You are on page 1of 13

Introduction: Edward Said and After: Toward a New Humanism

Abraham, Matthew, 1972-

Cultural Critique, 67, Fall 2007, pp. 1-12 (Article)

Published by University of Minnesota Press

DOI: 10.1353/cul.2007.0023

For additional information about this article

Access Provided by Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages University at 09/23/10 2:41AM GMT
01 Abraham.qxd 28/08/2007 10:09 AM Page 1



Matthew Abraham

E dward W. Said established an ambivalent relationship toward

humanism throughout his life and work. While Said extolled human-
ism’s power to connect progressive intellectual workers and create
lines of solidarity between the discrepant experiences of women and
men who were working against grave injustices in the world—regard-
less of national Wliations—he also recognized humanism’s potential
destructiveness in contributing to the realization of totalizing dis-
courses such as orientalism. As a consequence of this ambivalence,
Said advocated a New Humanism that would afWrm the highest aspi-
rations of culture while also working against the pitfalls of identitar-
ian thinking, which propels national and religious enthusiasm.1
As W. J. T. Mitchell recently claimed in a special issue of Critical
Inquiry (Winter 2005) devoted to the life and legacy of Said, “Human-
ism for Said was always a dialectical concept, generating oppositions
it could neither absorb nor avoid. The very word used to cause in him
mixed feelings of reverence and revulsion: an admiration for the great
monuments of civilization that constitute the archive of humanism
and a disgust at humanism’s underside of suffering and oppression
that, as Benjamin insisted, make them monuments to barbarism as
well” (462). It is seemingly time to reXect on the conditions of possi-
bility for a new and critical humanism, as Said’s critical writings
clearly gestured toward.
“Secular criticism” and “worldliness,” two critical ideals that ani-
mated the life and work of Edward Said, seem to have been “lost,”
particularly in the contemporary academy’s political climate where
the corporatization of the university—along with the theoretical
cocoons that have sprung up as a result—has reduced categories such
as “human agency,” “action,” and the capacity of women and men to

Cultural Critique 67—Fall 2007—Copyright 2007 Regents of the University of Minnesota

01 Abraham.qxd 28/08/2007 10:09 AM Page 2


work “in the world” to the realm of the unattainable and naive.2 As
Said wrote in his essay “Humanism’s Sphere,” “humanism [is] some-
thing fundamentally discordant with advanced theory.”3 Add to these
troubling tendencies within intellectual criticism the rise of the cult
of expertise and the strong academic inclination toward political qui-
etism; Said found himself continually disturbed by both.
Throughout his career as a literary critic and political activist,
including during his last days when he was suffering a terrible illness,
Said again and again conWrmed that secular criticism and worldliness
were the very conditions of possibility for a New Humanism that
would lead future public intellectuals toward formulating just resolu-
tions to intransigent ethnic and religious conXicts within a world full
of so many seemingly lost causes. The rise of the new orientalism and
the growing specter of a new intellectual McCarthyism, to a degree,
prove the general tenor of Said’s theses as these were developed
throughout his oeuvre.
Now, in this moment of grave political uncertainty inside and
outside the university, how can Edward W. Said’s extensive and path-
breaking literary and political work—in addition to his inspirational
life and example—be deployed to advance a critical humanism for the
creation of noncoercive knowledge and to bring together discrepant
experiences, which were central aspects of Said’s work as a commit-
ted intellectual? How does one begin to assess Said’s commitment to
humanism, his afWrmation of the power of human beings to shape
the world through their will and efforts instead of through unfath-
omable forces caused by abstract, ahistorical, and decontextualized
entities like “market forces” and “structural underpinnings,” when
so much within contemporary culture seeks to deny the power and
efWcacy of human action and individual effort? By challenging essen-
tialized and given categories such as “culture,” “the Arab mind,”
and “the clash of civilizations,” Said sought to recuperate through
careful analysis what others had left as immutable, uncontested, and
This special issue of Cultural Critique seeks to examine and under-
stand what Said’s humanistic legacy provides the critical intellectual
at this historical moment, when so much about the potential of the
human remains diminished and uncertain, even belittled by those
who have moved beyond the human. Said’s frustration with what
01 Abraham.qxd 28/08/2007 10:09 AM Page 3


