José Farhat leaves legacy of work for Arab peoples

The entrepreneur and political scientist passed away last weekend. A former Arab Chamber adviser and ICArabe president, he was known for his work on Brazil-Middle East trade and for championing Arab causes and spreading Arab history.

Isaura Daniel

São Paulo – The Lebanese-descendant entrepreneur and political scientist José Farhat left behind a legacy of spreading knowledge about the history of Arab peoples, championing their causes, and working for Brazilian-Arab trade.

Farhat, a former Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce board member and president of the Institute of Arab Culture (ICArabe), passed away last Saturday (26) at 91 years of age.

“He was a passionate champion of Arab causes and was deeply involved with the Arab Chamber. He was familiar with the Chamber and recognized its true role,” Chamber president Rubens Hannun told ANBA.

Farhat delivered lectures and wrote articles discussing and reflecting on the history of Arab peoples and the region’s geopolitics, as well as espousing human rights.

He was also an entrepreneur in foreign trade, and was the first to bring Brazilian goods into Iraq, according to Arab Chamber CEO Michel Alaby. “He was a merchant, great trader,” said Alaby.

José Farhat kept an eponymous blog whose final post dates from December 2017. He was having health issues and died from complications of pneumonia. His wake was held on Sunday (27) at São Paulo’s Araçá Cemetery.

“He was a Brazilian citizen, an Arab citizen, a role model. He managed to incorporate all that is beautiful and positive about two cultures – one Western, which is Brazilian culture, and the other Eastern, which is Arab culture,” ICArabe president Mohamed Habib told ANBA. Habib also described Farhat as a man of dialogue and peace, a patient, literate man.

His last term at ICArabe was served as International Relations director. Habib stresses that Farhat was a negotiator and a moderator. At the Arab Chamber, Alaby notes that he was an assiduous, active adviser.

Fellow Arab Chamber adviser Antonio Greggio sent a message to the organization upon learning of his friend’s passing. “I had the pleasure to meet him during the time he was involved in the struggle for entering Arab markets, in the now-long gone decades of 1970-1980. Every now and then we would meet in trips to the East, or while working at the Chamber,” he wrote.

According to Greggio, Farhat liked to talk and tell stories and anecdotes. “He was well-read, well-travelled, intelligent, a keen observer and critic. Like with all Arabs, his spirit was split into two irreconcilable personalities: on the one hand, the pragmatic, down-to-earth trader; on the other hand, the passionate idealist, obsessed with politics and the impossible,” Greggio said.

A native of Brazil’s Acre state, Farhat studied in Lebanon and Brazil. He graduated in Political Sciences from the Saint Joseph University in Beirut, Lebanon and in Advertising and Marketing from Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing (ESPM), in São Paulo. Farhat spoke Portuguese, Arabic, French and English.

The political scientist-cum-businessman also completed extension and postgraduate courses in Foreign Trade, at Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV- SP), Introduction to Political Theory and International Law, at Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC-SP), and Philosophy, at Collège Patriarcal Grec-Catholique (CPGC), in Beirut.

Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

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