Skip to comments.Fifty years of dispossession [Edward Said Rants Against Israel in 1998]
Posted on 10/29/2008 3:59:44 PM PDT by Enchante
In the United States, celebrations of Israel's fifty years as a state have tried to project an image of the country that went out of fashion since the Palestinian Intifada (1987-92): a pioneering state, full of hope and promise for the survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, a haven of enlightened liberalism in a sea of Arab fanaticism and reaction. On 15 April, for instance, CBS broadcast a two hour prime-time program from Hollywood hosted by Michael Douglas and Kevin Costner, featuring movie stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathy Bates (who recited passages from Golda Meir minus, of course, her most celebrated remark that there were no Palestinians) and Winona Ryder. None of these luminaries are particularly known for their Middle Eastern expertise or enthusiasm, although all of them in one way or another praised Israel's greatness and enduring achievements. There was even time for a cameo appearance by President Bill Clinton, who provided perhaps the least edifying, most atavistic note of the evening by complimenting Israel, "a small oasis," for "making a once barren desert bloom," and for " building a thriving democracy in hostile terrain."
Ironically enough, no such encomia were intoned on Israeli television, which has been broadcasting a 22-part series, Tkuma, on the country's history. This series has a decidedly more complicated content. Episodes on the l948 War, for instance, made use of archival sources unearthed by the new historians (Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, Avi Schlaim, Tom Segev, et al) to demonstrate that the indigenous Palestinians were forcibly expelled, their villages destroyed, their land taken, their society eradicated. It was as if Israeli audiences had no need of all the palliatives provided for diasporic and international viewers, who still needed to be told that Israel was a cause for uncomplicated rejoicing and not, as it has been for Palestinians, the cause of a protracted, and still continuing dispossession of the country's indigenous people.
That the American celebration simply omitted any mention of the Palestinians indicated also how remorselessly an ideological mind-set can hold on, despite the facts, despite years of news and headlines, despite an extraordinary, if ultimately unsuccessful, effort to keep effacing Palestinians from the picture of Israel's untroubled sublimity. If they're not mentioned, therefore they don't exist. Even after fifty years of living the Palestinian exile I still find myself astonished at the lengths to which official Israel and its supporters will go to suppress the fact that a half century has gone by without Israeli restitution, recognition, or acknowledgment of Palestinian human rights and without, as the facts undoubtedly show, connecting that suspension of rights to Israel's official policies. Even when there is a vague buried awareness of the facts, as is the case with a front page New York Times story on April 23 by one Ethan Bronner, the Palestinian Nakba is characterized as a semi-fictional event (dutiful inverted commas around the word "catastrophe" for instance) caused by no one in particular. When Bronner quotes an uprooted Palestinian who describes his miseries, the man's testimony is qualified by "for most Israelis, the idea of Mr Shikaki staking claim to victimhood is chilling," a reaction made plausible as Bronner blithely leapfrogs over the man's uprooting and systematic deprivations and immediately tells us how his "rage" (for years the approved word for dealing with Palestinian history) has impelled his sons into joining Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Ergo, Palestinians are violent terrorists, whereas Israel can go on being a "vibrant and democratic regional superpower established on the ashes of Nazi genocide." But not on the ashes of Palestine, an obliteration that lingers on in measures taken by Israel to block Palestinian rights, domestically as well as in territories occupied in l967.
