Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life


The McGill Middle East Program in Civil Society and Peace Building presents a public lecture by Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, MMEP Executive committee member, on his new book Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life, a compelling narrative of a life lived at the crossroads of history.

“In [Nusseibeh’s] honest and unsparing account of a remarkable life, this courageous advocate for peace makes clear why this tragic conflict is so enduring, and a resolution so essential.”
—Richard North Patterson, author of Exile

at McGill University


October 28, 2007

What: Sari Nusseibeh speaks on Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life to close off a week-long series of MMEP Management and Executive Committee Meetings at McGill, which bring together civil society leaders from across the Middle East.

When: 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.

Where: Leacock Building, Room 132, McGill University, 885 Sherbrooke Street West.

Who: Hosted by MMEP Director Professor Jim Torczyner, attended by officials from McGill, the MMEP, and government.

RSVP: Please contact the MMEP Office at 514-398-6717 or mmep [at] mcgill.ca.

Sari Nusseibeh, a philosopher, was the Palestine Liberation Organization’s chief representative in Jerusalem from 2001 to 2002, in which role he advocated a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. He is the president of and a professor at Al-Quds University, the Arab University of Jerusalem. Nusseibeh was educated at Oxford and Harvard, and was a Radcliffe Institute Fellow at Harvard from 2004 to 2005. Dr. Nusseibeh is a member of the Executive Committee of the McGill Middle East Program in Civil Society and Peace Building. He is the author of two previous books.

For more information contact: Jodi Hope Michaels at 514-885-2846 or jhm.mmep [at] mcgill.ca.


“Philosophy professor and political leader Nusseibeh ... draws on deep roots in his account of a dramatically displaced life. That’s one reason why, despite his relative privilege, his autobiography dovetails persuasively with the larger story of Palestinian dispossession and struggle in the 20th century. Nusseibeh, as a former PLO representative, also has the vantage of a political insider. Equally instructive are his differences from his fellow Palestinians, many of whom he encountered as his students in the classrooms and cafes at Birzeit University in the West Bank, and later as president of Al Quds University in Jerusalem. These interactions, among others, give shape to the story of this curious but reticent loner’s immersion into national politics, which is overshadowed by the memory of his father ... Nusseibeh convincingly interweaves personal experience and tectonic historical shifts, while charting his own political evolution and eventual and resolute insistence on a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[An] engaging memoir ... Harvard- and Oxford-educated Nusseibeh, long an informal advisor to Yassir Arafat ... was appointed the PLO administrator over Jerusalem, even though, he recounts, he had many disagreements with Arafat ... ‘Israelis and Palestinians,’ he insists here, ‘are not enemies at all ... If anything, we are strategic allies’—allies who ought to be living at peace ... A humane, responsible entry in a discourse marked by irresponsible inhumanity.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A moving personal story of an individual of rare integrity who creates a political vision that is both true and useful. It is difficult to find the ‘middle ground’ in the Middle East conflict, but Sari Nusseibeh opens up a space for reflection and dialogue that balances the cunning of history with the irony of one man’s adventures and aspirations. As he confronts his own complex circumstances, Nusseibeh reveals a landscape of hope, generosity, and justice that makes this a crucial text of our times."
—Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature and Language Director, Harvard University

Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life, by Sari Nusseibeh, was published in hardcover by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on April 10, 2007, (ISBN-13: 978-0-374-29950-7; ISBN-10: 0-374-29950-1.

ABOUT MMEP: Founded in 1997, the McGill Middle East Program in Civil Society and Peace Building is a unique and exciting example of how a rights-based community practice empowerment initiative can reach across international borders in a collective effort to encourage peace, understanding, and social justice. The MMEP, in cooperation with its Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian institutional partners, has established six storefront practice centres in the Middle East. Over the last seven years, these centres have implemented innovative and effective programs to promote empowerment, equality, and civil society among disadvantaged communities in a region already coping with violence, conflict, and economic hardship. A new Practice Centre was recently opened and three more centres are planned for the coming year. The MMEP team at McGill and its regional partners continue to defy both conventional wisdom and the logistical constraints of the Middle East conflict to advance the cause of peace in the region.

Contact Information

Jodi Michaels
McGill Middle East Program in Civil Society and Peace Building
Jhm.mmep [at] mcgill.ca
Office Phone: