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Tributes to Edward Said


Photo: Antoun Albert
THE death of the distinguished Palestinian intellectual Edward Said on 25 September, left the Arab world devastated at the loss of a sober and independent Arab and international voice who championed the causes of national liberation and of Palestinian rights. We at Al-Ahram Weekly will sorely miss his contribution, since we have had the privilege of publishing Edward Said's political articles from the first day that he began writing regularly for the newspapers (9 September 1993) until his very last article (21 August 2003). Here, we are posting a number of the obituary pieces we have received, together with Edward Said's first and last articles for the Weekly.
What Cairo means to me
Interview conducted in 1994 by Mona Anis in Cairo
Profile published in Al-Ahram Weekly, 1994
Edward Said: Optimism of the will
By Mona Anis
Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said's last concert
By Tania Tamari Nasir
Edward Said articles in Al-Ahram Weekly
Also see: www.edwardsaid.org
Promontory in the infinite
Creator, mentor, historical agent of justice: in these grieving tributes by his friends and admirers, some of the most prominent figures in the Arab world and beyond, Edward Said emerges as a man who defies description. A Palestinian who never lived in Palestine, an American alienated by the new world order, a citizen of the world whose devotion to Palestine never undermined his loyalty to humanity: Said conquered the Western academy only to become the proverbial father of the Palestine to come, complementing scholarly glory with direct engagement with the turmoil at hand. Arab poets, scholars, political commentators, and the Israeli Chief Conductor for Life of the Staatskapelle Berlin, recollect their inevitably enriching encounters with Said
Salutes and apologies
No words can express the great loss to thought in general, and for the notion of freedom in particular, to which the death of Edward Said has given rise.
Edward Said was professor of comparative literature at Columbia University. He was also, perhaps more importantly, a Jerusalemite. The issues of his country traveled with him wherever he went; a very large part of their burden settled with him in New York, where he taught and fought with remarkable determination.
Edward Said wrote on colonialism and orientalism and the many manifestations of these two concepts in Western art and literature. His monumental, telling and revealing Orientalism is the book that forced the world to concede that his struggle was valid and true.
As a lecturer he was an effective advocate of the rights of his nation and people who managed, through what he wrote and said, to penetrate the conscience of whoever he addressed. He was in full possession of expressive powers, able to conjure up an idea with the magical clarity of words. His voice gave off a luminous radiance that had the power to awaken.
Edward Said was subjected to a vicious campaign perpetrated by pro-Israeli groups unsettled by his influence, one that gave rise to various responses that demonstrated the extent of his contribution. Yet such campaigns did not stop him for in his heart of hearts he was after peace. He sought a just, sustainable peace.
He was the first to notice the muddle besetting the Palestinian rank and file. We were both scheduled to attend a meeting held in Geneva in 1988, aimed at discussing the options available to the Palestinian leadership at a moment when it was under immense pressure to offer so-called compromises. We were supposed to fly from Geneva to Tunis to spend a single day with all the factions of the Palestinian leadership. At the time of our departure Edward Said told me that he intended to return directly to his university in New York and would not be accompanying us to Tunis. When I asked why he would do so at a time when his lifetime's concern was at the edge of an abyss, he told me I would understand his position when I had seen for myself what was going on in Tunis.
We were to agree once again, without prior arrangement, on a unified response to the Oslo Accords. I explained my position in a lecture at the American University in Cairo while in America, Edward was addressing the whole world, his pure and lucid voice crescendoing into ever more audible signals, his expressive liveliness more persuasive by the minute. His life and work was a testimony to the role of the intellectual and the intellectual's position. When a teacher chooses to use his (intellectual) ammunition in the wider world, forgoing the slow influence that can be made in the academic context, that teacher displays a desire to keep up with events, to reach into the future and beat a death he knows is awaiting him: a vision of greatness irrespective of viewpoint.