Take land and citizenship for instance. Approximately 750,000 Palestinians were expelled in 1948: they are now more than 4 million. Left behind were 120,000 (now one million) who subsequently became Israelis, a minority constituting about 18 per cent of the state's population, but not fully-fledged citizens in anything more than name. In addition there are now some 2.5 million Palestinians without sovereignty on the West Bank and Gaza. Israel is the only state in the world which is not the state of its actual citizens, but of the whole Jewish people who consequently have rights that non-Jews do not. Without a constitution, Israel is governed by Basic Laws of which one in particular, the Law of Return, makes it possible for any Jew anywhere to emigrate to Israel and become a citizen, at the same time that native-born Palestinians do not have the same right. 93 per cent of the land of the state is characterised as Jewish land, meaning that no non-Jew is allowed to lease, sell or buy it. Before 1948, the Jewish community in Palestine owned a little over 6 per cent of the land. A recent case in which a Palestinian Israeli, Adel Kaadan, wished to buy land but was refused because he was a non-Jew has become something of a cause célèbre in Israel, and has even made it to the Supreme Court which is supposed to but would prefer not to rule on it. Kaadan's lawyer has said that "as a Jew in Israel, I think that if a Jew somewhere else in the world was prohibited from buying state land, public land, owned by the federal government, because they're Jews, I believe there would have been an outcry in Israel." (New York Times, 1 March, l998). This anomaly about Israeli democracy, not well known and rarely cited, is compounded by the fact that, as I said above Israel's land in the first place was owned by Palestinians expelled in l948; since their forced exodus their property was legally turned into Jewish land by The Absentees' Property Law, the Law of the State's Property, and the Land Ordinance (the Acquisition of Land for Public Purposes). Now only Jewish citizens have access to that land, a fact that does not corroborate The Economist's extraordinarily sweeping statement on "Israel at 50" (25 April-1 May l998) that since the state's founding Palestinians "have enjoyed full political rights.
What makes it specially galling for Palestinians is that they have been forced to watch the transformation of their own homeland into a Western state, one of whose express purposes is to provide for Jews and not for non-Jews. Between l948 and l966 Palestinian Israelis were ruled by military ordinance. After that, as the state regularised its policies on education, legal practice, religion, social, economic and political participation, a regime evolved to keep the Palestinian minority disadvantaged, segregated and constantly discriminated against. There is an eye-opening account of this shabby history which is rarely cited and, when it is, elided or explained away by the euphemism (familiar from South African apartheid) that "they" have their own system: it is the Report of March l998 entitled "Legal Violations of Arab Minority Rights in Israel," published by Adalah (the Arabic word for justice), an Arab-Jewish organization within Israel. Especially telling is the section on the "discriminatory approach of Israeli courts", routinely praised by supporters of Israel for their impartiality and fairness. In fact, the report notes that the courts having delivered progressive and decent-minded decisions on the rights of women, homosexuals, the disabled, etc. have "since l948 dismissed all cases dealing with equal rights for Arab citizens, and have never included a declamatory statement in decisions regarding the protection of Arab group rights." This is borne out by a survey of criminal and civil cases in which Arabs get no help from the courts and are far more likely to be indicted than Jews in similar circumstances.
It is only in the past year or two that investigations of Israel's political makeup, hitherto assumed to be socialist, egalitarian, pioneering, forward-looking, have turned up a rather unattractive picture. Zeev Sternhell's book The Founding Myths of Israel (Princeton l998) is the work of an Israeli historian of twentieth century right-wing European mass-movements who finds a disturbing congruence between those movements and Israel's own brand of what Sternhell rightly calls "nationalist socialism". Far from being socialist, Israel's founders and subsequently the polity they established were profoundly anti-socialist, bent almost entirely upon "conquest of the land" and the creation of "self-realisation" and a new sense of organic peoplehood that moved steadily to the right during the pre-l948 years. "Neither the Zionist movement abroad," Sternhell says, "nor the pioneers who were beginning to settle the country could frame a policy toward the Palestinian national movement. The real reason for this was not a lack of understanding of the problem but a clear recognition of the insurmountable contradiction between the basic objectives of the two sides." (p.43). After l948, policy towards the Palestinians clearly envisioned that community's disappearance or its political nullity, since it was clear that the contradiction between the two sides would always remain insurmountable. Israel, in short, could not become a secular liberal state, despite the efforts of two generations of publicists to make it so.
