Leading advocate for Justice and Humanity, Edward W. Said, passes away

Category: Americas, Life & Society Values: Justice

Edward W. Said, a Columbia University professor and leading spokesman in the United States for the Palestinian cause, has died, his editor at Knopf publishers said Thursday. He was 67. 

Said had suffered from leukemia for years and died at a New York hospital late Wednesday, editor Shelley Wanger said. 

Said was born in 1935 in Jerusalem, then part of British-ruled Palestine, but he spent most of his adult life in the United States. He wrote passionately about the Palestinian cause but also on a variety of other subjects, from English literature, his academic specialty, to music and culture. 

When it came to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Said was consistently critical of Israel for what he regarded as mistreatment of the Palestinians.

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 actually 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.

In 2000, he prompted a controversy when he threw a rock toward an Israeli guardhouse on the Lebanese border. Columbia University did not censure him, saying that the stone was directed at no one, no law was broken and that his actions were protected by principles of academic freedom.

Said moved to the United States as a student. He received a bachelor's degree from Princeton in 1957 and a master's and Ph.D. from Harvard, in 1960 and 1964.

Most of his academic career was spent as a professor at Columbia University in New York, but he also was a visiting professor at such leading institutions as Yale, Harvard and Johns Hopkins.

His books include "The Question of Palestine'' in 1979 and "After the Last Sky'' in 1986.

Source: Guardian


Remembering Edward Said

We mourn with greatest sadness the death today of Professor Edward W. Said. We extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to Edward Said's family, and we share our profound sense of loss with the many and diverse communities that loved and respected him.

Professor Said maintained his relentless engagement with people, culture, and politics all over the world, even in the last weeks of his decade-long struggle against illness.

Said is known throughout the world as a public intellectual, and there are few fields of intellectual endeavor that have been untouched by his contributions. A prolific and path-breaking scholar whose contributions helped transform both the humanities and the social sciences, Said's impact and engagement went far beyond the academy. Said was also an activist who worked courageously for justice, and fearlessly spoke truth to power.

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Edward W. Said
Photo by Brigtte Lacombe

When images and narratives of the Palestinian struggle were dominated by misrepresentations, caricatures and hateful stereotypes, Said was for years often the sole and most effective advocate for bringing truth and light to the Palestinian cause in the United States. Despite being the target of relentless and vicious personal attacks, Said never abandoned a vision of peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on deep mutual recognition of the other's histories and narratives, and a reconciliation leading to complete equality. He taught and inspired a new generation of activists to speak with clarity and always search for truth no matter who it might offend.

Throughout the 1990s, Said's newspaper columns provided a constant critique of the depradations, falsehoods and failures of the Oslo "peace process" that led only to the further alienation of Palestinians from their land and a betrayal of the vision of reconciliation and justice for which he strived. Said was among the first to understand and articulate how this process, premised on preserving the vast power imbalances and injustices between Israelis and Palestinians, would lead to the present disaster, and he never shirked from criticizing the Palestinian leaders who contributed to this state of affairs.

Said's journey back to his birthplace in Palestine in the early 1990s, after decades of exile, helped many Palestinians to come to terms with their own experience of exile and dispossession and encouraged many Palestinians to embark on their own journeys home. Said's books, among them "The Question of Palestine," "After the Last Sky," "The Politics of Dispossession," and the memoir of his youth, "Out of Place," remain seminal works which both personalize and humanize the Palestinian predicament and place it in political context. In his memoir, he revealed the depth of his courage and honesty by facing himself, his past, and his society with a critical eye.

Despite the worsening situation in Palestine, Said never succumbed to despair. Until the very end of his life, he was actively engaged in the Palestinian National Initiative, a movement to mobilize the energy of the entire population towards a non-violent struggle for peace and liberation.

Yet the greatest significance of Said's contribution is not only that he was an outstanding advocate for justice and peace in Palestine, but also that he consistently located this cause within a much greater struggle for a truly universal and humanist vision, entailing a firm rejection of ethno-nationalism and religious fanaticism. He taught by eloquent example that being faithful to a cause did not require blind loyalty to leaders or symbols, but rather necessitated self-criticism and debate. This fact meant that his engagement with the Arab world, and his fierce criticism of its status quo, was as important as his work communicating with people in the West.

Edward Said was a fountain of humanity, compassion, intellectual restlessness and creativity. At a time when the crude calculus of raw power and fanaticism threatens to swamp global discourse, his irreplaceable voice never needed to be heard more.

The most fitting tribute to Professor Said's life and work is to struggle with increased commitment for the vision of justice and humanity that inspired all of his efforts.

Source: The Electronic Intifada


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  9 Comments   Comment

  1. Mirza from Canada

    When we were in need of perspective you were there,

    When we felt alone you spoke for us.

    You have left us, but you have not left.

    Your dreams and hopes are ours to keep alive

    Something which few men can leave behind.

    God Bless you Edward, even though I never met you, I know I have, and hopefully one day will.

    Mirza Canada.