For many years Edward had known he had leukemia, a condition he fought with courage. Illness would make him immobile for a while, but he would promptly resist, proudly standing straight, his voice echoing, his writing flowing -- an intellectual, an artist, an activist -- and before all else upholding the dignity of the human being, in search of value, meaning and essence in both his own life and his dialogue with the universe.
Early this summer Edward Said was invited to give a lecture at the American University in Cairo. I met him before the lecture at the hotel where he was staying. I had the impression the was exhausted, and I accompanied him to Ewart Hall. After the lecture he was drained. Both the warm welcome he had received and the effort he exerted had taken their toll. The next day he was my guest for a day at my country house, with his wife Mariam. We spent the day together and even though he was tired enough for me to sense that the end was nigh he never stopped talking, inquiring, discussing -- as if he wanted to stretch his last breath. He lived at the heart of life.
Two weeks ago I found out that Edward was in hospital in New York. I tried to contact him but sadly he was in the intensive care unit. I felt a constriction take hold of my nerves, stretching them, for I sensed the bells tolling. When news of his death in New York reached me, a sea and an ocean separating us, I recalled Al-Mutanabi's famous lines: "Scaling the island, the news reached me/ Frightened, I fled, with hope, to lies."
Unfortunately neither lies nor the truth, neither poetry nor tears are sufficient to make one accept that the fates have ruled, coming and going, taking Edward Said with them to a distant world.
POSTSCRIPT: I must point out that I dislike occasional writing of this sort -- whether it is an obituary or a congratulatory piece. Yet on this particular occasion I feel that I am writing, at some level, by way of apology. For the Egyptian press failed to circulate news of Edward Said's death early enough. And this failure reflects an unforgivable professional, as well as intellectual, fault. The death of Edward Said should never be mentioned in passing, as it were, to be forgotten the next day. I do not merely apologise, therefore. I ask forgiveness on behalf of my profession.
Mohamed Hassanein Heikal
* The writer is a political analyst and former chairman of the board of Al-Ahram newspaper.
Our envoy to human conscience
I cannot bid Edward Said farewell, so present is he among and within us and in the world at large, so alive. The Palestinians' envoy to human conscience grew weary of the absurd struggle against death. He would never have grown weary of resisting the new world order, asserting justice, humanism and the affinity between cultures and civilisations.
For 12 years he proved himself accomplished at dodging death. He renewed his fertile creative life, through writing and music and registering the human will, the vital quest for meaning and essence, situating the intellectual endeavour in its rigorous context. Any Palestinian asked what he was proud of in the contemporary world would undoubtedly reply, "Edward Said". In the cultural arena Palestine never gave birth to anything of such genius, or such a unique plurality, as Edward Said.
At present, and until further notice, he will be credited with transferring the name of his native country from the common plane of politics to that of universal cultural consciousness. Born of Palestine he was to become -- through loyalty to the justice denied its people and advocacy of their right to life and liberty -- the proverbial father of the Palestine to come. His perspective on the conflict that rages there is both cultural and moral; it not only justifies the Palestinians' right to resistance but views it as a national and human duty.
He was a whole person in whom the critic, the intellectual, the musician and the politician all worked in harmony. His imposing personality gave off a remarkable charisma that made a unique international phenomenon. Seldom does one encounter a person in whom the intellectual and the star combine in the way they did in Edward, a dashing presence, as eloquent and profound as he was fierce and lucid, maintaining a steadfast fascination with the aesthetics of life and language.
On bidding him a difficult farewell, with his presence belying the impossible condition of his absence, the world meets Palestine at a rare moment of convergence, a moment during which we cannot specify with certainty who the family of the deceased might be since the whole world, for a moment, is his family. The loss is common to us and the world, and so are the tears, for Edward, his lively conscience and encyclopaedic knowledge, managed to place Palestine at the heart of the world, and place the world at the heart of Palestine.
Mahmoud Darwish
* The writer is a Palestinian poet and former member of the PLO Executive Committee.
