In Memorium Edward Said The last interview Documentary film
Film evening in Amerling Haus Stiftgasse 8 1070 Vienna Wednesday, 11 February 2009, 7 pm (19:00 Uhr) In Memorium Edward Said The last interview Documentary film by Mike Dibb English, Charles Glass, interviewer (approx. 3 hours)
Edward Said, controversial literary critic and bold advocate of the Palestinian cause in America (Excerpts from the obituary written by Malise Ruthven, The Guardian, 26 September 2003)
Edward Said, who died at the age of 67, was one of the leading literary critics of the last quarter of the 20th century.
As professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, New York, he was widely regarded as the outstanding representative of the poststructuralist left in America. Above all, he was the most articulate and visible advocate of the Palestinian cause in the United States, where it earned him many enemies. The broadness of Said’s approach to literature and his other great love, classical music, eludes easy categorisation. His most influential book, Orientalism (1978), is credited with helping to change the direction of several disciplines by exposing an unholy alliance between the enlightenment and colonialism. Said’s influence, however, was far from being confined to the worlds of academic and scholarly discourse.
1. An intellectual superstar in America, he distinguished himself as an opera critic,
2. pianist, television celebrity,
3. politician, media expert,
4. popular essayist and public lecturer.
Latterly, he was one of the most trenchant critics of the Oslo peace process and the Palestinian leadership of Yasser Arafat. He was dubbed „professor of terror“ by the rightwing American magazine Commentary; in 1999, when he was struggling against leukaemia, the same magazine accused him of falsifying his status as a Palestinian refugee to enhance his advocacy of the Palestinian cause, and of falsely claiming to have been at school in Jerusalem before completing his education in the United States. The hostility Said encountered from pro-Israeli circles in New York was predictable, given his trenchant attacks on Israeli violations of the human rights of Palestinians and his outspoken condemnations of US policies in the Middle East. From the other side of the conflict, however, he encountered opposition from Palestinians who accused him of sacrificing Palestinian rights by making unwarranted concessions to Zionism.
As early as 1977, when few Palestinians were prepared to concede that Jews had historic claims to Palestine, he said: „I don’t deny their claims, but their claim always entails Palestinian dispossession.“ More than any other Palestinian writer, he qualified his anti-colonial critique of Israel, explaining its complex entanglements and the problematic character of its origins in the persecution of European Jews, and the overwhelming impact of the Zionist idea on the European conscience. Said recognised that Israel’s exemption from the normal criteria by which nations are measured owed everything to the Holocaust. But while recognising its unique significance, he did not see why its legacy of trauma and horror should be exploited to deprive the Palestinians, a people who were „absolutely dissociable from what has been an entirely European complicity“, of their rights.
„The question to be asked,“ he wrote in the Politics Of Dispossession (1994), „is how long can the history of anti-semitism and the Holocaust be used as a fence to exempt Israel from arguments and sanctions against it for its behaviour towards the Palestinians, arguments and sanctions that were used against other repressive governments, such as South Africa? How long are we going to deny that the cries of the people of Gaza… are directly connected to the policies of the Israeli government and not to the cries of the victims of Nazism?“ Edward Said was born in Jerusalem into a prosperous Palestinian family. His father Wadie, a Christian, had emigrated to the U.S. before the First World War.
He volunteered for service in France and returned to the Middle East as a respectable Protestant businessman – with American citizenship – before making an arranged marriage to the daughter of a Baptist minister from Nazareth. In his final years, Edward Said’s health grew ever more fragile, and, though passionately concerned with the unfolding Palestinian disaster in the wake of 9/11 and the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, he took a conscious decision to withdraw from political controversy and channel his energies into music.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra he founded with the Israeli citizen Daniel Barenboim in 1999 grew out of the friendship he forged with the musician who shares his belief that art – and, in particular, the music of Wagner – transcends political ideology.
With Said’s assistance, Barenboim gave master classes for Palestinian students in the occupied West Bank, infuriating the Israeli right. The orchestra may prove a fitting legacy for an intellectual whose work illuminated our crisisridden world by embracing its contradictions and celebrating its complexities.
In 1970, he married Mariam Cortas, by whom he had a son and a daughter. University of Exeter Professor of History Ilan Pappe, a friend of Edward’s and The Palestine Center, summarized it best when he wrote for the first anniversary of Edward’s passing about the various Edwards we knew. And I quote, „He was the literal critic, a cultural philosopher, the voice of Palestine and compass of humanism.“ Edward Wadie Said, writer and academic, born 1 November 1935; died 25 September 2003.
Women in Black (Vienna) (www.fraueninschwarz.at ) in co-operation with Kulturzentrum Spittelberg, www.amerlinghaus.at
Posted in Friedensbewegung, Friedensexport, Friedenskultur, Friedenspädagogik, Friedenspolitik, Friedensstifter, Global, Krisenregion, Nahost, Österreich, Peacebuilding, Termine, Tipp, Wien, Zivilcourage