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Emile Habibi, Arab Israeli Author, Dead At 73

May 2, 1996

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Emile Habibi, whose chronicle of the conflicting loyalties of Israel’s Arab citizens earned him Israel’s top literary award, died today of pancreatic cancer. He was 73.

Habibi, a founder of Israel’s communist party and longtime parliament member, advocated non-violence in solving the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The best-known of his six books, ``The Op-simist,″ published in 1972, focuses on the loyalty problems of Israeli Arabs who are citizens of Israel but also have a Palestinian identity.

``For many years he fought for peace and coexistence,″ Israel’s culture minister, Shulamit Aloni, said today.

Habibi died in his home in the northern Israeli town of Nazareth, said his son, Salam.

In 1992, Habibi was awarded the Israel Prize, the nation’s top honor. His decision to accept the prize drew criticism from some Arabs who accused him of disloyalty. Right-wing Israelis said at the time that the prize should not be given to a man who once embraced Yasser Arafat, then still persona non grata in Israel.

Habibi said he accepted the award because it honored the content of his works, ``which is humane and calls on everyone to solve problems without violence.″

Habibi, a Christian, was born Aug. 29, 1922, in the northern port of Haifa. In his youth, he worked at an oil refinery in the Haifa Bay.

A co-founder of the communist party in pre-state Palestine in the 1940s, Habibi edited the party newspaper, Al Ittihad, for more than four decades.

He also was a member of parliament from 1952 to 1972. In 1991, he left the party after other members refused to adopt a more liberal approach modeled after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika.

Habibi is survived by his wife, Nada, daughters Juhaina and Rawiya, and son. A funeral was scheduled for Friday in Haifa.

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