A universal Palestinian
This week nationality law was at the centre of wide-ranging discussion: the right to Egyptian nationality for citizens born of an Egyptian mother and a foreign father is being debated. It was noted, however, that due to its clashing with an old Arab League resolution, that right should not be applied to Palestinians. To avoid undermining the right of return or abating the fervour of the national struggle, Palestinians must not hold another Arab nationality.
Yet the life of Edward Said, who died at the age of 68 last week, demonstrates the faultiness of such arguments. Edward Said, who was born in Palestine though he never had the opportunity to live in Palestine, had a universal perspective. Yet he subordinated this universal identity to his Palestinian one, devoting his life to defending the Palestinian cause.
He lived in Cairo with his family and studied at the Gezira Prep School, then Victoria College. Then his father decided to send him to a boarding school in Massachusetts, USA. He graduated from Princeton, earning a PhD from Harvard and becoming professor of comparative literature at Columbia. He concerned himself with literature, philosophy, music, politics. He became the universal intellectual, widely read, with innumerable interests and talents. The 1967 War constituted a major shift in the direction of his intellectual life. He began to look deeply into his cultural identity as a Palestinian, while preventing this from influencing his sense of belonging to humanity as a whole.
He is a Christian who never balked at defending Islam, a Palestinian who had close connections with high-profile Jews like Noam Chomsky and Daniel Barenboim, an Arab who moved from Palestine to Egypt to Lebanon and back again, even though he settled in the US and, at some level, considered himself an American.
The war Edward Said waged for the sake of Palestine was no less courageous than the war he waged against a debilitating illness that pursued him for many years -- so much so that every time we met one would wonder if it were for the last time. For many years his extraordinary ability to intensify his work in the face of an ever more difficult race with death held me in its thrall.
In 1993 Edward confided in his friends that he wished he had another 10 years before him, during which to formulate what was going on in his mind. His wish was granted. And in the process of realising his goals he demonstrated the triumph of life.
I keep thinking of his last two days, with him weeping openly as he bemoaned the increasingly worse conditions in Palestine and telling his daughter that it was necessary to go on writing, and struggling. He was no doubt addressing a whole generation of Palestinian and Arab young men and women.
Mohamed Sid-Ahmed
* The writer is political analyst and columnist with Al- Ahram newspaper.
A ring to his laugh
What consolation is there for the passing of a great man? He does not leave behind a void -- rather a heaviness of spirit, a weight almost unbearable that mercilessly seems to crush the heart and render each breath an ordeal.
But Edward Said was not just a scholar, a brilliant mind, a creative artist, an ardent nationalist, an advocate of justice, a free spirit, an unrelenting force for integrity, an uncompromising fighter on behalf of human dignity; he was, too, amazingly human, vulnerable to the pains and doubts that beset us all.
He had a spring in his step and an almost- electric spark to his gestures when he lectured us on literary criticism during a visit to AUB in the late 1960s. He was not much older, at the time, than his student audience.
He had a tremor in his voice and excitement in his tone as he articulated the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, imbuing it with Palestinian authenticity and universal applicability, in Algiers in 1988. He had sorrow in his heart at the passing of his friends -- Iqbal Ahmad, Ibrahim Abu Lughod -- and he grieved openly at their loss. He had tears in his eyes when he told us that he had just been diagnosed with leukemia in London in 1991. He had a ring to his laughter and a sparkle to his smile when he celebrated friendships that he never failed, nor they him -- friendships with Abdel-Muhsen Qattan, Shafeeq El-Hout, Hasib Sabbagh, Said Khoury, Rashid Khalidi, Daniel Barenboim and many, many more.
There was sharpness to his anger and moral indignation at the "indignity" of Oslo and the corruption in leadership. He was impatient with the obtuseness and deliberate ignorance of much of the Western media which insisted on reducing reality to an inane soundbite. There was gentleness in his identification with the oppressed, ferocity in his rage against the oppressor, a warm embrace for the victim and a cold rejection of the culprit, a love for post-apartheid South Africa and all its struggle stood for, and a loathing for discrimination, racism and the degradation of human life and rights. He would deflate those foolhardy enough to think that they could deceive or sustain their vacuous sense of self- importance with the sharpness of his wit.
