The great modern empires have never been held together only by military power. Britain ruled the vast territories of India with only a few thousand colonial officers and a few more thousand troops, many of them Indian. France did the same in North Africa and Indochina, the Dutch in Indonesia, the Portuguese and Belgians in Africa. The key element was imperial perspective, that way of looking at a distant foreign reality by subordinating it in one's gaze, constructing its history from one's own point of view, seeing its people as subjects whose fate can be decided by what distant administrators think is best for them. From such willful perspectives ideas develop, including the theory that imperialism is a benign and necessary thing.
For a while this worked, as many local leaders believed - mistakenly - that cooperating with the imperial authority was the only way. But because the dialectic between the imperial perspective and the local one is adversarial and impermanent, at some point the conflict between ruler and ruled becomes uncontainable and breaks out into colonial war, as happened in Algeria and India. We are still a long way from that moment in American rule over the Arab and Muslim world because, over the last century, pacification through unpopular local rulers has so far worked.
At least since World War II, American strategic interests in the Middle East have been, first, to ensure supplies of oil and, second, to guarantee at enormous cost the strength and domination of Israel over its neighbors.
Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate. These ideas are by no means shared by the people who inhabit that empire, but that hasn't prevented the U.S. propaganda and policy apparatus from imposing its imperial perspective on Americans, whose sources of information about Arabs and Islam are woefully inadequate.
Several generations of Americans have come to see the Arab world mainly as a dangerous place, where terrorism and religious fanaticism are spawned and where a gratuitous anti-Americanism is inculcated in the young by evil clerics who are anti-democratic and virulently anti-Semitic.
In the U.S., "Arabists" are under attack. Simply to speak Arabic or to have some sympathetic acquaintance with the vast Arab cultural tradition has been made to seem a threat to Israel. The media runs the vilest racist stereotypes about Arabs - see, for example, a piece by Cynthia Ozick in the Wall Street Journal in which she speaks of Palestinians as having "reared children unlike any other children, removed from ordinary norms and behaviors" and of Palestinian culture as "the life force traduced, cultism raised to a sinister spiritualism."
Americans are sufficiently blind that when a Middle Eastern leader emerges whom our leaders like - the shah of Iran or Anwar Sadat - it is assumed that he is a visionary who does things our way not because he understands the game of imperial power (which is to survive by humoring the regnant authority) but because he is moved by principles that we share.
Almost a quarter of a century after his assassination, Sadat is a forgotten and unpopular man in his own country because most Egyptians regard him as having served the U.S. first, not Egypt. The same is true of the shah in Iran. That Sadat and the shah were followed in power by rulers who are less palatable to the U.S. indicates not that Arabs are fanatics, but that the distortions of imperialism produce further distortions, inducing extreme forms of resistance and political self-assertion.
The Palestinians are considered to have reformed themselves by allowing Mahmoud Abbas, rather than the terrible Yasser Arafat, to be their leader. But "reform" is a matter of imperial interpretation. Israel and the U.S. regard Arafat as an obstacle to the settlement they wish to impose on the Palestinians, a settlement that would obliterate Palestinian demands and allow Israel to claim, falsely, that it has atoned for its "original sin."
Never mind that Arafat - whom I have criticized for years in the Arabic and Western media - is still universally regarded as the legitimate Palestinian leader. He was legally elected and has a level of popular support that no other Palestinian approaches, least of all Abbas, a bureaucrat and longtime Arafat subordinate. And never mind that there is now a coherent Palestinian opposition, the Independent National Initiative; it gets no attention because the U.S. and the Israeli establishment wish for a compliant interlocutor who is in no position to make trouble. As to whether the Abbas arrangement can work, that is put off to another day. This is shortsightedness indeed - the blind arrogance of the imperial gaze. The same pattern is repeated in the official U.S. view of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the other Arab states.
Underlying this perspective is a long-standing view - the Orientalist view - that denies Arabs their right to national self-determination because they are considered incapable of logic, unable to tell the truth and fundamentally murderous.
Since Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798, there has been an uninterrupted imperial presence based on these premises throughout the Arab world, producing untold misery - and some benefits, it is true. But so accustomed have Americans become to their own ignorance and the blandishments of U.S. advisors like Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami, who have directed their venom against the Arabs in every possible way, that we somehow think that what we do is correct because "that's the way the Arabs are." That this happens also to be an Israeli dogma shared uncritically by the neo-conservatives who are at the heart of the Bush administration simply adds fuel to the fire.
We are in for many more years of turmoil and misery in the Middle East, where one of the main problems is, to put it as plainly as possible, U.S. power. What the U.S. refuses to see clearly it can hardly hope to remedy.
Edward Said is a professor at Columbia University and the author of "The End of the Peace Process: Oslo and After" (Pantheon, 2000).
The article was originally published on Sunday, July 20, 2003 by the Los Angeles Times.
Lo and behold Prof. Said's predeiction that the "peace process" was sham has been confirmed several times over. The fact is Edward Said is a highly intelligent and articulate spokesman for the Palestinian cause and he makes zero apologies for it. This is the reason zionist trolls and apologists for empire are intimidated by him. You wont find this titan on CNN or other US state media outfits.
We love you Edward, keep fighting the good fight.
I also feel that petroleum prices are surely too low. I think we Americans should be encouraged to develop our own, domestic sources of energy. I think we should eliminate any harmful effect our economy is clearly observed to have on people of other countries. I also think we should eliminate whatever "economic motivation" we may have for invading other nations in God's name.