he viewed as the diminishment of the critical potential of literary the-

ory, for example, arose because of what he viewed as the turn toward
irrelevance and religiosity in contemporary criticism. This “turn,” at
least in his mind, signaled the defeat of the intellectual critic and a
victory for the cult of expertise and the policy intellectuals who were
forced to pay attention to what Said wrote in such works as Oriental-
ism, Covering Islam, and The Question of Palestine—books that question
the very knowledge categories that have been constructed in service
of Empire to describe the Middle East, its cultures, and its peoples.
Said maintained that resisting these epistemic structures, so readily
accepted by politicians and the corporate media, remains central to
humanizing Arab peoples for a Western audience, which more often
than not blames the victims for their predicament, whether in Leba-
non, Iraq, or Palestine. The sociopolitical effects of this “trilogy,” as it
has been called, continue to keep the editors of such neoconservative
publications as Frontpage and Commentary up very late at night, won-
dering how they might once again simplify what one man sought to
make complex—a demography and a politics that encompass more
than 300 million people in North Africa and West Asia.
The increased policing of academic life that began shortly after
September 11, with students being recruited by David Horowitz’s
Campus Watch to spy on professors critical of U.S. and Israeli mili-
tary adventurism in the Middle East, and organized advocacy groups
like the David Project that have sought to monitor and question the
“objectivity” of academics of Middle Eastern—particularly Palestin-
ian—origin who refuse to become complicit in reducing the complex
history of the Middle East to improve the efWcacy of the War on Ter-
ror and the Bush administration’s efforts to “bring democracy to the
Middle East,” reXects the undeniable and crucially important link that
exists between academic knowledge production and the perception
of state policy. As Joseph Massad has pointed out, a vast gap exists
between popular knowledge and academic knowledge on such crucial
issues as the Israel–Palestine conXict, contributing to gross misun-
derstandings about what constitutes “fact” versus what constitutes
“Wction” and producing intense intellectual controversy about his-
torical matters that are more than self-evident when one interrogates
the diplomatic record, international law, and the writings of Israel’s
New Historians such as Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, and Tom Segev.4
01 Abraham.qxd 28/08/2007 10:09 AM Page 4


H.R. bill 3077, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to

ensure the “balanced” presentation of views within area studies cur-
ricula in U.S. universities, represents an attempt to counteract the
inXuence of political mavericks such as Said and Noam Chomsky,
who—while establishing themselves as relatively conservative Wgures
within their respective areas of disciplinary expertise—have continu-
ally posed a formidable political challenge to state functionaries and
apologists such as Daniel Pipes, Martin Kramer, and Alan Dershow-
itz.5 It seems, then, that H.R. 3077—which has not been passed by the
Senate into law—seeks to limit the inXuence of Said’s and Chomsky’s
political work by insisting that it be read alongside steady doses of
Samuel Huntington, Bernard Lewis, and Richard Perle. How is it that
Said’s Orientalism, for instance, could pose such a threat to the policy-
makers in Washington?6 That it has, in its persistent documentation
of how Western knowledge of non-Western cultures and peoples
cannot be separated from the very colonial structures of perception
that produced that knowledge, stands as the ultimate testament to
Said’s brilliant legacy; and that his commitment to blurring the bound-
ary between academic and public discourse will continue through
the work of his friends, colleagues, as well as those he never met,
conWrms that any New Humanism he would have endorsed brings
with it an obligation to speak out in defense of others at the very
moment when speaking out has become so difWcult.7 A New Human-
ism renounces the types of silence that have contributed to the con-
tinued frontal assault on academic freedom and also all the evasions
that prevent us from defending those who are engaging in the kinds
of scholarship so desperately needed in this political moment.8
In his On Late Style: Music and Literature against the Grain, which
was published shortly after his death, Said explores how the poten-
tial of “lateness,” a style that emerges as one enters the mature or Wnal
stages of one’s life, can be harnessed to reach critical insights previ-
ously unrecognized while in a state of full health and alertness. The
late style captures the power of humanism in its full expression. As
he battled leukemia in the Wnal ten years of his life, Said came to
understand the concept of lateness as well as anyone, paradoxically
drawing on the pain and ravages of his illness for strength. Realizing
that one is in the Wnal stages of life, one no longer needs to fear the
powers that be, their judgments and their threats, all of which allows
01 Abraham.qxd 28/08/2007 10:09 AM Page 5