He would speak with pride and love of Wadi' and Najla, the children who always filled his life, and of Mariam, his wife.
He had a raging thirst for the recognition and validation of a human narrative to vindicate the almost unbearable suffering of the Palestinian people and to render them part of an inclusive human experience. He had the integrity and compassion to recognise the suffering of the Jewish people and the unspeakable pain of the holocaust, and simultaneously to demand of Israel recognition of its own culpability for the plight of the Palestinian people. He had the courage to seek solutions and alternatives, constantly on the lookout for a younger leadership, a mentor for those with promise.
He had the good humour not to take himself too seriously, accepting the burden of his fame and public adulation with humility, and granting his name to numerous boards of institutions including MIFTAH and PICCR.
He had the restlessness of spirit that was singular to those whose "here and now" are too vast and swift to be accommodated by mundane space and time. He had the energy of a man aware of his mortality, squeezing life out of every second, refusing to allow the dreaded disease to frame his space and time or to form his context.
Edward had a global/human context, a Palestinian context, a personal context. To me he was a mentor, brother, close friend. He was notes on my dissertation, phone calls on the Palestinian condition, hurried meetings in conferences or other public events around the world, and those rare relaxed visits in New York or Ramallah. He was the Edward taking time off to have a home-cooked meal, sitting with the family around the table on the veranda overlooking the western hills of Ramallah, nibbling at food and conversation in a relaxed, almost sleepy manner, shedding fame for the luxury of being at home with friends.
Edward may have been out of place -- his personal narrative encapsulates this unique form of Palestinian displacement -- but he has always been in place for those of us who dared to take his genius and friendship for granted.
In addition to the burden of his death, we must bear the knowledge that we had never been prepared to accept it. The death of Edward Said, described as "the conscience of Palestine", requires greater affirmation of all that he represented, both in the consciousness of a nation and in the hearts of those who loved him.
Hanan Ashrawi
* The writer is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the secretary-general of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH).
The other side of the river
Music, liberation and peace: could it be that the legacy of Edward Said, resides in this glow?
His work, I am sure, will be best interpreted by his numerous disciples. As for myself, I would like to draw attention to his capacity to instigate convergence, convergence between the pursuit of novel paths to understanding some major problems in the field of human sciences -- from the mostly Western sources available to him -- and his persistent commitment to the liberation of Palestine, his fatherland; convergence between science and aesthetics, mainly the cultural sciences and music and also his moving advocacy of justice for a people crucified, coupled with a no less persistent pursuit of peace with fraternal souls standing on the other side of the river.
Few have been able to bring together the radical denunciation of cultural hegemonism with such a deeply felt commitment to universalism.
A vision of a future-to-be, or a utopia? Either way his final act, a riveting symphonic concert with Daniel Barenboim, reached for hearts and minds in deeply moving terms. May the lord receive him in his peace after years of suffering. May his vision come true.
Anouar Abdel-Malek
* The writer is an Egyptian social scientist and the author of a ground-breaking body of work on social dialectics.
Said the mentor
When I first enrolled as a graduate student in Columbia University in the early 1970s I signed up for a course with Edward Said. From then on I was on the class list of every course or seminar he taught until I finished my doctorate and left New York.
As a lecturer Said was unparalleled: his lecturing was akin to a performance; it had all the elements of a drama from intensity and suspense to cathartic finale. Said's encyclopaedic knowledge, verbal virtuosity, profound vision and conscientious radicalism turned him into a hero and a role model in the eyes of his students. But Said refused to wear the mantle of the ma�tre, and did not succumb to the temptations of cultural iconography. He neither sought disciples nor tolerated followers. He wanted his students to flourish while finding their own voices and charting their own itinerary. This is something I can attest to as an advisee; Said was the supervisor of my dissertation and he gave me enough rope to play with but made sure I followed the rules of the game the culmination of which is a scholarly work of significance.
