30 September 2003
By Rawan Abdul-Nabi
The struggle of Edward Said continues
As a young Palestinian growing up in the West, I was always confronted with my identity from those who wanted to cease my existence, to those who didn’t know it existed. I picked up “The Politics of Dispossession” after a friend asked me to look up Said’s name in the library catalogue, and from the words of Said I was jolted, able to find the beauties of my identity, I found voice to speak of the injustices and I found the vision that Edward Said had enlightened. I continued to read vicariously all of Professor Said’s writings. I would wait anxiously for his monthly articles, pointing my browser to Al Ahram or wait for Ali Abunimah’s daily digests, routinely distributing Said’s writing throughout the networks and to people whom I had introduced Said too. We would read with angst his beautiful words, words that conveyed unto us what we couldn’t express in writing but what he would be able to do so effortlessly. Those mornings I would read the articles to my father on the way to work. He would listen intently and quietly to his words, knowing that no matter how much analysis he would read or hear, Said articulated the anger, frustration, exasperation beyond what anyone can fathom of the cruel realities in occupied Palestine. I could also see the sadness and yearning in the eyes of my father with every word of truth that Said expressed, the dream of a free Palestine and return to the one place we called home.
I remember writing a below-par essay critically appraising “Orientalism” as one of my first undergraduate essays for Arabic and Islamic studies. I regretted submitting such a damned essay and felt embarrassingly guilty of betraying the magnitude of this original work. So embarrassed that I went home and altered it for my future learning, somehow paranoid with thoughts that my lecturer would send it to Dr Said and say “look how terrible and sloppy this essay is, and to think by a Palestinian student also.”
The news fell on me like the passing of someone I had made a relationship with, though only in virtuality. The tears came down and did not cease. I cannot begin to imagine the sadness of his beloved family and those who had the pleasure of knowing his company. I feel almost guilty because I would plan and plan on meeting him one day. Somehow I refused to think of his illness as something that could prevent my selfish dream. I would think of going on exchange to Columbia or bring him to Australia, devising with friends on who would raise the money and how and what prize if any can express in simplicity the achievements we could bestow upon him.
And yet through the shock and sadness of his passing, I found that Edward Said’s struggle continues, not only in what he expressed to us in following and acting on his vision for a free Palestine but in freeing Said from the vicious and disgusting attempts to dispossess and silence him from his identity, from the justice of the cause he spoke eternally for and from his memories. Said thus also embodied the metaphor of the Palestinian struggle in the West, of Arabs in the Diaspora, the struggle that is physically and mentally draining the occupied Palestinians living at the helm to a treacherous and despicable miliary power. I found myself writing letters to the editors, demanding just tributes and dedication to the labour of his unrelenting fields and pursuits in activism, intellectual and scholarly heights in the literary, musical, political, cultural and in the social realms.
These insidious and disrespectful campaigns of dislodging Said are attacks on the Palestinian people themselves. For Said who represents the quintessential Palestinian experience in the Diaspora, as an exile as an activist for a peace based on justice, and someone who bore the brunt of physical assaults, these campaigns were an attempt to strip the Palestinians from their inherent universal human right, to return to the fields and lands of Palestine that Said had spoken so eloquently and passionately for. These moral corrupters know nothing but to silence those who dare “speak truth to power” to find a voice for the voiceless and speak out against the injustices of this world. And how dare they continue to defame him in passing, but because they do, he remains a giant in death unto them, as no lie nor slander can stain the message and the dream he helped us envision, nor can it rob him of his dignity.
I give my sincere and deep condolences to his beloved family. Your hurt and pain I cannot imagine, I hope you find strength in the courage and beauty of all that Professor Edward Wadie Said embodied. I thank him for giving me, a young Palestinian the voice he knew we all had, and may we continue to resist the power of injustice to hope for a world of true freedom and peace. May you rest in eternal peace Edward Said.