World-renowned scholar Edward Said dies
By George Wright
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