With Edward Said’s premature death in 2003, leftists and progressives all over the world lost one of the last remaining public intellectuals, a man whose erudition and knowledge were overshadowed only by the dedication he showed to just causes – first and foremost the Palestinians’ continuing fight for national statehood and recognition.
Although it has been almost seven years since Said wrote this essay – “The Meaning of Rachel Corrie” – there is no question it still resonates with our current times. In it, Said criticizes a wide range of figures, some expected (George W. Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Samuel Huntington, Thomas Friedman), others less so (Mahmoud Abbas, Yaser Arafat). And although it is tempting to read into this essay the exasperation of a terminally ill man who had seen countless opportunities for peace come and go, it is just as important to note the imploring and defiant conclusion he reaches:
“Isn’t it astonishing that all the signs of popular solidarity that Palestine and the Arabs receive occur with no comparable sign of solidarity and dignity for ourselves, that others admire and respect us more than we do ourselves? Isn’t it time we caught up with our own status and made certain that our representatives here and elsewhere realize, as a first step, that they are fighting for a just and noble cause, and that they have nothing to apologize for or anything to be embarrassed about? On the contrary, they should be proud of what their people have done and proud also to represent them.”