Scholar, spokesman for Palestinians dies

/ Source: The Associated Press

Edward W. Said, a Columbia University professor and leading spokesman in the United States for the Palestinian cause, has died. He was 67.

SAID HAD suffered from leukemia for years and died at a New York hospital late Wednesday, said Shelley Wanger, his editor at Knopf publishers.

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 was a prominent member of the Palestinian parliament-in-exile for 14 years, until stepping down in 1991. He also wrote passionately about the Palestinian cause, as well as on a variety of other subjects, from English literature, his academic specialty, to music and culture.

“He was a man of intellect and courage who maintained a deep and abiding commitment to his humanity and to the Palestinian cause,” said Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, who first met Said in the 1960s. “He remained unwavering in his commitment to the Palestinian cause for justice and freedom and never ever allowed himself to be intimidated or silenced.”

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

Two years ago, he wrote 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.


Turki al-Hamad, a prominent Saudi intellectual and writer, called his death a great loss.

“We need intellectuals like Edward Said, especially at this stage we are going through,” al-Hamad said. “We Arabs are not rich in such kind of intellectual thinking. He leaves a huge gap in our intellectual life.”

After the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Said criticized Yasser Arafat because he believed the PLO leader had made a bad deal for the Palestinians.

He said in a lecture at Tufts University that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority “have become willing collaborators with the (Israeli) military occupation, a sort of Vichy government for Palestinians.”

In 2000, Said 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.

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