Said fought for Mideast justice

There was little notice hereabouts of the passing nearly a month ago of noted Palestinian scholar and intellectual Edward Said. Seldom do we hear the other side of such issues as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Said died of leukemia after a 10-year battle against the disease. Palestinian leaders said his death robs their nation of one of its most eloquent and important spokesmen. His demise was announced in New York by Columbia University, where he taught English and comparative literature since 1963. He was the author of a number of influential books about the Mideast conflict. A 1978 work titled Orientalism was translated into 26 languages. The book dealt with how the West sees Islam. Said also wrote The Question of Palestine in 1979, attacking the PLO and other Arab nations for their treatment of Palestinians. He quit the Palestinian National Council in 1991 after a falling out with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat over rapprochment with Israel. A leading Palestinian lawmaker, Hanan Ashrawi, said: “He was a man of deep commitment to the Palestinian cause and had a tremendous sense of integrity. He was unstoppable in his pursuit of justice for the Palestinians.” Said condemned terrorism by both Palestinians and Israelis. He advocated a single bi-national state for both countries. His final published work was an excerpt from his book The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Here is a portion of it: “Israeli security is now a fabled beast. Like a unicorn it is endlessly hunted and never found, remaining, everlastingly, the goal of future action. That over time Israel has become less secure and more unacceptable to its neighbors scarcely merits a moment’s notice. But then who challenges the view that Israeli security ought to define the moral world we live in? “Certainly not the Arab and Palestinian leaderships, who for 30 years have conceded everything to Israeli security. Shouldn’t that ever be questioned, given that Israel has wreaked more damage on the Palestinians and other Arabs relative to its size than any country in the world, Israel with its nuclear arsenal, its air force, navy and army limitlessly supplied by the U.S. taxpayer? “As a result the daily, minute occurrences of what Palestinians have to live through are hidden and, more important, covered over by a logic of self-defense and the pursuit of terrorism (terrorist infrastructure, terrorist nests, terrorist bomb factories, terrorist suspects—the list is infinite) which perfectly suits Sharon and the lamentable George Bush. “Ideas about terrorism have thus taken on a life of their own, legitimized and re-legitimized without proof, logic or rational argument.” Palestinian Culture Minister Ziad Abu Amr said: “His death is a big loss for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause, because he was one of the people who had struggled the hardest to bring our issue into the minds of people around the world.” Said had little use for the so-called Oslo accords, terming them “an instrument of Arab surrender” to Israel and the United States. He said the U.S. had been a “dishonest broker” in the deal. In 1994, Said called on Arafat to step down as Palestinian leader, charging he collaborated with Israel against the interests of the Palestinian people. The result was that Said was banned from Palestinian territory and so were his books. Even from beyond this world, Said’s voice speaks powerfully on behalf of his people. “The basic dignity of our life as Arabs in Palestine, throughout the Arab world, and here in America, is that we are our own people, with a heritage, a history, a tradition and above all a language that is more than adequate to the task of representing our real aspirations, since those aspirations derive from the experience of dispossession and suffering that has been imposed on each Palestinian since 1948. “Not one of our political spokespeople—the same is true of the Arabs since Abdel Nasser’s time—ever speaks with self-respect and dignity of what we are, what we want, what we have done and where we want to go.”

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