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Edward Said, 1935-2003

Edward Said is dead. Who will speak for the Palestinians?
World-renowned scholar Edward Said dies
By George Wright
The Guardian

Thursday 25 September 2003

Edward Said, the world-renowned scholar, writer and critic has died aged 67, it was announced today.

Said died at a New York hospital, his editor Shelly Wanger said. He had suffered from leukaemia since the early 1990s.

He was born in 1935 in Jerusalem - then part of British-ruled Palestine - and raised in Egypt before moving to the United States as a student. He was for many years the leading US advocate for the Palestinian cause.

His writings have been translated into 26 languages and his most influential book, Orientalism (1978), was credited with forcing Westerners to re-examine their perceptions of the Islamic world.

His works cover a plethora of other subjects, from English literature, his academic speciality, to music and culture. His later books include "Musical Elaborations" in 1991, and "Cultural Imperialism" in 1993.

Many of his books - including The Question of Palestine (1979), Covering Islam (1981), After the Last Sky (1986) and Blaming the Victims (1988) - were influenced directly by his involvement with Palestine. He was a prominent member of the Palestinian parliament-in-exile for 14 years before stepping down 1991.

Said, a professor at Columbia University for most of his academic career, was consistently critical of Israel for what he regarded as mistreatment of the Palestinians. He prompted a controversy in 2000 when he threw a rock toward an Israeli guardhouse on the Lebanese border.

Columbia did not censure him, saying the stone was not directed at anyone, no law was broken and that his actions were protected by principles of academic freedom.

He wrote two years ago after visits to Jerusalem and the West Bank that Israel's "efforts toward exclusivity and xenophobia toward the Arabs" had strengthened Palestinian determination.

"Palestine and Palestinians remain, despite Israel's concerted efforts from the beginning either to get rid of them or to circumscribe them so much as to make them ineffective," Said wrote in the English-language Al-Ahram Weekly, published in Cairo.

His outspoken stance made him many enemies; he suffered repeated death threats and in 1985 he was called a Nazi by the Jewish Defence League and his university office was set on fire.

After the signing of the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Said also criticised Yasser Arafat because he believed the PLO leader had made a bad deal for the Palestinians.

In a 1995 lecture, he said Arafat and the Palestinian Authority "have become willing collaborators with the (Israeli) military occupation, a sort of Vichy government for Palestinians."

Salman Rushdie once said of Said that he "reads the world as closely as he reads books".

The Irish critic Seamus Deane described him as: "That rare figure: a truly public intellectual who has a powerful influence within the academy and also a potent public presence. He's a very brilliant reader, of both texts and political situations."

Hamid Dabashi, chairman of Columbia's Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures Department, said: "Over the past three decades he was the most eloquent spokesman for the plight of the Palestinians."

Said is survived by Miriam, his second wife.


: t r u t h o u t 2003
Thank you, Said 25.Sep.2003 17:12


For finding the truth and speaking it.


post exilic 25.Sep.2003 17:17

former sweetheart

First came under his spell or was taken with his prose in a levely essay he wrote many years ago concerning the intellectual and spiritual interiority of an exile's mind. However, I became distressed w/him over the years as he shifted from a keen analyzer of imperialism, discontinuity etc. to an apolgist for the thug regime of Arafat et al. He seemed to become pathetic, as did Hanan Ashrawi, as Christians who would never really be accepted in a Palestinian state. Was also getting those fumes of jew hate that, like the number of spotted owl, signal the disruption of balance. Frankly, as was said of Elivis' death: good career move eddy.

Gag me 25.Sep.2003 18:03

Name droppers make me ill

This is about him, not about you, sweetheart.

eddy's dead 25.Sep.2003 19:32

em gag

We are left with Said's legacy: Said's legacy is destructive. He's dead, consequently it is about we the living. You can dress joey goebbel's up and teach him to play the pye-anner, but you've still got a mind that's bent.

Said - he knew better. You ever read The Courtin' of Dinah Shadd? Kipling. Said would have much to say on the short story dealing as it deals with with the mindset of high colonial era mercenary troops. Marse Said knew his Kipling: hell, Kipling was his bread and butter. There's something of the marvelous black curse that comes late in the story that applies to Said's life. Especially the curse's conclusion if you change a key word or two.

No, lavish encomiums wont do. He betrayed honest people that loved peace and we should remember him for that. Not just a Chamberlin, but a Quisling.

Vomited Already 25.Sep.2003 20:38

Namedroppers make me ill

So you're some chick he forgot about long time ago, and you know some of the books he read. Tell us more, because you're right, it's all about you.

