Prominent Palestinian academic and political activist Abdel Sattar Qassem died late on Monday aged 72 of Covid-19, his family said.
Qassem, a professor of political science at Al-Najah University in Nablus, was well known for his activism against the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank, as well as his criticism of the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination and the Oslo Accords of 1993, signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).
He died at Al-Najah Hospital in the northern West Bank town of Nablus, where he was receiving treatment after contracting coronavirus two weeks ago.
As of Tuesday, 2,023 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic started in March, according to figures released by the PA Ministry of Health.
Qassem was born in the village of Deir al-Ghusun in 1948, near the town of Tulkarem in the present-day West Bank. He received a BA in political science from the American University in Cairo, followed by a master’s degree from Kansas State University, and a second master’s in economics and a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Missouri in 1977.
Early in January, Qassem announced that he would be running as an independent candidate for the presidency in planned PA elections in July.
He did not reveal the names of candidates on his list for the legislative council election in May for fear of persecution and arrest by Israeli or PA security forces, according to Al-Watan Voice news.
Qassem has been arrested numerous times by Israeli authorities. After the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Palestinian Authority detained him for short periods for his harsh criticism of the PA’s security coordination with Israel.
Translation: Farewell Abdel Sattar Qassem
In August 2014, he survived a close-range assassination attempt in Nablus. Unknown gunmen attempted to shoot him from a driving vehicle, almost 200 metres away from his house, while he was on his way to a TV interview.
The PA arrested him once again in 2016, claiming that he had called for the execution of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a live show on the Gaza-based Al-Quds channel. Qassem denied the allegation, and he was later released.
He was a well-known prolific political commentator for several publications – including speaking to Middle East Eye for a number of stories – and was hosted on major Arab and Palestinian TV channels.
He authored several books about his days in the Israeli prison of the Negev, the Syrian-Palestinian leader Izz al-Din Al-Qassam’s revolt against the British mandate in the 1930s, and the fall of the Shah in the Iranian Revolution of 1979.