Home   »  Our Coalition  »  US Campaign Conferences  »  3rd Annual National Organizers' ...  »  Celebration of the Life, Work, and ...

Speech by Mariam Said

For those of you who attended last weekend's screening of "Selves and Others" a documentary film produced in 2003 for French Television TV5 and AlJazeera Network you would have seen Edward Said clearly sum up his views as a humanist.

Edward's political involvement began with the Viet Nam war and after the Arab Israeli war of 1967, his political involvement and writing was mainly on the Palestinian struggle. As an Arab American of Palestinian origin he articulated to the western world and linked the Question of Palestine to other struggles of the oppressed and colonized people. "People fighting for a decent life, fighting to be respected, in other words fighting for their basic entitlements".
Edward's education was totally a western education, and he had to reeducate himself ideologically. His reeducation led him to many radical writers and thinkers whose works he used to interpret the Palestinian struggle.
Franz Fannon who witnessed the Algerian war of independence and wrote the Wretched  of the Earth

Aimee Cesaire whose writings Edward quoted extensively "no race has a monopoly on beauty, on intelligence, on strength" and "there is room for all of us at the rendez vous of history"

C.L.R. James who worte the Black Jacobins, an account of Toussaint L'Ouverture life and the Haitian struggle.

Amilcar Cabral the intellectual and revolutionary

Walter Rodney who wrote about under development in Africa,

W.E. Dubois

"Howard Zinn, the prominent American radical historian who wrote the other American history which includes a bitter struggle of domestic slavery, imperial conquest, and terrible class inequality".

Martin Bernal who wrote Black Athena

W.E. Dubois
He even learnt from non radical writers such as V.S. Naipul. He critiqued his novel "A Bend in the River" which is a novel about a backward African country.
He visited South Africa before apartheid and after. He met with several members of the ANC (Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu) he also met Joe Slovo and others. He compared the South Africa under apartheid to the Occupied Territories. He always thought that the South Africans never veered from their goal while we did and I quote "...I'd like to mention the antithesis between bitter present antagonism and future reconciliation. Antagonism is the structure that today binds Palestinian and Israelis, in the land and in the diaspora. Neither people has been blessed with a Mandela, nor even a deKlerk. We are very far
from Truth and Reconciliation commission. The number of visionaries who have
articulated thoughts that go beyond a wretched impoverished opposition is tiny, if they exist at all. Yes, there have been Israelis and Palestinians who have tried together to work against injustice and intolerance, but they are a minority - a beleagured, outnumbered minority with very limited influence now."
Edward believed our only hope lies with interaction and he and Daniel Barenboim established in 1999 the West Eastern Divan, a music workshop of western music for talented musicians from the Arab World and Israel. The project involves teaching music, performing and discussions. 
This is what Edward said about this project "In our work and planning and discussions our main principle is that separation between peoples is not a solution for any of the problems that divide peoples. And certainly ignorance of the other provides no help whatever. Cooperation and coexistence of the kind that music lived as we have lived, performed, shared and loved it together, might be. I, for one am full of optimism despite the darkening sky and the seemingly hopeless situation for the time being that encloses us all."
Edward the teacher, scholar and intellectual believed that criticism and dissent is healthy and his legacy is to keep his mind alive is to keep him alive.