With an English wife and a fancy foreign education, he cut an exotic figure in other ways. Having grown up literally on the post-1948 front line - when the Jordanian and Israeli parts of the city were divided by minefields and barbed wire - he ventured across them, curious to explore the new reality.
When most Palestinians were reeling from their stunning defeat, he worked on a kibbutz in Israel and discovered that the enemy had a human face.
"Until 1967," he writes in his memoirs Once Upon a Country, published in Britain this week, "we had hardly existed in the minds of these fine people. This absence wasn't a product of malevolence or ill will. Physically, we simply weren't part of their world, with most Arabs having been cleared out 20 years earlier. Morally speaking, it was a case of out of sight, out of mind. Their humanism never had to face us."
Unusually for any Arab or Muslim, Nusseibeh recognised that Jews had emotional claims on the holy land (their roots in Jerusalem "existential and umbilical"), and refused to see Zionism as just another facet of western colonialism, or to ignore the role of the Nazi Holocaust in forging Jewish nationalism.
"Isn't the ability to imagine the lives of the 'other' at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?" he asks.