Studying with Said was much more than learning about English poetry, comparative literature, and critical theory. It was a matter of finding out our potential and actualising it. He pushed us around mercilessly in order to polish our writing and refine our sensitivity. I still remember crying when he called me "illiterate!", with that damning tone of his voice, for not knowing Vico and Varro. For him they were household names, part of his everyday musing. To gain "literacy" -- of Said's standards -- I rushed to the library in search of those two luminaries and became in time enamoured by Giambattista Vico, Europe's Ibn Khaldoun. I became a Vichian captive just like my mentor.
Studying with Said was like living life at the edge -- it was demanding, risky, and full of excitement and exhilaration. He challenged us -- his students -- continuously and relentlessly, and he ingrained in us the value of intellectual integrity. Above all else he taught us the most valuable of all lessons: truth can speak to power and should speak back to power. Scholarship is the other face of activism. Research must contribute to articulating the concerns of the underprivileged and of the dispossessed.
Not by preaching he taught us, but by doing. The human mind has been preoccupied with the relation of words to things since Plato. In the Arab world the focus has been -- particularly in this age -- on the relation of words to action. Edward Said's criticism exemplifies the concern for words that do not only mean, but also motivate action. His works have systematically related text to context, fiction to life, discourse to acts, and word to world.
A sense of justice, with its poetic, moral, and social shades of meaning, permeates Said's work. An intimate and compelling current runs through his writing. Of Varro, Quintillian said "the most learned of Romans". Of Said, one can say "the most passionate of the learned".
Ferial J. Ghazoul
* The writer is an Iraqi professor of literature at the American University in Cairo.
The courage of utterance
Perhaps the first thing one remembers about Edward Said was his breadth of interest. He was not only at home in music, literature, philosophy, or the understanding of politics, but also he was one of those rare people who saw the connections and the parallels between different disciplines, because he had an unusual understanding of the human spirit, and of the human being, and he recognised that parallels and paradoxes are not contradictions.
He saw in music not just a combination of sounds but understood the fact that every musical masterpiece is, as it were, a conception of the world. And the difficulty lies in the fact that this conception of the world cannot be described in words because were it possible to describe it in words the music would be unnecessary. But he recognised that the fact that it is indescribable doesn't mean that is has no meaning.
This very curious mind, of course, allowed him privileged glimpses into the subconscious of people, of creators. And added to that he had a very unrestrained courage of utterance, and this is what earned him the admiration, the jealousy, and the enmity of so many people.
Many Israelis and Jews did not want to tolerate his criticism, not just of the present Israeli government but of a certain mentality that he identified in Israeli thoughts and deeds -- namely the lack of empathy with the fact that the very same war of independence of Israel in 1948, which brought about the acquisition of a new identity for the Jewish part of the population, was not just a military defeat but also a psychological catastrophe for the non-Jewish population of Palestine. And therefore he was critical of the inability of Israeli leaders to make the necessary symbolic gestures that have to precede any political solution. The Arabs, on the other hand, were and are still unable to accept his sensitivity towards Jewish history, limiting themselves to repeating their innocence as far as the suffering of Jewish people is concerned.
It was precisely this ability of his to see not only the different aspects of any thought or process but their inevitable consequences as well -- and also the combination of human, psychological, and historical, as the case may be, "pre-history" of such thoughts and processes. He was one of those rare people who was permanently aware of the fact that information is only the first step towards understanding. And he always looked for the "beyond" in the idea, the "unseen" by the eye, the "unheard" by the ear.
It was a combination of all these qualities which led him to found together with me the West-Eastern Divan, which provides a forum for young Israeli and Arab musicians to learn together music and all its ramifications.
The Palestinians have lost one of the most eloquent defenders of their aspirations. The Israelis have lost an adversary -- but a fair and humane one. And I have lost a soul mate.
