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Said’s status as a leading cultural theorist and professor at Columbia University,


with his tireless favour did much to humanize the Palestinian Cause in the eyes of western
Liberal opinion. In 1993 Said came to know that diplomatic road led to the trap, thus he
denounced Oslo accords and the so called peace process that followed it. He criticized the
measures Chairman Yasir Arafat adopted to secure the deal. Said became the open critic of
the processed peace in the Middle East. On his one visit to London, he compared Yasir
Arafat with Irish Nationalist Leader Michael Collins, who compromised with Britain over
partition of Ireland and it led to his assassination. Said argued that Arafat came away from
the negotiation table with much less than Collins.

Said had been an advocate of compromise with Israel even to the extent of helping
draft the resolution to the Palestinian National Congress advocating “two-state solution”.
But he recognized the trap later. This policy was very different from the Palestinian
Liberation Organization’s original demand for a democratic and secular state in Palestine,
where Arabs and Jews would have equal rights. But the later policy of two-state solution
was an attempt to accommodate Palestinian national sentiment with the racial demand.

Later on, when Said recognized the limitations of the two-state solution as its
practical consequences became clear, he criticized today’s Palestinian leadership from the
stand point that they had given up equal citizenship in a one-state solution.

The publication of Orientalism: Western concept of the Orient in 1978


revolutionized the cultural scholarship. Orientalism was used to propagate the western
interpretation of the East and created an imaginary Orient that was much different from
the real Middle East. Said’s authoritative command of his material made it impossible to
write seriously about relations between the West and the rest of the world without taking
account of the ideology disguising as academic enquiry.

But in 1996, Kenan Malik took the issue with intellectual frame work of Orientalism
in his book “The Meaning of Race”. Malik argued that said had viewed Enlightenment as
racism. Said had alluded to Renan whose standpoints were racist. Compelling by the
viewpoint, it helped to form post-modernist prejudice that all rational thinking was racist.
Furthermore Said’s concept of the “Other” that underlay his analysis of “Orientalism” was
derived from the reactions against reason, specifically with works of the existentialist
philosophers Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre.

Said, later turned against the project for which he had helped to initiate, as for, in
practical politics. Edward Said was one of the leading literary critics. As a professor of
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English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, New York, he was widely
regarded as the outstanding representative of the Post-structuralist left in America.

The broadness of Said’s approach to literature and his most influential book
“Orientalism” is credited with helping to change the direction of many disciplines by
exposing an unholy alliance between the enlightenment and colonialism. As a humanist
with a thoroughly secular outlook, his criticism on the great tradition of the Western
enlightenment seemed to most of the scholars to be self contradictory and an attack on
high cultural traditions of humanism.

Whatever its flaws, Orientalism appeared at a suitable time, and enabled the
academics from non-western countries (many of whom came from the families who had
benefited from colonialism) to take advantage of the mood of political correctness,
creating successful careers out of transmitting, interpreting and debating representations
of the non-western “Other”. Said’s influence was far from being confined to the world of
academic and scholarly discourse. An intellectual superstar in America, he distinguished
himself as an opera critic, pianist, Television celebrity, politician, media expert, popular
essayist and public lecturer.

To the end he remained a thorn in the side of the Palestinian authority. The best
known and most distinguished Palestinian exile became the subject of censorship by the
representatives of his own people. He was one of standard-bearers of the liberal
conscience in the increasing illiberal climate of intolerance and corruption surrounding
President Arafat and his regime.

Said’s writings on English literature, such as Culture and Imperialism(19993), and Western
Classical music drew heavily upon his sense of being an outsider. Like Joseph Conrad, the
subject of his PhD Thesis and first published book, he retained an extraordinary persistent
residual sense of his own exilic marginality, which enabled him to deploy a kind of double
vision in his readings of the English Novel, discerning the invisible colonial plantation.

Edward Said was a versatile and subtle writer, elucidating distinctions than
formulating systems. A Christian humanist with a healthy respect for Islam, he was a
member of academic elite but he was against academic professionalism.

Written and Composed By:

Prof A. R. Somroo

M.A. English, M.A. Education