“Like a tree that’s planted by the water ....”

In Memory of Dr. Hisham H. Ahmed
(1 January, 1963 – 7 July, 2019)

The Mt. Diablo Peace & Justice Center is saddened to announce the news that our beloved colleague, friend, and longtime peace advocate, Hisham H. Ahmed, passed away earlier this month. Hisham was a professor of politics at St. Mary’s College and served numerous professional institutions and organizations for many years as an adviser & expert, specifically on the Israel/Palestine conflict. Hisham served on our board of directors and was extremely supportive of the mission of the center. We could not be more proud to have worked alongside Hisham during the time we knew him.

Below is a statement from MDPJC Board Chair Rick Sterling and the address made by Hisham’s colleague, Prof. Suzi Weissman, at his memorial service.

Dear Friends of Mt Diablo Peace & Justice Center,

MDPJC has lost a wonderful friend and former board member, Professor Hisham Ahmed. Hisham passed away on Sunday evening July 7 at age 56 after a hard battle with colon cancer. He is survived by his wife Amneh and school age children Ahmed and Noor.

Hisham was born in Deheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem in Palestine. Despite being blind from birth, he overcome the difficulties and excelled academically. After earning a PhD from UC Santa Barbara he taught at Palestine’s Birzeit University before coming to teach at Saint Marys College of California starting 2006.

Hisham was a scholar, teacher and profound advocate for peace with justice. He supported the MDPJC mission and we were very happy when he agreed to come on our board. He was a favorite speaker at numerous events, always bringing insight and trenchant analysis along with enormous good humor. It was striking to see him delivering a prepared speech with his fingers sliding across the surface of his braille computer.
Since Hisham’s passing there has been an outpouring of sadness along with admiration for his wonderful qualities.

Hisham’s colleague at Saint Mary’s College colleague, Prof. Suzi Weissman, gave the following tribute at the memorial held at the Islamic Society of the East Bay on Tuesday July 9, 2019:

“To Amneh, Noor and Ahmed, family, colleagues and friends

We are heartbroken that Hisham has left us, leaving a hole in our lives that cannot be filled. As Steve Sloane, our dear retired colleague said yesterday, he feels he has lost a brother. We have lost a brother, father, friend, teacher, colleague and comrade in the best sense of the word. Hisham was generous, sweet, funny and positive in outlook, even in the worst of circumstances whether personal or political. He was always tactful and professional, and never compromised his principles. To say he will be missed, indeed is already missed is an understatement. He was beloved and respected by us all at Saint Mary’s, but especially by his students and his fellow professors. He was Saint Mary’s treasure in every way.

It is unimaginable that I will no longer pass his office on the way to mine and stop first to say hello and then to quickly discuss the global political events of the day. He sometimes said I looked tired, and I always asked how he could possibly know – because he was right every time. He always answered with a twinkle in his eye – I just do, and after some years he admitted it was in my voice.

I had the privilege of being chair of our department when Hisham was hired, and his application literally arrived as soon as the ad appeared, just after midnight our time, followed by nearly a dozen superlative recommendations. One in particular sticks in my memory from Santa Barbara, where Hisham got his Ph.D: The Professor mentioned Hisham’s extraordinary scholarship and skills, and then said, that Hisham was also known to be a little reckless, especially when riding his bicycle to class, followed by the first mention that Hisham was blind. It was clear that Hisham was indeed a very special person. At the initial interview, when I asked how he managed to send in his application within thirty minutes of the ad appearing online, he joked that I must be a night owl to know that in the wee hours of the day. And later, after he was in our department, I asked Hisham how he managed to ride a bicycle. He asked me if I’d like him to drive me to the airport, with a chuckle.

I also had the privilege of being on the Editorial Board of a journal that published several of Hisham’s articles — that were very well received. He was a model writer, combining his critically important scholarly work with his commitment to social justice – and to write clearly so that even those without any background would find his work accessible.

Similarly, I had the good fortune of interviewing Hisham many times on my radio program – he became our go-to expert on Palestinian-Israeli relations, US-Middle East relations, the refugee crisis and larger war in Syria, and his expertise on Hamas. His depth of knowledge and his clear, analytical, and even-handed approach made him a recognized and valued authority on all aspects of Middle East politics and international relations. Hisham was a committed scholar and public intellectual, never dogmatic and very often profound.

There is much to say and much to miss about Hisham – he was always collegial, kind, honorable and wise in judgment, knowledgeable and able to communicate very well, to connect with whomever he was speaking with or to, and his words carried extra weight.

Hisham was also brave, and not just in facing his difficult health problems: In an extraordinary act of courage and commitment, Hisham persuaded the owner of two bulldozers to topple the fenced wall that surrounded Deheisheh, the refugee camp where he was born. Hisham rode shotgun on one of the bulldozers, and was soon joined by thousands to celebrate the tearing down of the “Berlin Wall of the West Bank.” No mean accomplishment, but even more remarkable for a scholar who was blind from birth.

There is much more to share, but I’d like to end with how well loved Hisham was, and how much he loved in return. His eyes lit up whenever he spoke of Amneh, Noor, and Ahmed, truly the light of his life. His love for his friends was also abundantly evident, in particular his dear friend Patrizia Longo, and there are many more of us who felt his love and loved him back.

Rest in peace and power dear Hisham, you will always be in our hearts.

Suzi Weissman
Professor of Politics,
Saint Mary’s College of California, Moraga, CA”