Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Edward Said Attacks Both Israeli Government and Palestinian Authority

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Edward Said Attacks Both Israeli Government and Palestinian Authority

Article excerpt

Edward Said Attacks Both Israeli Government and Palestinian Authority

Prominent Palestinian academic Edward Said delivered a scathing attack on both the Netanyahu government and the Palestinian Authority to a packed auditorium at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Speaking shortly after the opening of the archeological tunnel in Jerusalem which sparked bloody riots in the West Bank and Gaza, Said denounced the Israeli move as an act of "arrogant triumphalism, a sort of rubbing of Palestinian and Muslim noses in the dirt."

The tunnel opening was just the latest expression of Israeli dominance over Jerusalem and was clearly intended to show the world that "we can do what we want," he said. It was "a profoundly ugly gesture," he maintained, calculated to humiliate Palestinians and underscore their powerlessness.

The former member of the Palestine National Council who teaches comparative literature at Columbia University also described as "inadequate" and "pathetic" the Palestinian and Arab response to what he called Israel's "unceasing attempt to Judaicize" Palestine. "Conferences, ringing declarations and promises of money have done nothing to blunt the Israeli juggernaut in Jerusalem," he said.

Challenging conventional wisdom on the so-called peace process, Said bitterly denounced the Oslo accords as a clever formula designed to effectively legitimize Israeli occupation. "Oslo gave them [Palestinians] limited autonomy but no sovereignty," he said. "It's true that Yasser Arafat was allowed to return and set up a truncated regime controlled by the Israelis," but that is no substitute for genuine self-determination, he maintained.

Said described the Oslo agreements as a "bizarre amalgam of historically discarded solutions by white colonialists to the problems of native peoples." He reminded his audience of one of the 19th century models of British and French rule in Africa: this was to bestow upon a native chief some status and privileges in order to extract a measure of local acceptability, while at the same time maintaining a firm grip over its dominion. "Arafat is the late 20th century equivalent of the 19th century [African] chief," he said.

Better known for his academic credentials than for his talent as a stand-up comedian, Said nevertheless provoked laughter when he mimicked Arafat in Washington accepting the crumbs from Israel's table with "Thank you, thank you, thank you. …

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