A tribute by Alexander Cockburn 25.Sep.2003 21:47

repost counterpunch and atlanta indymedia

Edward Said, Dead at 67
by By ALEXANDER COCKBURN 6:32pm Thu Sep 25 '03

A Mighty and Passionate Heart
September 25, 2003

A mighty and a passionate heart has ceased to beat.

Edward Said, the greatest Arab of his generation, died in hospital in New York City Wednesday night at 6.30 pm, felled at last by complications arising from the leukemia he fought so gamely ever since the early 1990s.

We march through life buoyed by those comrades-in-arms we know to be marching with us, under the same banners, flying the same colors, sustained by the same hopes and convictions. They can be a thousand miles away; we may not have spoken to them in months; but their companionship is burned into our souls and we are sustained by the knowledge that they are with us in the world.

Few more than Edward Said, for me and so many others beside. How many times, after a week, a month or more, I have reached him on the phone and within a second been lofted in my spirits, as we pressed through our updates: his trips, his triumphs, the insults sustained; the enemies rebuked and put to flight. Even in his pettiness he was magnificent, and as I would laugh at his fury at some squalid gibe hurled at him by an eighth-rate scrivener, he would clamber from the pedestal of martyrdom and laugh at himself.

He never lost his fire, even as the leukemia pressed, was routed, pressed again. He lived at a rate that would have felled a man half his age and ten times as healthy: a plane to London, an honorary degree, on to Lebanon, on to the West Bank, on to Cairo, to Madrid, back to New York. And all the while he was pouring out the Said prose that I most enjoyed, the fiery diatribes he distributed to CounterPunch and to a vast world audience. At the top of his form his prose has the pitiless, relentless clarity of Swift.

The Palestinians will never know a greater polemical champion. A few weeks ago I was, with his genial permission, putting together from three of his essays the concluding piece in our forthcoming CounterPunch collection, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. I was seized, as so often before, by the power of the prose: how could anyone read those searing sentences and not boil with rage, while simultaneously admiring Edward's generosity of soul: that with the imperative of justice and nationhood for his people came the humanity that called for reconciliation between Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

His literary energy was prodigious. Memoir, criticism, homily, fiction poured from his pen, a fountain pen that reminded one that Edward was very much an intellectual in the nineteenth- century tradition of a Zola or of a Victor Hugo, who once remarked that genius is a promontory in the infinite. I read that line as a schoolboy, wrote it in my notebook and though I laugh now a little at the pretension of the line, I do think of Edward as a promontory, a physical bulk on the intellectual and political landscape that forced people, however disinclined they may have been, to confront the Palestinian experience.

Years ago his wife Mariam asked me if I would make available my apartment in New York, where I lived at that time, as the site for a surprise 40th birthday for Edward. I dislike surprise parties but of course agreed. The evening arrived; guests assembled in my sitting room on the eleventh floor of 333 Central Park West. The dining room table groaned under Middle Eastern delicacies. Then came the word from the front door. Edward and Mariam had arrived! They were ascending in the elevator. Then we could all hear Edward's furious bellow: "But I don't want to go to dinner with *******, Alex!" They entered at last and the shout went up from seventy throats, Happy Birthday! He reeled back in surprise and then recovered, and then saw about the room all those friends happy to have traveled thousands of miles to shake his hand. I could see him slowly expand with joy at each new unexpected face and salutation.

He never became blase in the face of friendship and admiration, or indeed honorary degrees, just as he never grew a thick skin. Each insult was as fresh and as wounding as the first he ever received. A quarter of century ago he would call, with mock heroic English intonation, "Alex-and-er, have you seen the latest New Republic? Have you read this filthy, this utterly disgusting diatribe? You haven't? Oh, I know, you don't care about the feelings of a mere black man such as myself." I'd start laughing, and say I had better things to do than read Martin Peretz, or Edward Alexander or whoever the assailant was, but for half an hour he would brood, rehearse fiery rebuttals and listen moodily as I told him to pay no attention.

He never lost the capacity to be wounded by the treachery and opportunism of supposed friends. A few weeks ago he called to ask whether I had read a particularly stupid attack on him by his very old friend Christopher Hitchens in the Atlantic Monthly. He described with pained sarcasm a phone call in which Hitchens had presumably tried to square his own conscience by advertising to Edward the impending assault. I asked Edward why he was surprised, and indeed why he cared. But he was surprised and he did care. His skin was so, so thin, I think because he knew that as long as he lived, as long as he marched onward as a proud, unapologetic and vociferous Palestinian, there would be some enemy on the next housetop down the street eager to pour sewage on his head.