for a perception and artistic expression that represents the full Xow-
ering of one’s energies. The power of one’s human embodiment, the
will to go on living long after the body has faltered, Wnds a site of
articulation through the summit of the writer’s or artist’s creative
In his 1999 MLA Presidential address, “Heroism and Human-
ism,” Said called the profession of English studies to order; he sought
a return to a coherent method of inquiry for English departments
and a resolution of petty squabbles between varying schools of post-
modern criticism. Said wished to see a return to rigorous historical
scholarship, which, in his mind, was exempliWed in the work of Erich
Auerbach, Ernst Robert Curtius, and Leo Spitzer. Humanism, as a
form of intellectual and physical resistance against various forms of
cultural commodiWcation and accommodation, resists all forms of
prepackaging and scripting, seeking an individualist way where a
conformist tendency might be indicated and prevalent. In a world
dominated by information systems and complex technology, the
human—as a concept and as an ideal—still held a place for Edward
Said. Humanism is ultimately a belief in the power of the human,
contra those who believe that human effort no longer matters in shap-
ing the political.
Said sought to “use humanistic critique to open up the Weld of
struggle, to introduce a longer sequence of thought and analysis to
replace the thought-stopping fury of popular culture and the mass
media whose goals often appear to be the creation of collective pas-
sion rather than understanding and genuine disclosure.”9 Said called
this striving for community, coexistence, and understanding—in the
face of factionalism and impending barbarism—“humanism.” By this
he meant the attempt to dissolve “Blake’s mind-forged manacles” so
as to be able to use one’s mind historically and rationally for the pur-
pose of “reXective understanding and genuine disclosure.” Moreover,
humanism is sustained by “a sense of community with other inter-
preters and other societies and periods.” Strictly speaking, “there is
no such thing as an isolated humanist.” Humanism is centered on the
agency of human individuality and subjective intuition rather than
on received ideas and approved authorities. Texts have to be read as
texts that will produce and live on in the historical realm in all sorts
of, what Said called, “worldly ways.” This by no means excludes the
01 Abraham.qxd 28/08/2007 10:09 AM Page 6


operations of power, but it recognizes how texts are interpreted in

certain ways. On the contrary, what Said tried to show in Orientalism
is the insinuations and imbrications of power in the most recondite of
studies. And last, and most important to Said, humanism is the “last
and Wnal resistance we have against the injustices and inhuman prac-
tices that disWgure human history.” Said hoped Orientalism had a small
place in the “long and often interrupted road to human freedom.”10
This special issue brings together a range of insights about the
potential Edward Said’s work, particularly his Humanism and Demo-
cratic Criticism and his On Late Style, has for moving us toward a New
Humanism, a humanism that is more than humanism. This sort of
humanism recognizes the necessity of confronting the power and pos-
sibility of human choice, the embrace of human agency and alternative
futures, and the human reconciliation made possible by that embrace.
The decision to accept this responsibility, to accept the chance to
begin despite all the failed narratives of resistance against injustice in
the past, allows for the human to express itself in the form of narra-
tives about injustice, persecution, and suffering. The essays collected
here, which range over a wide array of topics and concerns that ani-
mated Said’s life and career, seek to capture the viability and sus-
tainability of secular humanism, which Said declared was the last
form of resistance against Blake’s mind-forged manacles, which hold
human beings in the grips of the worst sorts of fundamentalisms and
religious commitments.
In “Edward Said’s Literary Humanism,” R. Radakrishnan ques-
tions whether art and literature’s complicity with power is all that
different from other kinds of complicity with power and, if so, whether
that complicity can be used to enable a positive critique of imperial-
ism. Using the now-famous invocation of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexan-
dria Quartet by an “old college friend who worked in the Department
of Defense during the Vietnam War” in the Introduction of the World,
the Text, and the Critic, where Said impresses upon his reader how
even a secretary of defense can hide behind great works of art to
camouXage his commitments as a state functionary in service to the
barbarism of Empire, Radakrishnan asks: “So, who is responsible for
the divorce of the cultural realm from questions of power?” Through
Said’s early and late writings, Radakrishnan reminds us that the
humanists and the intellectuals are indeed to blame.
01 Abraham.qxd 28/08/2007 10:09 AM Page 7