After l967 the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza produced a military and civil regime for Palestinians whose aim was Palestinian submission and Israeli dominance, an extension of the model on which Israel proper functioned. Settlements were established in the late summer of l967 (and Jerusalem annexed) not by right-wing parties but by the Labour Party, a member, interestingly enough, of the Socialist International. The promulgation of literally hundreds of "occupiers' laws" directly contravened not only the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but the Geneva Conventions as well. These violations ran the gamut from administrative detention, to mass land expropriations, house demolition, forced movement of populations, torture, uprooting of trees, assassination, book banning, closure of schools and universities. Always, however, the illegal settlements were being expanded as more and more Arab land was ethnically cleansed so that Jewish populations from Russia, Ethiopia, Canada and the United States, among other places, could be accommodated.
After the Oslo Accords were signed in September l993 conditions for Palestinians steadily worsened. It became impossible for Palestinians to travel freely between one place and another, Jerusalem was declared off limits, and massive building projects transformed the country's geography. In everything, the distinction between Jew and non-Jew is scrupulously preserved. The most perspicacious analysis of the legal situation obtaining after Oslo is Raja Shehadeh's in his book From Occupation to Interim Accords: Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Kluwer, 1997), an important work that demonstrates the carefully preserved continuity between Israeli negotiating strategy during the Oslo process and its land occupation policy established in the Occupied Territories from the early 1970s. In addition Shehadeh demonstrates the tragic lack of preparation and understanding in the PLO's strategy during the peace process, with the result that much of the sympathy gained internationally for the Palestinians against Israeli settlement policy and its dismal human rights record was frittered away, unused and unexploited. "All the support and sympathy," he says, "which it took years for Palestinians to rally, returned home, so to speak, with the mistaken belief that the struggle was over. The Palestinians, as much as the Israelis, helped in giving the false impression through, among other things, the highly publicised media image of the Arafat-Rabin handshake, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was resolved. No serious attempt was made to remind the world that one of the main causes of the conflict after 1967, the Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, remained intact. This is not to speak of the other basic unresolved questions of the return of refugees, compensation, and the issue of Jerusalem" (p.131).
Unquestionably the moral dilemma faced by anyone trying to come to terms with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a deep one. Israeli Jews are not white settlers of the stripe that colonised Algeria or South Africa, though similar methods have been used. They are correctly seen as victims of a long history of Western, largely Christian anti-Semitic persecution that culminated in the scarcely comprehensible horrors of the Nazi holocaust. To Palestinians, however, their role is that of victims of the victims. This is why Western liberals who openly espoused the anti-apartheid movement, or that of the Nicaraguan Sandanistas, or Bosnia, or East Timor, or American civil rights, or Armenian commemoration of the Turkish genocide, or many other political causes of that kind, have shied away from openly endorsing Palestinian self-determination. As for Israel's nuclear policy, or its legally underwritten campaign of torture, or of using civilians as hostages, or of refusing to give Palestinians permits to build on their own land in the West Bank -- the case is never made in the liberal public sphere, partly out of fear, partly out of guilt.
An even greater challenge is the difficulty of separating between Palestinian and Israeli-Jewish populations who are now inextricably linked in all sorts of ways, despite the immense chasm that divides them. Those of us who for years have argued for a Palestinian state have come to the realization that if such a "state" (the inverted commas here are definitely required) is going to appear out of the shambles of Oslo it will be weak, economically dependent on Israel, without real sovereignty or power. Above all, as the present map of the West Bank amply shows, the Palestinian autonomy zones will be non-contiguous (they now account for only 3 per cent of the West Bank; Netanyahu's government has balked at giving up an additional 13 per cent) and effectively divided into Bantustans controlled from the outside by Israel. The only reasonable course therefore is to recommend that Palestinians and their supporters renew the struggle against the fundamental principle that relegates "non-Jews" to subservience on the land of historical Palestine. This, it seems to me, is what is entailed by any principled campaign on behalf of justice for Palestinians, and certainly not the enfeebled separatism that movements like Peace Now have fitfully embraced and quickly abandoned. There can be no concept of human rights, no matter how elastic, that accommodates the strictures of Israeli state practice against "non-Jewish" Palestinians in favour of Jewish citizens. Only if the inherent contradiction is faced between what in effect is a theocratic and ethnic exclusivism on the one hand and genuine democracy on the other, can there be any hope for reconciliation and peace in Israel/Palestine. Fudging, waffling, looking the other way, avoiding the issue entirely, or accepting pabulum definitions of "peace" will bring Palestinians and, in the long run Israelis, nothing but hardship and insecurity.
