Sadhij Nassar. He had a son, Faruq.

He received his elementary education in Shuwayfat and his secondary school education in Suq al-Gharb. He then enrolled in the American University of Beirut and graduated with a degree in pharmacy. Subsequently, he went to Safad to train at his brother’s pharmacy and then worked briefly as assistant pharmacist at the Scottish Hospital in Tiberias. Nassar then abandoned pharmacy and moved to Jerusalem where he worked as a teacher at several schools until he decided to work in agriculture. He bought a few acres in Tiberias and as a result became intimately acquainted with the methods of Zionist settlement and their effect on the peasants.

In 1905 he began a campaign aimed at exposing Zionism and its ambitions and published articles on the subject in the newspapers al-Muqattam in Cairo and Lisan al-hal in Beirut.

Following the proclamation of the Ottoman constitution, Nassar sold all his property and bought a press in Beirut. In 1908 he founded in Haifa a newspaper, al-Karmel, which appeared twice weekly.

Nassar persisted in calling attention to the Zionist menace that threatened the country. As a result of a Zionist campaign against him, the Ottoman authorities closed down his newspaper in June 1909 for two months.

In 1910, the Ministry of Justice in Istanbul ordered him to be put on trial when the Jewish community raised a case against him accusing him of “sectarian divisions and incitement.” However, the court found him innocent of that charge.

Nassar wrote a series of articles in al-Karmel, which were collected in October 1911 in a small volume called Zionism: Its History, Aims and Significance (in Arabic). He derived his information from an article on Zionism in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

In 1913 he called for the convening of a congress from which would issue a “national non-Zionist society” headquartered in Nablus and devoted to “preserving the country for its people through developing their agricultural, economic and scientific affairs and creating social harmony among them.”

Nassar continued to respond to pro-Zionist articles that appeared in some Egyptian and Lebanese newspapers. In 1913, he led a campaign where he attacked an agreement reached between some Zionist leaders with some Arabs as reported in two Egyptian newspapers, al-Muqattam and Al-Ahram.

In the summer of 1914 Nassar called on Palestinian youth to work independently of their traditional leaders and to be self-reliant in seeking to improve conditions in the country and to bring moral pressure to bear on Arab landowners not to allow their lands to be transferred to Jews.

He opposed the entry of Turkey into World War I on the side of Germany and was forced to go into hiding. He first sought to hide with the Fahum family in Nazareth and then with the tribe of Sardiyya in Transjordan where he worked as a shepherd for two and a half years. Finally, he decided to turn himself in and was taken to the Military Tribunal in Damascus.  He received a pardon before the war’s end in 1918 and returned to Palestine.

Nassar renewed his social and political activities in Haifa following the British occupation of Palestine. He reissued his newspaper al-Karmel and called in it for the establishment of an Arab Economic Renaissance Society. In early November 1918 he took part in founding a political party called The Arab Party, but this did not last long. Thereafter, Nassar joined the Muslim–Christian societies that began to be formed throughout the cities of Palestine.

In 1920 he called for the establishment of Arab information offices in Europe in order to expose the true aims and plans of Zionism and warned against selling land to Jewish settlers. He further called for national unity in Palestine. Along with a number of intellectuals and newspaper editors, he joined in establishing societies to combat Zionism inside and outside Palestine.

Nassar took part in the sessions of the Third Palestine National Congress held in Haifa in December 1920 as a delegate of the Muslim–Christian Society in Tiberias. At that congress he stressed the need to establish workers’ and peasants’ committees to challenge Zionist settlement activity. He also took part in the Fourth Palestine National Congress held in Jerusalem in May–June 1921, as a delegate of the Muslim–Christian Society of Haifa.

Throughout the years of the British Mandate, Nassar continued to attack Zionism in his newspaper. His wife, Sadhij, his lifelong companion, helped him in editing al-Karmel, and in 1938 she was arrested and held for one year, charged with supplying the rebellion with arms. The Mandate authorities suspended al-Karmel several times and then closed it down permanently in 1944, in accordance with the Emergency Regulations that were enacted in 1939 to deal with the upcoming World War II.

At the end of his life, Nassar suffered a great deal as he saw all his fears and warnings about Zionism and its ambitions and plans come true. His last years were spent travelling between his house in the village of Balad al-Shaykh in the district of Haifa and Baysan, visiting his relatives, the Wahba family, and spending time in his banana orchard. It was perhaps through God’s grace that he was spared from witnessing the fall of Haifa, a city he loved, as well as the fall of his village, Balad al-Shaykh, to the Zionist forces in April 1948; he died in Nazareth on 12 March 1948 and was buried in that city.

Nassar was a man of great foresight, perspicacity, and steadfastness in his views and principles. He was a pioneer of political journalism in Palestine and was rightly named its father figure. He was also among the very first who made a thorough study of Zionism and persisted in calling attention to the threat it posed. Nassar was proud of his Arab identity and adopted the pen name “Muflih al-Ghassani” with some of his writings.

 Writings

"الصهيونية، تاريخها، غرضها، وأهميتها". حيفا: مطبعة الكرمل، 1911.

[Zionism, Its History, Purpose and Significance]

"نجدة العرب، أو شمم العرب". 1920.

[The Bravery of the Arabs or the Pride of Arabs]

"في ذمة العرب". 1920.

[Under Arab Protection]

"الزراعة الجافة". 1927.

[Dry Agriculture]

"رواية مفلح الغساني". 1931.

[Muflih al-Ghassani, A Novel]

"القضَية الفلسطينية".

[The Palestine Problem]

"الرجل، في سيرة الملك عبد العزيز آل سعود". يافا، 1936.

[The Man: A Biography of King ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Sa‘ud]

 

Sources

الحوت، بيان نويهض. "القيادات والمؤسسات السياسية في فلسطين 1917-  1948". بيروت: مؤسسة الدراسات الفلسطينية، 1981.

خليف، وليد. "نجيب نصار: شيخ الصحافة الفلسطينية وصاحب جريدة الكرمل". الناصرة: [المؤلف]، 1990.

زيادة، نقولا. "الأعمال الكاملة: أعلام عرب". بيروت: الأهلية للنشر والتوزيع، 2002.

العودات، يعقوب. "من أعلام الفكر والأدب في فلسطين". عمان: د.ن.، 1976.

قاسمية، خيرية. "نجيب نصّار في جريدته الكرمل (1909- 1914): أحد رواد مناهضة الصهيونية". "شؤون فلسطينية". العدد 23، تموز/ يوليو 1973، ص 101- 123.

منّاع، عادل. "أعلام فلسطين في أواخر العهد العثماني (1800- 1918)". ط 2. بيروت: مؤسسة الدراسات الفلسطينية، 1995.

"الموسوعة الفلسطينية، القسم العام". المجلد الرابع. دمشق: إصدار هيئة الموسوعة الفلسطينية، 1984.

نويهض، عجاج. "رجال من فلسطين". بيروت: منشورات فلسطين المحتلة، 1981.