Daniel Barenboim
* The writer is an Israeli pianist and Chief Conductor for Life of the Staatskapelle Berlin
In salute
I salute in the person of Edward Said an exemplary combatant for the Palestinian cause. Exiled in the United States, Said found the words necessary to shake the preconceived ideas manufactured by a media that exclusively served those in power.
He succeeded in raising awareness to the fact that the criminal project of global military control engineered by those in command would necessarily have to entail their support to the equally criminal project of Zionist expansionism.
I salute the subtle intelligence that allowed Said to debunk the Eurocentric projects hidden in the folds of Western scientific and fictional literature, which inform the dominant discourse on Orientalism.
I salute, too, the man who, struck by a terminal disease which inflicted on him the cruelest torment, has always remained for those who knew him, the best and most dedicated of friends.
Samir Amin
* The writer is an Egyptian economist and chairman of the Third World Forum.
In sorrow and anger
Aware of the nature of Edward Said's illness I have yet to be reconciled to its outcome. It is silly to think that anyone could have protected him yet I feel somehow we failed him, that we did not do enough. Perhaps this is because, to those that knew him, this ferocious critic of imperialism, this staunch warrior against oppression who cared for his friends as if they were his grandchildren, concealed somewhere deep inside a tender child. He was vulnerable, charmingly petulant, proud, insecure, curious, afraid of censure and eager for praise. There was a fragility about him, a mixture of maturity and childlike innocence that drove him towards both philosophy and music.
It is easy to say we still have his ideas, books, lectures, the records of the debates he waged around the world. But Edward Said was a writer you loved as a whole person. You loved the way his laugh filled the room, his confident walk, the easy, mellifluous voice and the sometimes merciless sarcasm from which he would not spare himself. You loved, too, the child within him.
We will read Said's works over and over again, and will commemorate his memory in the years to come. But it is hard knowing we will no longer watch him striding into battle, stripping off the varnish from insidious words and tearing the mask from the face of corruption.
I met Edward Said only a few times. But I saw how he treated his close friends: it was as though their welfare was his personal responsibility. He attended to them no matter how many other people were present or how tired he was. I would call him up in New York wanting only to reassure myself that he was "getting on" with his illness as usual -- with the same courage and the same scorn. I would comfort myself with the thought of how successfully he was responding to treatment, taking refuge in the illusion that leukemia was something akin to a bad cold. But the man who devoted his life to fighting many metaphorical cancers was not to be spared in his battle against the real thing. His courage in facing both was inspiring.
Edward Said was no saint. His ideas were not above criticism or debate. What is beyond discussion, though, is that Edward Said was as great an advocate of his people as he was a champion of knowledge in the service of humanity, of the image of the intellectual, of the victims of colonialism and of the wretched of the Third World. He was a formidable and honourable adversary, even when facing those who lacked honour. Nor did he shrink from subjecting his ideas to renewed scrutiny whenever new knowledge seemed to call for revision, which, perhaps, is one of the most important marks of a sincere and dedicated thinker. Not only did he take an amazing delight in knowledge, he was one of the few who sought to discover the world through literature. He was the model of the peripatetic philosopher, indefatigable and tenacious as he raised the banner of a humanitarian aesthetic.
Because he defended an oppressed people, and a narrative the Zionist narrative is seeking to destroy, Edward Said was dubbed "the professor of terrorism" by Zionists such as Alexander Edward. Others took exception to the fact that his academic and intellectual accomplishments were mixed with a daily involvement with the Palestinian cause. They would have preferred he remain a purely "universal thinker". Apparently, a "universal thinker" is a being brought to earth through some combustion resulting from the friction between two clouds, a creature without connections to a people, a land or a history, without enemies and, hence, with no need for supporters, and whose writings are intended to be read by the nighttime stars and the winds rustling through the forests. Yet even in his native country it was not any sense of shame that made the imbeciles of the "Oslo Authority" retract their ban on his books. Rather, widespread protests deprived them from the pleasure of indulging in that ban.