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved
We need to try to find a transcript of the 1998 address -- I have been poking around on this site trying to see if it exists:
I imagine that Edward Said gave a very radical anti-Israel talk, since that is why he would have been invited to an Arab-American activist group doing a fundraiser.
How did Obama get CHOSEN (from among all the attendees who must have included eminent academics, popular activists, the cream of left-wing Chicago) to sit in the place of honor next to the night's speaker, Edward Said.
If you think about it, that is an astonishing juxtaposition. Obama was still almost unknown in 1998 - he was a very junior state legislator. He had published his first "memoir" but it had not sold well at all -- he was not yet the best-selling "author" (if indeed he is an "author" at all) or US Senator or Presidential candidate.....
YET, from among all the leftists and pro-jihad activists in the Chicago area he, Barack Obama, was selected to sit next to the guest of honor and keynote speaker.
My hypothesis is that Obama and Said had known each other well since Obama's days at Columbia U. (where Said had been one of the most radical faculty members since the 1970s). I suspect that Obama took courses with Said or at least knew him from "3rd World" and pro-PLO events around campus.
There is just no way that Obama gets picked out of the blue to be seated right next to Edward Said for the big keynote address in 1998. There had to be some major connection(s) behind the scenes.
Article here is what Edward Said wrote right around the same period in 1998. It is how he maligns Israel's 50th Anniversary.
Another hypothesis: I would bet $$$ that Edward Said gave a similar kind of diatribe for his "keynote address" to Obama and the audience. They certainly were not there to hear Said discourse on literary theory. IF we could find proof of Obama's affinities for Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi's radical pro-Palestinian activism that would help to show the falsity of Obama's pretence of 100% support for Israel.
Edward Said is still dead.
article above is the kind of anti-Israel propaganda that Edward Said was publishing right around the time he gave his 1998 “keynote address” to the Chicago dinner from which that photo of the Obamas sitting next to the Saids has been posted on other threads......
My hypothesis is that Obama and Said were close, that Said was very likely a mentor of young Obama at Columbia — they were in different departments but student Obama could easily have taken courses and studied with Said, attended “3rd World” and pro-Palestinian events together, etc. That sort of thing happens all the time, especially in the more radical sectors of the student and faculty populations.
No way would the almost unknown Obama have been designated to sit next to Said at that speech unless there was some personal and/or ideological connection. NO WAY.
Our task is to find the connection(s). This may be why Obama’s thesis and transcript from Columbia have been suppressed. This may fill in the picture of Obama and Khalid and Ayers. Said was the grandaddy to all kinds of academic and pro-jihad radicals in the 1980s and 90s.
Yeah, but I want to know if there were long-standing connections between him and Obama, quite possibly going back to Obama’s student days at Columbia — where Said was a radical prof for his entire career.
This could explain why everything about Obama’s years at Columbia U. has been suppressed. It could well go to the radical pathways that Obama has followed in the shadows over the past 20 years, and it could help to prove the LIE that Obama pretends to be a strong supporter of Israel.
link to Said’s works, in case anyone else can help with trying to find anything relevant to Said, Khalidi, Obama, and NY-Chicago radicals:
Wonder what Obama and Said were discussing at the suddenly famous party for Khalidi. Looks like they're having fun. Michelle looks bored, or hungry.
