|Figure of the Month: Hazem Saghieh, In Defense of Peace|
Hazem Saghieh grew up in Lebanon during the golden age of pan-Arabism. Saghieh’s vision for a united Arab world was shattered when the Israelis emerged victorious from the 1967 war. This devastating Arab defeat was shortly followed by the outbreak of a civil war in Lebanon. The glory days of the Arab world seemed distant when all Saghieh could see in the streets of Beirut was defeat, death and devastation.
During this time, Saghieh flirted with the communist ideology and was lured by the appeal of the Islamic Revolution. His brief support of the anti-American and Israeli movement ended when he realized groups such as Hezbollah were using Islam as a political tool.
Saghieh loved the stories his grandmother told him as a young boy about the flourishing Arab world. Saghieh’s love of storytelling and talent for thinking critically helped him develop as a writer. He began his career in journalism in Beirut, where he wrote for As- Safir newspaper for 14 years. In 1997, he wrote “In Defense of Peace,” a pamphlet aimed at helping Arabs understand the need for the Oslo peace process. From As-Safir, he moved to London and began to write for the London-based daily newspaper, Al Hayat.
Al Hayat is one of the leading daily pan-Arab newspapers. The newspaper is a platform for liberal thinkers to share their theories with a diverse international audience. Saghieh is now a senior columnist of Al Hayat and editor of Al Hayat’s weekly insert that details current events.
Saghieh has published pieces in Time magazine, New Statesman and The Observer. Saghieh also is a senior commentator on openDemocracy.net, a website encouraging opinion articles and debate regarding international culture and politics.
Saghieh does not confine himself to journalistic writing. He also wrote ten books, ranging in topics from the Iraqi Ba’ath Party to the Lebanese Civil War to the infamous Arab singer Umm Kulthum. Although he published all his books in Arabic, he edited the English-language book The Predicament of the Individual in the Middle East.
Saghieh is best known for his astute analysis of current political events in the Middle East. His writings are balanced and cast political developments through the lens of pan-Arabism. Because of Saghieh’s masterful ability to unite cultures and spark dialogues with his writings, Saghieh was awarded the 1999 Common Ground Award for Journalism in the Middle East.
In 1991, Saghieh married Lebanese publisher and human rights activist, Mai Ghoussoub. She passed away in 2007.
Saghieh should be commended for his ability to think critically and write eloquently. Perhaps more importantly, Saghieh should be commended for his ability to elegantly balance advocating for peace and celebrating Arab identity. He has tried to debunk publically held Arab misconceptions about Israel and the United States because he genuinely seeks historic compromise. By fairly explaining western perspectives and staying loyal to Arab claims, Saghieh’s writings reconcile a strong Arab identity and a peaceful Middle East.