Concerning the Zionist agenda, I myself have heard speakers - hosted by Dr. Laura Schlessinger on her nationally syndicated radio talk show - advocating mass emigration of Jewish Americans to occupied Palestine in the interest of the State of Israel. At least one of these speakers asserted that G-d gave the Jewish people the right to possess everything between the Nile and the Euphrates. I have no need to take, on faith, the word of Muslims claiming this is what the Zionists and their supporters have in mind. Citizens of Israel might do well to remember (as long as they are refusing to forget) that "zealots" have gotten their "invincible Israel" into serious trouble in the past - at least once in last two thousand years. May they receive the Peace of the Most High. Regardless of what anybody has planned, it is G-d alone who makes the only plans that in the long run will make any real difference.
Peace be with you.
You obviously have no conception about what Zionism is and its ultimate goals. But I guess when you're down to playing and pretending to be something you're not, that too be expected.
For example, if Saudi Arabia has artificially controlled the oil price under 18 dollars for more than a decade and helped United States enlarging its economy from 7 to 10 trillion dollars in Clinton years, the blame should not go to America but to Saudi Arabian government alone. If Shah of Iran has sold United States the oil for 1 dollar per barrel for 20 years, thus making it a monster in the 1950's and 60's, the onus should not be on America, but on Shah of Iran. We Muslims are habituated to blame everybody without taking responsibilities per se. For 12 long and painful years, our Iraqi brothers were crying for help, suffering from starvation, were literally put in the jail by the surrounding Arabs, the blame should not go to Israel or America, but 1.5 million Iraqis were murdered by Muslims alone. I have more admiration for Pope who has sent food and other items for poor and suffering Iraqis, the administration of Pope has also received Tariq Aziz on human grounds, but shockingly, the Imam of Kaba had not done so even one time. We can have long and crying prayers in Haramain shareefain, but Allah (sbt) will not listen to us because we are not serious about Islam, its mission to serve humanity, to bring justice and civility. Edward Said is a decent fellow and he is highlighting the Zionist agenda. Shuja
The problem is not Imperialism; the problem is the political and cultural distortions caused by oil wealth. Immature, highly centralized political systems and near infinite oil wealth provide both the means and the incentive for self-serving leaders to dominate their societies and their neighbors. Are any of the these leaders (Saddam, Saudi family, the Iranian mullahs) more interested in their people's well being than their own personal aggrandizement? The answer is no. Does Dr. Said really feel that the Middle East would be a better place if the ambitions of the strong (Saddam, the Shah, Osama) are limited only by the speed at which they can convert oil in the ground into weapons pointed at their populations and neighbors?
Let's have some perspective. This is not a Middle Eastern problem only. Look at Nigeria, Venezuela, Angola, the central Asian states; same issues. Oil wealth provides irresistible temptations to selfish leaders.
Yes, the West is involved because of the Oil, but doesn't the West have a moral responsibility to try to limit the damage done by the money we pour into those countries? Unless we shut off the oil/money taps, the West will have role in the Middle East. It's implicit in the fact of the trade.
Finally, Dr. Said disgraces himself with his sycophancy to the mob, "(the US's goal is) domination of Israel over its neighbors". What is he talking about? Who on earth actually believes Israel's goal is conquest of Lebanon, Syria, Egypt or Jordan? Dr. Said is on to something when points to "the vast Arab cultural tradition has been made to seem a threat to Israel", except that the threat is not culture, it is the wealth controlled by these militaristic tyran
I would like to ask you if you are familiar about the history of the middle east. From your comment I gather you are not.
For centuries Jews lived peacefully, free to practice their religion, and prospered in Muslim countries in the middle east. They fared much better than their fellow jews in Europe who had experienced a great deal of persecution.
Even in Palestine in the 19th century the jews who migrated from Europe to the then Palestine (now Israel), were able to live there peacefully with the Palestinians until it became evident the Jews had no intention to live among the Palestinians. The European Jews plans to oust the Palestinians from their homes and towns in order to establish a Jewish state is the main reason why all the conflict and hatred escaleted.
By the way have you ever asked yourself why Zionism was a concept that started with the European Jews, not the Arab Jews?
Any people who is displaced, oppressed will hate those who caused such injustice to them. The fact that many Jews are surprised or criticize the hate the Arabs have for them are incredibly arrogant. No journalist in the west will ever dare ask the Jews why they hate the nazis, but they continuously ask the Arabs why they hate the Jews who have displaced, killed, and continue to oppress their fellow brothers and sisters in Palestine.
The low number of Jews in Arab nations is not the result of discrimination as Israeli propoganda would have us believe. Its well documented that Israeli agents committed acts of terror against indigenous Arab Jews forcing them to come to Israel. Naem Gilani, an Iraqi Jew exiled in New York recently released his memoirs where he clearly cites the use of such tactics.
Not surpringly non-European Jews are treated like 3rd class citizens, as the example of Ethiopian Falasha jews in Israel shows. THey arent even allowed to be buried in the same graveyard as the Azkhenazis who run the country. Israeli is essentially a failed state on life support from the US, and its high time to pull the cord.
Indeed, it is Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) who is the best of planners for we can see - if Allah so wills - that the best of plans are those made by Allah (swt). Thanks to Allah (swt) for patience - as well as for truth.
Thanks to Allah that make find Islamiccity.com, because with this web site I can say that I have learn much especially about U.SA. (Western) way and interesting in incriminate Islam but what I have understand is Islam is not for Arabs; That make Islam keep developing improving and Islam will fight for his right by Allah wish because is Allah that bought Islam to all mankind and did not keep it to only Arabs.
I can say to does that are supporting, defending and fighting for U. S. A. (Western) should keep On and remember that is not up to Allah wish when is up to his wish One day the will be an end to something call Western or U.S.A. super power what they should remember is that the is super power before them today where is them NO MORE.
TO ARAB'S They should be united and Love them self that is only way to overcome them
Thanks Ma Salaam.