  2. Layla M. from Saudi Arabia

    To Allah we belong,and to him is our return.

    Usually when I'm told that someone had passed away ,my response is a combination of tremendous pain of empathy with his family, and a mixture of happiness and envy towrds the person. Finally,he/she is free .Suffering no more of sickness,temptation,or imprisonment of this world. And most of all he /she is finally with The Merciful and the Most Forgiving. Even if he was loaded with sins, he would be a guest in the house of the Most Giving.

    But rarely do I feel a sense of loss or shock as when I read about Edward S. departure. He is in the hands of The Most Gracious. May he find the freedom and peace of mind he struggled for in this world. But our loss of such a soul is nameless.

    My condolences to his family and friends and to the world.

  3. Yahya Bergum from USA

    In memory of Edward W Said, 1935 - 2003 (CE). May Allah show him mercy, shower him with blessings and grant him peace - Ameen.

    One of the characteristics of a caldera volcano is that its highest point becomes its lowest point following a spectacular ejection of glowing-hot steam and debris. The force of the blast is essentially vertical through a (relatively) small opening. The eruption could presumably generate a rain of sedimentary material - or even a shower of super heated salt acid (perhaps with the potential for rapidly converting a person into a pillar of salt).

    The Dead Sea appears to be within a "caldera basin" covering a large portion of the Southern Negev. Satellite images of the Dead Sea can be viewed at the "Evidences of Creation" site based on the works of Harun Yahya (at http://www.evidencesofcreation.com/miracles_02_01.htm).

    Michael Sanders believes he has discovered Sodom and Gomorrah submerged beneath the northern end of the Dead Sea. His findings, including some additional satellite photos, can be viewed at his "Mysteries of the Bible" site (at http://www.biblemysteries.com/library/deadsea.htm).

    Please consider the following verses from the Saheeh International translation of the Quran. (I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan.)

    11:82 So when Our command came, We made the highest part [of the city] its lowest and rained upon them stones of layered, hard clay,

    15:74 And we made the highest part [of the city] its lowest and rained upon them stones of hard clay.

    Regarding caldera volcanoes in general, you might wish to have a look at the script of the BBC's "Super Volcanoes" program (at http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/1999/supervolcanoes_script.shtml). Also, there are satellite images of the Yellowstone caldera available (at http://www.lpi.usra.edu/education/EPO/yellowstone2002/workshop/y_caldera_extra).

    Assalamu alaikum (Peace be with you).

    --Yahya Bergum

  4. Angelika Martinovich from U. S.

    The world has lost a powerful voice for justice and peace at a critical time. Professor Said opened a startling new world for me with his book " The Politics of Dispossession ". My gratitude and respect for a true scholar- and a man of great heart and impressive courage. Would that we had more men of such stature! Truly a great loss for all who seek truth- the truth about Palestine in particular and the much- maligned Middle East in general.His words woke me from a trance-like state of ignorance and compelled me to explore a foreign terrain marked by the signposts of betrayal,injustice and endless human suffering. For the insights gained, I will remain forever indebted to Professor Said- and I will not forget the messenger nor the message. A humble student...

  5. H.A. (HULK Agitator) from Land of Flying Dollars

    The loss of Professor Said is a great loss for Muslims, if it is not for anyone else. We (MUSLIMS) all should be praying him and his family.

    However, I am agitated that no one in the mainstream media mentioned (as far as I know) his passing. Whenever someone, whethere he or she is a Muslim, Christian, Jews or others speaks for the Muslims, and when he/she passes away as Professor Said has, the bias Zionist/Christian fundamentalist controlled media becomes SO LOW and Cowardly that they forget to mention the individual.

    This will answer the questions of many of my American friends who ask..."WHY DO THEY HATE US?" WHY 9-11 Happened?" well, this is part of the answer... (although I hope 9/11 never happened)

    However, I blame the Muslims (including myself) for not being integrated in the political, social, and other aspect of this nation, including the media. But I am disappointed in the Americans who NEVER speak out against these kinds of biases.

    They (AMERICANS) ask Why majority of Muslims do not speak out against the terrorists w/ BIG LOUD SPEAKER?

    Well, my question to the ignorant and drunken Americans, WHY DON'T YOU SPEAK OUT AGAINST ZIONISTS AND CHRISTIANS FUNDAMENTALISTS who are treating Muslims or those who speak for MUSLIMS, like animals???

    I hope that's a fair question.

  6. rachid khould from usa

    thank you professor Said for making great books such as "orientalism" and "Covering Islam" available to us. Thank you for sharing your deep insights on the relationship between the Arabs and Western culture. I owe you a lot. For sure, you will be remembered. May you rest in peace. Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi rajioun...

  7. Gerardo Farias from US

    Oh my God. Oh my God! OH MY GOD! This is just a shock and surprise. Islamicity is the first place where I got the news.

    Edward Said was the best and probably the most eloquent Palestine advocate Muslims and peace-loving people ever had. May God Bless him and May he rest in peace.