- Capitalism and Alternatives -

So much for Said's 'honesty'...

Posted by: Eric Johnson on August 25, 1999 at 20:18:45:

In Reply to: Erm... posted by Red Deathy on August 20, 1999 at 13:12:59:

: I also forgot to add-
: Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said- which is a tour de-force of intelectual honesty, rigour and remnant humanism.

From the Electronic Telegraph:

Palestinian exile Said 'falsified' life story
By Alan Philps in Jerusalem and Daniel Johnson

EDWARD SAID, the leading Palestinian intellectual, was accused yesterday of falsifying his life story to give the impression that he was brought up in Jerusalem and forced into exile by the Israelis in 1947.

Prof Said, a darling of the American Left, has written that he spent most of his "formative years" in Jerusalem and has suggested that he was made to leave, under Jewish threat, in the months before the Israeli War of Independence. A prolific author and energetic public figure, his story has made him a powerful symbol of the Palestinian dispossession and subsequent exile. His version of events has been promoted in newspaper and magazine articles and television appearances.

But after three years of research, an Israeli academic is challenging his story. According to Justus Reid Weiner, scholar in residence at the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, Prof Said "has served up - and consciously encouraged others to serve up - a wildly distorted version of the truth, made up in equal parts of outright deception and of artful obfuscations".

In an article in the New York magazine Commentary, Dr Weiner says that
Prof Said did not live in Jerusalem, did not go to school there and was not a refugee. A house he claimed to have grown up in is registered in the name of his aunt and her five children, he claims.

In fact, Dr Weiner says, the family lived comfortably in Cairo, where Prof Said's father, an American citizen, ran a successful business. The professor, who teaches English literature at Columbia University in New York, is the author of such works as Blaming the Victims, The Politics of Dispossession and Orientalism, which denounces the Western tradition of Eastern studies as a form of colonialism.

Many Israelis were delighted at the research into his past. David Bar-Illan, spokesman for the former Right-wing government, said: "I never had much respect for the intellectual integrity of Prof Said. This proves that my suspicions were not groundless."

Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of the Jewish settlement of Efrat on the West Bank, said: "Truth and fiction converge very easily in this part of the world. Edward Said is taken seriously here."

He was not available for comment yesterday but is said to be working on a revised version of his childhood, Out of Place, which correctly places his childhood in Cairo, but offers no explanation for his past claims. Dr Weiner said: "I and my researchers interviewed 85 people over three years, including Edward Said's cousin, Robert, in Amman and a family friend in Cairo. I think people told him that the house of cards was looking perilous."

Dr Weiner concludes: "The young Edward Said resided in luxurious apartments, attended private English schools, and played tennis at Cairo's exclusive Gezira sporting club, as the child of one of its few Arab members. Whatever we finally make of all this, there can be no denying that the parable is a lie."

McSpotlight: The article in question was originally published in a small Israeli periodical (Commentary) noted for its right-wing stance; you can find the counterstory at http://www.newsunlimited.co.uk/Print/0,3858,3894912,00.html; friends of Said describe the story as "baseless and politically motivated".

(In other words, don't believe everything you read just because you happen to agree with it; weigh up both sides first...)

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