I know, vacations! Stoning Jews is such fun!
Maybe Barry got an invitation to accompany Said on his next trip.
Yeah, I suspect a lot of stuff has been “cleansed” from the Internet to try to cover up embarrassing info on anti-Israel and anti-USA radicals with whom the Obamessiah has “palled around” in the past 30 years.
Actually, the first photo is from 1998 when Said was the guest speaker, not the 2003 farewell party for Khalidi (according to what I have been seeing around the web) — it was Obama seated next to Said when Said was the honored keynote speaker in 1998 at a fundraising event for Khalidi’s activist group.
I find it astonishing that Obama was selected out of all the radical academics and activists in the Chicago area to be seated next to the guest of honor. Why not Khalidi, why not any one of a number of other Chicago radicals? Granted, people may have been expecting big things from Obama, but at that point in time there were plenty of Chicago area radical academics and activists who were much more prominent. I suspect that Obama and Said had some significant personal connection, probably going back to Obama’s student days at Columbia.
Edward Said was Obama’s English professor at Columbia and at the same time was a close friend of William Ayers (Who was studying less than a quarter mile away at Bank Street College of Education).
Yup! Obama and Ayers go back to 1982....
Oops, you’re right. But I wonder what they had to say then too. Can’t blame him for the fundraising, after all believe Khalidi was one of Obama’s biggest fundraisers. hand washes the other in Chicago politics, and political leprocy is never a concern.
YUP. There are reasons that Obama’s Columbia U. days are such a blank in his media bio. Why have we not seen ANY of his fellow students and undergrad profs interviewed???? He made all kinds of radical connections and alliances there, and now he is the stealth Obamessiah promoting “change” which much of his real bio is blank.
A Manchurian Candidate of the radical left and “3rd World” anti-Israel, pro-terrorist subversives.
Fox News tracked down 400 of his graduating class -no one knew him , or would admit to it.
The Libertarian Party VP choice, Root, was also in his graduating class and has attended several class re-unions. He says no one remembers him, or ever saw him on campus....strange...
EVERY LAST THING about Obama that might interfere with his march to the White House is being suppressed by the drive-by’s.
Edward Said is yet another radical footnote in Obama’s past. One of the more hateful leftwing academaniacs, BTW.
God bless Israel!
A homosexual Christian Egyptian turned Fannonite liberationist and "Palestinian nationalist", Said has been a one man path of destruction. That he and his protoge, Khalidi were friends of Obama is no surprise. What is surprising is that none of this will phase voters. they just don't get the dangers of the PC left, and cannot fathom what one of these radical professors would do as president.
Well written and compelling — sorry it gives some cranks a problem. I do wish we’d quit trying to go after Obama with the “he’s no friend of Israel” stuff. It’s wasting time and effort we can’t afford to lose with a socialist dictator wannabe ahead less than a week before the election. This conservative couldn’t care less. Jews need Israel like a fish needs a bicycle.
Not sure who you are lumping under the label “cranks” but yours is a very ignorant post. These issues go to the heart of Obama’s credibility, honesty, judgment, and character. It is not a minor issue whether the Obamessiah has drastically re-made himself in the past couple of years to pretend to be an acceptable candidate for a majority of Americans.
I agree that there are other substantive issues of immense importance but if you really think the Said piece is “compelling” then you don’t know much at all.
Also, it’s not just that “he’s no friend of Israel” — it’s that Obama will lie about anything and everything to win this election. That has been seen on many fronts, and there are 6 days left to shred his credibility with the remaining voters who are still susceptible to persuasion.
Do you really think it’s irrelevant (in electoral terms) to try to convince a few thousand Floridians that Obama is a liar and fraud when it comes to his pretence that he is a staunch supporter of Israel?
I suspect that Obama took courses with Said or at least
Forget the source but Obama took English course from Eddie
You are probably an atheist from the way you cast aside Israel