A gathering of recent, polemical pieces on the Middle East by the late literary scholar, pinning most of the blame for the troubles on Israel, but assigning some to the PLO.
Said (Reflections on Exile, 2001, etc.), who died in September 2003, had no use for Yasir Arafat, whom he considers to have engineered “the initial Palestinian surrender at Oslo”—that is, the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords. “We need a new kind of leadership,” Said thunders early in on in this collection of his opinion pieces for Arabic-language newspapers, “one that can mobilize and inspire the whole Palestinian nation; we have had enough . . . of lies and misleading rhetoric, enough of corruption and rank incompetence.” He had still less truck with Israel, which he portrays as an occupying power on a moral par with the Third Reich; at least, he suggests, the powerlessness of Palestinians today is the powerlessness of the Jews of Europe at the height of Hitler’s reign. The equation is characteristic of the early, pre-9/11 pieces here, which ring with righteous indignation taken to the point of propaganda: “We need a united leadership to make decisions, not simply to grovel before the pope and the moronic George W. Bush, even as the Israelis are killing [Arafat’s] heroic people with impunity. . . . The struggle for liberation from Israeli occupation is where every Palestinian worth anything now stands.” Said’s post-9/11 journalism tends to be more moderate, as if to distance the Palestinian cause from that of Osama bin Laden, for whom he shows little sympathy. His views on the folly of the unfolding American adventure in Iraq (“a hugely weakened and subpar Third World state ruled by a hated despotic regime: there is no disagreement about that anywhere, least of all in the Arab and Islamic world”) seem particularly prescient in the light of recent events.
Always controversial, but worthwhile for those who follow current events—and those who wish for peace in Palestine.