Mohammed Dajani Daoudi 521.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH 90)
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Mohammed Dajani Daoudi belongs to one of the Palestinians’ most important
families – the Dajanis – a family that has been the custodian of King David’s
Tomb on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem since the 14th century.
Once a student
political leader and fighter for the militant Palestinian group Fatah, today a
more mild-mannered Dajani Daoudi at 66 is a leading Palestinian
He seems alone, a voice crying in the wilderness, but Dajani
Daoudi insists that the majority of Palestinians is moderate and wishes for
peace as he does. He fights his “moderate” battle while helping to build a
future Palestinian state. Since 1995, he has been training thousands of
Palestinians on how to conduct the business of running a government.
talk on the fourth floor of his home in Bet Hanina, an Arab suburb in East
Jerusalem. On the walls of the stairway are photos of Nasser, Arafat, Obama, and
the large Dajani family. Visible from Dajani Daoudi’s window to the north is the
security wall Israel began building in 2002 to keep Palestinian suicide bombers
from reaching Jerusalem. With his gray hair, receding hairline, blue tie and
white dress shirt, the Jerusalem-born Dajani Daoudi looks more like a banker or
accountant than a former Fatah fighter. Unlike other Palestinians, there is no
anger in his voice, no hint of frustration, just seriousness and a calm
Born in Jerusalem’s Baka section, now an upmarket Jewish
neighborhood, his family moved to the Old City’s Muslim Quarter when he was two
years old. He remembers attending kindergarten near the Al-Aqsa Mosque and being
fascinated with his grandfather and uncles’ swords, which they displayed with
pride. With the Old City getting overcrowded, when Mohammed was 15, the Dajani
Daoudis moved outside the city walls to the prosperous East Jerusalem
neighborhood of Shuafat. Two years later, in 1962, along with his mother,
father, two younger brothers and a sister, Dajani Daoudi moved to his current
home in Beit Hanina.
In 1964, at age 18, he attended the American
University in Beirut, studying engineering. It was there that he joined Fatah,
the military wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Trained to
fight, he also became a student leader but insists he was not taught to hate
Israelis. “They taught us to distinguish between Jews and Zionists,” he tells
The Jerusalem Report. “Judaism is a religion. Zionism is political ideology. We
should not mix them up. There wasn’t hate on our part as much as there was a
fight for liberation.”
Ironically, his only participation in actual
fighting was against the Lebanese Army in skirmishes that sometimes lasted
weeks. He never fought against Israelis. The Lebanese Army hoped to weaken the
“state within a state” that the PLO had created inside Lebanon.
after the 1967 Six Day War, most Palestinians believed that before they could
end the Israeli occupation of their lands, they had to unseat corrupt Arab
regimes that had been indifferent to the Palestinian cause.
Palestinians counted on the replacement regimes supporting the Palestinian
Dajani Daoudi and his fellow Fatah members rejected that strategy,
favoring the ending of Israeli occupation as their main priority.
student politics and militancy, Dajani Daoudi switched to academic life in the
early 1980s, earning three post-graduate degrees: a master’s and two doctorates
in political science, all from American universities.
For a decade – 1985
to 1995 – he lived in Jordan, working first in his family’s radiator
manufacturing business, and then teaching political science at a private
Back in the West Bank by the late 1990s, he became a
Palestinian nation-builder. As Chief Technical Adviser to the Palestinian
Authority and then founder of a public administration institute, he trained
civil servants in the art of government. “We were basically creating a state,”
he said. When charges of nepotism were leveled at him, he insisted that nepotism
was good. “I don’t mind you hiring your daughter,” he told one minister, “but
give her to me first to train her. So if you leave the ministry, she will
remain as part of our progress.”
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