Jad Isaac, biologist and agriculturalist
Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 23.09.2010:
This Week in Palestine, August 2010
Jad Isaac was born on 1 August 1947 in Beit Sahour. In 1963, he joined the Faculty of Agriculture at Cairo University and graduated with honours from the Food Science Department in 1968. Upon his return, he worked at the Department of Agriculture as an extension agent in Ramallah until he resigned in 1969 to work as a chemistry teacher in Bethlehem secondary schools. In 1971, he was appointed as science and agriculture inspector in the Bethlehem Department of Education. In 1973, he was awarded a scholarship through the American Friends of the Middle East to pursue his post graduate studies at Rutgers University, where he graduated with an MSc degree in food science in 1974. Jad returned to Palestine to resume his work and joined Bethlehem University as a part-time instructor of biology. In September 1976, he received a scholarship from the British Council to pursue his studies. He joined the Food Research Institute at the University of East Anglia where he got his PhD in 1979. He then worked at Bethlehem University as an assistant professor and headed the Department of Life Sciences. In 1980, he became the academic coordinator for the Faculty of Science, and in 1982, the dean of science at Bethlehem University. Between 1979 and 1985, he was a member of the Council of Higher Education and headed the Science Deans Council. He initiated and was the editor in chief of Bethlehem University Journal from 1980 until 1987.
In 1980, Jad became a member of the board of trustees of the Arab Thought Forum and was a member of the organising committee for the conference “Development for Steadfastness,” which was launched by the Arab Thought Forum. In 1985, he co-founded the Economic Development Group as a non-profit finance institution to promote entrepreneurship and authentic development in Palestine. Later, this institution merged into the Palestinian Development Fund and the Palestinian Banking Corporation. In 1986, he was awarded the Abdul-Hamid Shoman award for Arab Biologist of the Year.
In 1987 when the first Intifada broke out, Jad became active in leading nonviolent resistance activities through the promotion of backyard farming, neighbourhood committees, alternative education, and tax boycott. Initially, he was arrested several times for short periods by the Israeli occupation forces, and in July 1987, he was given a six-month administrative detention order, which he spent in Ansar 2 prison. Upon his release, he realised that it was time to leave the university and focus on community development.
He started working with the late Faisal Husseini and others to establish a Palestinian strategic planning unit which led to the establishment of the Orient House. He was one of the signatories of the first draft of the Palestinian Independence Charter that was drafted at the Orient House. In 1989, he co-founded the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People to do advocacy work for the Palestinian cause among Israelis and internationals. In 1990, the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ) was established and Jad was appointed its director general. Since then, the institute has become a leading Palestinian institution that conducts research on agriculture, the environment, land use, and water. During the same year, he received the Professor Abdul-Salam Award for Palestinian Biologists of the Year.
When the Madrid Peace Conference was initiated, Jad became part of the Palestinian negotiating team where he headed the Palestinian delegation for the environmental working group in the multilateral talks and was a member of the steering committee for these talks. He was a member of the technical committees that were established at the Orient House under the leadership of Professor Sari Nusseibeh where he was in charge of the environment and infrastructure committees. He is an adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team on final status issues and attended the Camp David and Taba negotiations in 2000 and 2001. Since 1997, he has been a member of the editorial board of Water Policy Journal and a member of the Pugwash Chapter in Palestine. He has published several articles and books in his field of interest, including The Environmental Profile for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Atlas of Palestine, and the Geopolitical Atlas of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.