In “Worldless Affairs,” Michael Wood traces the use of the word

world throughout Said’s work, and in turn, attempts to understand
Said’s commitment to the “world” and disdain for “worldlessness.”
While being in and of the world, politically engaged and insistent
upon connecting discrepant experiences, was important to Said, he
depicts wordlessness as a place separate from the arena of human
affairs. As Wood suggests, “Said’s thought on this subject is entirely
coherent but more complicated than it may look—and perhaps more
complicated than he himself entirely wanted it to be.”
In “Edward Said and Marxism: Anxieties of InXuence,” Stephen
Howe explores Said’s underdeveloped relationship to Marxism or,
perhaps more properly stated, Said’s relationship “with a number of
individual thinkers who are conventionally designated as Marxist.”
These thinkers include Theodor Adorno, Antonio Gramsci, Georg
Lukács, C. L. R. James, Frantz Fanon, and Raymond Williams. Through
an impressive inventorying of Said’s literary and political works, Howe
demonstrates how Said drew upon various Marxist inXuences with-
out always being aware of it and how a more careful reading of Said’s
oeuvre from a Marxian perspective is long overdue.
Abdirahman Hussein, in “A New ‘Copernican’ Revolution: Said’s
Critique of Metaphysics and Theology,” demonstrates how Said’s
“critical practice has revolutionary implications for the humanities
and social sciences” and “is in important respects far more compel-
ling than those of eighteenth-century thinkers at least in part because
it is intended to come to terms with the multiple sociocultural effects
of modernity over the past two centuries or so.” According to Hus-
sein, Said’s critical practice rivals that of Kant and Giambattista Vico,
although little critical work has been done to make the comparison
noteworthy. Hussein attempts to resolve that absence.
In her “Between Humanism and Late Style,” Lecia Rosenthal uses
Said’s concept of “late style” to analyze Said’s intellectual practice,
speciWcally his commitment to humanism. By focusing on the tension
between humanism and late style, Rosenthal locates a fascinating in-
terplay between three of Said’s late works—Freud and the Non-European,
On Late Style, and Humanism and Democratic Criticism. “Lateness” itself,
as Rosenthal explains, brings the committed intellectual upon unex-
pected critical insights and pleasures.
Grant Farred’s essay, “Foreigners among Citizens,” engages the
01 Abraham.qxd 28/08/2007 10:09 AM Page 8


trope of the “politizen” in developing a new conception of human

rights through Said’s humanistic practice. By situating the events at
Cronulla (where Wve thousand white Australians attacked their Leba-
nese compatriots in this suburb of Sydney) and Clichy Dubois (where
two Arab boys were murdered by French police) in the politically
charged context of the number 11, as in December 11, October 11, and
of course September 11, Farred shows how the Wgure of the refugee—
the Other in someone else’s home—can be transformed into the poli-
tizen. The Wgure of the Palestinian refugee appears at unexpected
times and unexpected places, reminding us of how attempts to expel
or separate the “refugees”—Palestinian or non-Palestinian—from any
society will result in their return in often brutal and unpredictable
Farred’s essay is ultimately about the condition of the Palestinian
refugee and how this condition haunts all modern societies. How the
Palestinian refugee acts as a metonym for other types of dislocation
and loss, such as the Lebanese in Cronulla, is the question of our polit-
ical moment; indeed, it is central to our time. Farred demonstrates
how the persistent cause of Edward Said’s work, providing continual
reminders of how the reiteration of colonial injustice and repression—
from a not-so-distant past—depends on repeated instances of intel-
lectual silence and evasion, forces us to recognize how the Palestinian
refugee, which Said embodied, is the quintessential politizen. The
condition of the Palestinian returns again and again in such historical
events as Cronulla, Clichy Dubois, Madrid, and September 11. In the
Lebanese in Cronulla, we have an instance of a people abandoned in
Lebanon, where they are of the state but are, in a moment of crisis,
placed outside its protective sovereignty. The Palestinian bears the
condition of the Lebanese, which reminds us that the political ques-
tion of our time is how to account for and deal with the spectral haunt-
ing of the Palestinian without a home.
In his “Of Land Mines and Cluster Bombs,” Rob Nixon reminds
us how bureaucratic language, in service of the state, all too often
effaces the destruction and bloodshed of war. Exemplifying how
humanistic engagement requires a constant confrontation with the
political, Nixon explores the ways in which “anti-personnel weapons”
(like cluster bombs) are described by state functionaries and how their
media organs efface the possibility of considering the effects such
01 Abraham.qxd 28/08/2007 10:09 AM Page 9


