Only a few days ago, I sent out an e-mail flyer, announcing a November 25th New York panel discussion on CounterPunch’s forthcoming book, The Politics Of Anti-Semitism. One of the speakers was going to be Edward Said, one of the contributors. Now he is dead.
Will the event go on? Of course. That is what he would have wanted. Only now it will also have to be a memorial for him.
When someone of his stature dies, even his enemies must go on record. What will his home town paper, the rightwing Zionist Jerusalem Post, write of him? Whatever they say, who cares? What will the New York Times say of one of the best regarded literary scholars in their city? For years they refused to have him write critiques for their wretched Book Review because he was anti-Zionist. Will they acknowledge that shameful fact? What will Arafat say of the man whose books he banned?
There are now many Palestinians in the United States, writers like him, as devoted to their people’s rights. But they will all say that he did more to explain their cause to the American people than any of them. Yet he was not a politician.
We met in the early 80s. I’m a Jew who exposes Israeli Zionism, but I’m also deeply involved in American politics. One day we were discussing Democratic Party liberals. I warned him never to trust them until they are dead. I quoted examples, from personal conversations with them, of how cynical they are in their chase after Jewish campaign contributions and votes. He took it all in and then quietly said “Lenni, you have to understand that I’m a literary gent. I don’t understand politics at all. I’m only in politics because I’m a Palestinian and I feel morally obliged to stand up for my people.”
History and politics are my passions. Unfortunately that means that I’ve met endless numbers of intellectuals, of all political ideologies, including my own, who think they know more about politics than they do. But, if Edward made mistakes, I know it because he told me he did.
Frankly, I’m an activist who, out of self-defense, also became a bit of a literary type. Indeed I’ve tried to model myself on Plutarch and Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, noted for his distrust of humanity. But, in the end, Edward’s modesty and honesty overwhelmed me. And, while he certainly learned much in subsequent years, he never lost those two rare qualities. If anything, he perfected them.
LENNI BRENNER is the editor of 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis and a contributor to The Politics of Anti-Semitism. He can be reached at BrennerL21@aol.com