Hisham Sharabi, professor of history emeritus and co-founder of Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, died of cancer Jan. 13 at the American University of Beirut Hospital in Lebanon at the age of 77.
Sharabi, a prominent Palestinian-American intellectual and activist, joined the Georgetown faculty in 1953 when he began teaching European intellectual history and political science. In 1977 he was awarded the Umar Al-Mukhtar Chair in Arab Culture in recognition of his intellectual contributions, as well as his contributions to the promotion of Arab studies.
Following the Arab-Israeli War and the Arab oil boycott, Sharabi and a group of his colleagues were concerned about a lack of understanding of the Arab world in the United States. To address this concern, Sharabi and his colleagues co-founded the Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies in 1975, two years after the war. It is the only American institution focused solely on the study of the Arab world.
Michael C. Hudson, director of the Georgetown center, called Sharabi a “man of the highest moral and intellectual integrity.”
“The Arab world has lost one of its premier intellectuals,” he said.
When Sharabi retired from Georgetown in 1998, graduate students in the history department organized an annual graduate essay competition in his honor.
The history department also convened an international two-day symposium in his honor in 2002, called “The Role of the Intellectual in Contemporary Political Life.”
In addition to his work at Georgetown, Sharabi was chairman and co-founder of the Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development in 1977. The Jerusalem Fund is an organization dedicated to educational, cultural, health and community assistance for Palestinian society.
In 1991 Sharabi established the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, an educational program of The Jerusalem Fund. The Palestine Center produces information to provide a Palestinian/Arab perspective to the political, academic and media organizations of Washington, D.C.
Sharabi has written numerous books, chapters of books, articles and conference papers in both Arabic and English.
He is survived by his two daughters, Nadia Shihabi and Leyla Sharabi, both of Beirut, two brothers, two sisters, and three grandchildren.