devices have upon human beings. Nixon identiWes how Rachel Car-
son (the environmental scientist), in “exposing the euphemisms and
bromides promulgated by the Cold War’s military-industrial com-
plex,” shared a commitment to public intellectualism with Said, doc-
umenting how herbicides and insecticides, in reality, biocides—“these
supposedly precise weapons in the war on pests”—“in fact targeted
nothing more precise than life itself.”
Nixon’s engagement with and exposure of the “politesse” of the
State Department in its instrumentalization of mass death highlights
how language stands in service to imperialism. Continuing a theme
developed in Radakrishnan’s trenchant essay, Nixon takes the reader
back to the famous passage in the early pages of The World, the Text,
and the Critic, where Said recounts his encounter with an “old college
friend,” who speaks respectfully—almost affectionately—of the sec-
retary of defense during the Vietnam era as “a complex human being:
he doesn’t Wt the picture you may have formed of the cold-blooded
imperialist murderer. The last time I was in his ofWce I noticed Dur-
rell’s Alexandria Quartet on his desk.”11 For Said, such moments capture
the tragedy and irony of living with the contradictions of an imperial
mindset that could use “the cultural world . . . for that particular sort
of camouXaging.”12 Nixon uses the Durrell reference as a starting point
for “Land Mines and Cluster Bombs,” where he embraces Said’s
commitment to responsible public intellectualism, resistance to state
worship, and a continual remembrance that “that particular sort of
camouXaging” exacts a human toll on populations in a not-so-distant
part of the world.
If Nixon’s essay spurs us to read Human Rights Watch’s report
Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq, which
describes in great detail the U.S. military’s use of cluster bombs and
this ordnance’s effects upon Iraqi civilian life, this special issue will
have made a serious move toward enacting Said’s New Humanism.
The cluster bomb, as an “antipersonnel weapon,” seeks out human
beings on whom it inXicts maximum injury. It is “clustered” so as to
maximize the likelihood of casualties. As Nixon points out, “What
distinguishes cluster bombs is less their clustering than the dispersal
of their malign effects.”
This special issue concludes with a poem entitled “Edward Said”
by Mahmoud Darwish, which has been ably translated into English
01 Abraham.qxd 28/08/2007 10:09 AM Page 10


from the Arabic by Mona Anis. Even as Said struggled to hold on to

his life in 2002, Darwish remembers a strong Edward: “He was the
last epic hero defending the right of Troy to share the narrative.” The
strength of his humanistic commitments, despite the slow disinte-
gration of his human form, remained unbowed. Such was Said the
humanist, who strove to refashion a New Humanism, in the face of
withering criticism concerning humanism’s supposed and long-ago
A New Humanism can play a key role in reconciling how the
humanist intellectual’s complicity with aims of state can also create
the conditions of possibility for recognizing the vital role she can play
in resisting the domestication of critical consciousness in an age of
widespread political apathy:

Every single empire in its ofWcial discourse has said that it is not like all
the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to
enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only
as a last resort. And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intel-
lectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires.13

A New Humanism, then, might lead the way in rescuing what Said
called “that precarious exilic realm” where one can “truly grasp
the difWculty of what cannot be grasped and then go forth and try


Much of the initial work on this project was completed while I was on a Hodges
Better English Fund Research Leave at the University at Tennessee at Knoxville. I
would like to acknowledge Professor Andrew Rubin’s assistance in helping me to
pull together the contributors for this special issue. In addition, all credit is due to
Professor Rubin for coming up with the title of the special issue—“Edward Said
and After: Toward a New Humanism.” I would like to extend a special thank you
to Professors Keya Ganguly and Timothy Brennan at the University of Minnesota
for encouraging me to make this special issue on Edward Said a reality. Finally, I
must acknowledge the expert editorial assistance of Steve Groening and Alicia
Gibson at Cultural Critique.
1. See Emily Apter’s “Saidian Humanism,” boundary 2 31, no. 2 (2004): 35–
53. Apter claims that “Said was taking up the challenge of using Auerbachian
humanism to fashion new humanisms, not merely because of a sober conviction
01 Abraham.qxd 28/08/2007 10:09 AM Page 11