Edward, dear friend, I wave adieu to you across the abyss. I don't even have to close my eyes to savor your presence, your caustic or merry laughter, your elegance, your spirit as vivid as that of d'Artagnan, the fiery Gascon. You will burn like the brightest of flames in my memory, as you will in the memories of all who knew and admired and loved you.

Anyone read this guy? 26.Sep.2003 07:14

What's up?

Has anyone but the one woman read Said? What's up the girlfriend thing? Stay out if you can't contribute! Come on folks, people who have read Said get in here and reflect om the man. Cockburn? The Atlantic? This man was a hero!

AAI Mourns Professor Edward Said 27.Sep.2003 09:22

Arab American Institute

September 25, 2003

WASHINGTON -- It is with great sorrow that the Arab American Institute mourns the loss of Professor Edward Said. A prolific writer and lecturer, he leaves Americans, and the world, a legacy of profound scholarship on music, literature, history and the struggle for Palestine.

During the course of his life, Professor Said articulated a vision of Palestine and the Arab world that not only recalled the significant contributions of the region's people but also offered hope for the future. In doing so, he countered the institutionalized anti-Arab bias, which prevails in much of what passes for scholarship or analysis on the Middle East today.

While a great deal can be said for his academic contributions, Professor Said was also an incredible spirit who gave voice to the millions who cry out for justice, peace and humanity. His loss cuts a deep wound in the heart of our community--one that can only be partially soothed by the legacy he leaves us.

At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers turn to his family, friends, students, and those who knew him through his life's work.

tribute to Said 27.Sep.2003 16:04


Said was a good man, a passionate and sincere man who voiced his opinions plainly in public. But also a highly intelligent, cultured, and humane man, who earnestly hoped for peace with justice for all the people of Palestine. In the last years of his life, his lifelong avocation for music brought him into contact with world-class musicians like Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, with whom he organized joint musical recitals as part of his own bid for mutual understanding in the cultural realm. He was a man of many talents: a brilliant and subtle literary critic, musician, and scholar of world history and politics. Most of the criticisms of him are crude and beneath contempt, penned by people who've scarcely read anything he wrote.

Said was much criticized for his early stance against Oslo. I also had my doubts about his stance on this. I thought Oslo was a very positive step. Said proved prescient, though, in his insistence that Oslo was a betrayal, that there were no concrete timetables in it for ending the Israeli occupation, including the settlements, and that hence it would prove to be a charade that would only make matters worse. Said came to advocate the "one-state-solution," which I and most others still think is a nice fantasy, a noble goal to aim for maybe a hundred years from now, but not a realistic proposal in the presence tense. This has fueled the view that Said didn't authentically desire peace. But I have to agree with Christopher Hitchens's recent elegy: had the world and that region many more such people as Said, we wouldn't be debating about an "Israeli-Palestinian conflict" in the first place.

Freind of the intellect 28.Sep.2003 16:55


Said merits the criticism he's received. Much of it anyway. He helped make murder palletable. I've read much of the man, initially drawn to him by his prose style and the turnings and flourishings of his thought process . . . but his efforts left the world a little bit the worse for his having been here. Lovely prose though.

Make that 28.Sep.2003 18:02


nothing like a misspelling w/the word intellect to

Misspelling 28.Sep.2003 19:25


She can't spell. Look at her other posts under "sweetheart."

Legacy of Edward Said 29.Sep.2003 12:50

Dina Dajani

What a grat loss for all, how sad for all you jealous assholes out there who are seething with bitterness because you cannot in a million years be as articulate and smart as he ever was in one day. Go to hell bitter, angry jelouse people and learn a thing or two from this man.

a beautiful mind 04.Oct.2003 05:21

Mahmoud Abdel-Hamid Cairo university

with the death of Edward Said I have lost a spiritual father, though his writing will continue to inspire the world and give voice to the voiceless people's in the world against the encroaching evil of American imperialism. Edward Said was accused of being 'professor of terror' because of his defence of the palastinian narrative. he was accused of being 'soft on Islam" hostility being the norm of those orientalists who accused him. By the death of Edward Said, the whole world has lost only an intellectual but a voice that preached peace in a world swamped in a pool of hostility, war and injustice wrought on the defenceless peoples all over the world. I will miss Said, his articles, speaches; in short a whole world disappeared with his death.