Edward Said's death leaves me feeling angry though anger, like sadness, fades. What does not seem to have any end in sight, though, at least for a person of my age, is the collective Palestinian death. In this our pain corresponds to that of Said, which remained with him till his last breath. It is the death of a child, the terror of incessantly busy Israeli guns, the uprooting of olive trees by bulldozers hysterical in their vigilance over Israeli security, the dropping of a bomb from the belly of an Apache on the heads of an entire family, rooftops collapsing on rubble and sometimes on the inhabitants within. Such are the images Said carried with him, and they are things all of us will have in common as long as the world remains as he saw it when, through experience, research and the pen, he caught evil red-handed. He carried with him too the image of a world he described so well and fought so tenaciously, the world of imperialism, moving from war to war, shooting down human beings, the truth and the law, corralling all into its net. Yet there he was, in bed, advising his daughter Najla and son Wadi' to continue their work and be happy. He might have been addressing an entire generation, tendering advice that only a professor of his stature can impart.
On the day he died, in the garden outside Philosophy Hall where Edward had his office, students and teachers at Columbia University stood in a large circle holding candles and observing a moment of silence at sunset in a collective commemoration of their late professor. Readers and admirers of Edward Said, in Palestine and the Arab world, can only say their farewells individually, from where they happen to be and each in his or her own way.
I am angry, though I was no less angry before I heard the news of Edward's death. Death is suspiciously active around us, so noisy that it still drowns out the whisper of hope, the thunder of the world and the cry of the newborn. Death has become tediously repetitive, so much so there is no longer time between one funeral and the next to grieve and contemplate the loss. The shrinking of horizons smothers hope. For a lifetime we have been running in chains, living on the brink of the edge, building new tents and digging makeshift graves, because before 40 days have passed since one person died 40 more will have fallen. There is no longer time to mourn or to pay respects to the dead, though I hasten to give pause for the absence of Edward Said before the crowds start pressing in on us, before Sharon dispatches a thousand more in the bout of ethnic cleansing that awaits us and that will receive Washington's blessing, as well as the blessings of many Arab capitals where the wonders of developing droopy eyelids whenever disaster strikes have long been known.
I am angry because Edward Said died when we most needed his voice, roaring against a new world order that has reached the heights of belligerency and the depth of barbarity. We need his voice more than ever now, when the Palestinian narrative faces an unprecedented assault and the prevailing logic has come to blame the victims and praise the murderers, when Sharon is dubbed a man of peace while our national resistance is branded terrorist.
I am angry because my powerlessness repeats itself more than is decent. Neither I, nor anyone else, was able to be a sudden tremor in the wrist that pointed the gun at the forehead of Naji Al-Ali, native son of Al- Shajara and now lying in a grave in Britain; I was unable, even for a few moments, to be a few minutes of morning drowsiness in Beirut, detaining Ghassan Kanafani, originally from Akka, from getting into his car which Mossad had rigged to explode and scatter pieces of his body over neighbouring rooftops. I am angry because I couldn't be one more hour in the life of Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, from Bethlehem and now buried in Baghdad; angry because I could not be a convincing argument that might have detained Abu Salma of Haifa from his grave, or a dose of oxygen to keep Ihsan Abbas, from Ain Ghazal, among us for just a few more days before we escorted his body to its grave in Wadi Al-Sir in Amman, or that of Mu'in Bessisu to his grave in Cairo.
The list of names and of graveyards will grow larger. The names will increase so we decrease and no one knows where they will die.
Edward Said's is another grave out of place, another funeral away from the homeland. When we lose a person in such a way sorrow gives way to anger. I am angry because it doesn't make sense that we have to circumnavigate the globe in order to put a flower on every grave containing a creative talent from Palestine.
Mourid Barghouti
* The writer is a Cairo-based poet and author of "I saw Ramallah" , New York: Random House, 2003.


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