that great books, on the grounds of their intrinsic merit, should continue to have
traction in a global, increasingly mediatized cultural industry but more because
of his belief that humanism provides futural parameters for deWning secular
criticism in a world increasingly governed by a sense of identitarian ethnic des-
tiny and competing sacred tongues” (43). Also see William Hart’s Edward Said
and the Religious Effects of Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000),
which deals extensively with Said’s efforts to expose how even intellectual move-
ments, such as poststructural theory, can manifest religious enthusiasm through
cults of discipleship and expertise. For example, in the World, the Text, and the
Critic (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983), Said takes aim at “the
growing resemblance between professed political neoconservatives and the re-
ligiously inclined critics, for whom the privatized condition of social life and
cultural discourse are made possible by a belief in the benign quasi-divine mar-
ketplace” (292).
2. In “Auerbach in Istanbul: Edward Said, Secular Criticism, and the Ques-
tion of Minority Culture” (in Edward Said and the Work of the Critic: Speaking Truth
to Power, ed. Paul A. Bové, 229–56 [Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000]),
Aamir Mufti writes, “Secular criticism seeks continually to make it perceptible
that the experience of being at home can only be produced by rendering some
other homeless” (239). Observations such as Mufti’s have become commonplace
in postcolonial criticism and minority studies. For a critique of essays such as
Mufti’s in the Bové collection, see Timothy Brennan’s “Once Again, with Feel-
ing,” a review of Edward Said and the Work of the Critic published in Ariel, Fall 2002.
Many of the insights, which were presented as new and illuminating in Edward
Said and the Work of the Critic, were initially evinced in Edward Said: A Critical Reader
(ed. Michael Sprinker [London: Blackwell, 1992]).
3. Edward Said, “Humanism’s Sphere,” in Humanism and Democratic Criticism,
1–30 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 15.
4. “Targeting the University,” Al-Ahram Weekly On-line, June 2–8, 2005,
5. See Michele Goldberg’s “Osama University” in News at http://
6. In his essay “The Intellectual Life of Edward Said,” Joseph Massad writes:
“[For this,] Said is portrayed as dangerous by the self-appointed neoconservative
commissars of academe. But in fact, the neocons in this sense may be right, for
Said’s ideas are indeed dangerous to cultural commissars everywhere. It is this
element of danger that inspires fear in the hearts of those who administer culture,
and hope in the hearts of those who resist them. It is this element of danger that
makes Said’s voice so hard to silence, so difWcult to mute” (Journal of Palestine
Studies 33, no. 3 [Spring 2004]: 13).
7. See Nabia Abu-El-Haj’s “Edward Said and the Political Present” (American
Ethnologist 32, no. 4: 538–55) for a rich theoretical explication of these issues.
8. I would like to highlight here the slanderous campaign launched against
several members of Columbia’s Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures
01 Abraham.qxd 28/08/2007 10:09 AM Page 12


Department (Joseph Massad, Rashid Khalidi, and Hamid Dabashi) by the Boston-
based group, The David Project. Palestinian intellectuals who have refused what
Massad has called “Zionism’s deal” have been particularly vulnerable to attacks
against their free speech, their profession and livelihood, and even their person.
Even after his passing, Said’s legacy has not been immune from attack. Consider
also Alan M. Dershowitz’s scurrilous article “Edward Said: The Palestinian Meir
Kahane” (Congressional Monthly, September/October 2003, 8–9), which alleges that
“like Kahane, Said opposed the two-state solution. Like Kahane, Said believed
that those seeking peace were too soft on their enemies. And like Kahane, Said
refused to condemn terrorism and himself demonstrated symbolic support for
terrorists” (9). Needless to say, those who have read a single book—much less a
single sentence—of what Said wrote, will be hard pressed to understand Der-
showitz’s comparison between Said and Meir Kahane, the Jewish Defense League
ideologue. While Said sought mutual recognition and reconciliation within the
context of the U.S.–Israel–Palestine conXict, Kahane represented a not-unfamiliar
brand of Zionist chauvinism and extremism actively opposed—often quite vio-
lently so—to the peace efforts of the PLO and the Arab states since the mid-
seventies. I would be remiss in not also mentioning Dershowitz’s unprecedented
attempts to inXuence the University of California Press’s review process of Nor-
man Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah: The Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of
History throughout the spring and summer of 2005. While Dershowitz insisted
that he never sought to prevent publication of the book, only to ensure that every
statement made about him be fact-checked, he did suggest that he was the target
of a vast, left-wing defamation campaign. Participants, according to Dershowitz,
included Norman Finkelstein, Alexander Cockburn, and Noam Chomsky. When
the Palestinian presence cannot be vanquished through sheer assertion—as Golda
Meir’s famous statement that “There are no Palestinians” attempted to do—cul-
tural commissars must regulate what can be claimed about it in scholarship and
the classroom.
9. Edward Said, “Orientalism 25 Years Later: Worldly Humanism v. the
Empire Builders,” Counterpunch, August 4, 2003,
10. Ibid.
11. Said, The World, the Text, and the Critic, 3.
12. Ibid.
13. “Orientalism 25 Years Later,” n.p.
14. Said, Humanism and Democratic Criticism, 44.