THE QUESTION OF PALESTINE
Edward W. Said
In this polemical essay, Edward Said, a Columbia professor and member of the Palestinian National Council, presents the Palestinian case to the American public--a follow-up to his general attack on the field of Middle East studies in Orientalism (1979). Charging inadequate coverage and media recognition as well as misrepresentation, Said--at times eloquent and erudite, at times propagandistic and convoluted--stresses the lack of direct communication between the Palestinians and the West. Palestinians like himself, he believes, should remind the world that the Palestinians will not simply disappear and that their situation as a dispossessed people must be faced equally with the Jewish holocaust. As Zionism and Israeli occupation of the West Bank since 1967 have attempted to negate a Palestinian identity by ignoring or stultifying it, so, he writes, has the PLO resuscitated the "idea" of Palestine and created an infrastructure capable of unifying and educating Palestinians within and outside Israel. Expounding on the negative impact of Zionism (Western imperialism) on Arabs in Israel as opposed to its benefits for Jews, Said traces the origins of the Palestinian nationalist movement to the encounter with Zionism in the 1880s; dwells on the critical year 1948 when many left what became the state of Israel; emphasizes post-1967 events and the rise of an effective PLO which he claims represents all Palestinians; and ends with his vision of the future -- notwithstanding Camp David and the Arab-Israeli treaty -- a secular democratic state. (Its implications for Israeli sovereignty are not discussed.) By using and recommending only partisan documentation, however, and neglecting to provide evidence for a number of controversial interpretations (Palestinian "ejection from Israel; "unauthorized" Arab terrorism), Said limits the usefulness of his tract as a scholarly work; but the position had not heretofore been articulated at this elevated level.