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March 26, 2001
Unmoved by Censorship, Edward Said Denounces "Zionist Bankruptcy"

By Ramzy Baroud


Seattle, WA - Palestinian professor Edward Said is enduring yet another attack by his critics. The latest episode, which was further emphasized by the New York Times on March 10, was caused by a rock thrown by the world renowned intellectual toward the Israeli side of the Lebanese border.

Said described his actions, which were depicted in a photo that was widely distributed as a "symbolic gesture of joy." That gesture however, generated heavy criticism, which eventually led to the cancellation of a lecture which the Columbia University Professor was to deliver on May 6 in Vienna.

Johann Schulein, the director of the Freud Institute and Museum in Vienna, contacted Said in February, saying that he retracts an invitation his institute made to Said last year, due to the political situation in the Middle East and the consequences of it.

Said, appalled by the dismissal of his lecture, demanded an explanation in a short note where he asked to know of the relations between a lecture dealing with Freud and Middle East politics. No answer was received.

"It was a most unprofessional and lamentable gesture very much in contradiction with the spirit and the letter of Freud's work," wrote Said in his weekly commentary published at the Egyptian Ahram weekly.

"That a respectable academic should say such rubbish beggars the imagination, but that he should do so even as Israel is besieging and killing Palestinians mercilessly on a daily basis." Said added, "what in their appalling pusillanimity the Freudian gang did not say publicly was that the real reason for the unseemly cancellation of my lecture was that it was the price they paid to their donors in Israel and the US."

The New York Times that often reacts enthusiastically to stories of such nature, lending an ear to those who attack the professor's integrity, quickly picked up on the story. The newspaper ran an enlarged photo of Said while throwing a rock toward an inhabited area inside the Israeli border, also interviewing Schulein whose set of reasons behind his earlier decision seemed different.

Schulein told the Times that he couldn't accept having someone who constantly criticizes the Israeli occupation delivering a lecture sponsored by his institute, citing the photo incident as a primary reason behind his decision.

Although the internationally recognized learned Palestinian is familiar with such attacks, his reaction reflected a deeply felt frustration. "So low has this particularly unpleasant brand of Zionism sunk that it cannot justify itself by open dialogue debate and genuine dialogue. It uses the shadowy Mafia tactics of threat and extortion to exact silence and compliance," Said wrote. But it is not only Said's defiance of the mainstream western perspective regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict that has often landed him such attacks. A wide range of Arab and western intellectuals have undergone such blows. Many of those who see the man as a symbol of intellectual resistance lashed at the Institute and the intimidation used by pro Israel groups in the West to pressure and silence pro Palestinian voices.

"It is appalling to know such evil tactics are still being employed by these so-called intellectuals. Their actions show that justice and fairness is a merely an outdated concept they no longer practice," said Fadi Chahine, managing Editor of Middle East News Online.

Chahine added, "Telling the truth is a dangerous job, but men like Edward Said will continue to prevail no matter what the odds are."

Michael Gillespie, a journalist and founder of the Iowa Organization for the Writing Arts described the attack on Said as "a particularly odious example of the Zionist assault on academic freedom in the U.S. and abroad and freedom of speech, especially as it relates to the Middle East."

"They attack Prof. Said so frequently because they fear his eloquence and are maddened by his unstinting persistence and integrity," he affirmed. Arab American activist and editor of NileMedia.com Ahmed Amr sees Said as a man who "empowered his people with volumes of scholarly work that affirms the integrity of their struggle for justice and freedom." And according to Amr, "the intent of this incessant assault on the integrity of Professor Edward Said is to silence one of the few Palestinian voices that can be heard over the loud chorus of Israeli apologists." "In the initial estimate of the Zionists, men like Edward Said were a phenomenon that was not supposed to happen. Edward Said, like eight million other Palestinians, refused to abandon both his patrimony and his identity."

American writer Edna Yaghi believes that the stone thrown by Said is like all stones thrown within the Palestinian Occupied Territories, are all symbols of freedom that represents the Palestinian people's struggle for liberty and self-determination. "It is indeed an irony that the professor's presence in Vienna is being denied when Freud himself was driven out of the same city because he was a Jew," Yaghi laments.

She added, "Schulein fails to comprehend what is really happening in Palestine is a tragedy in itself. As the Jews remember their own persecution and their quest for freedom and the right to practice what they believe, so should they recognize that the Palestinians are entitled to the same rights on their own soil."

Said with the same determined, defiant yet passionately wise tone provided a formula aimed at confronting such aggressive approaches to suffocate Palestinian voices. He said, "I still believe it is our role as people seeking peace with justice to provide an alternative vision to Zionism's, a vision based on equality and inclusion, rather than on apartheid and exclusion." He urged that despite such viciousness, Palestinians and their supporters must rise above "Zionist bankruptcy" and continue to lead a path of peace that is based on justice. "When any of us is stopped, ten others can take his or her place," he assures, concluding, "that is the genuine hallmark of our struggle, and neither censorship nor base complicity with it can prevent its success."

By Ramzy Baroud, Middle East News Online Editor