An Apologia for Edward Said Assumes That the West Brought Religious Violence to the Middle East

Few individuals in recent memory have had a more pervasive, lasting, or pernicious influence on the humanities than Edward Said. The life of the Columbia University English professor, who helped make anti-Semitism acceptable in the academy, is the subject of Places of Mind, a new biography by Timothy Brennan. Theodore Dalrymple writes in his review:

As with so many intellectuals, Said’s cultural influence was greater than his merits; if he had not had such inflated influence, he would hardly merit as long a biography as this. It would not be quite fair to call Places of Mind a hagiography, for it admits of minor criticisms of its subject, . . . but it is clearly a work of apologetics.

It is bad in a number of respects. To begin with, much of it is appallingly written, as one would now, alas, expect of an author who is a professor of humanities. . . .

[W]e read that “as a Christian in the Middle East who, like others, had to navigate inherited colonial arrangements, Said was only too aware of the pitfalls awaiting multiethnic political arrangements based on identitarian allocations of power.” This suggests, without quite saying so, that religious conflicts were inventions of colonial arrangements, but only willful ignorance or dishonesty could sustain such a view. In 1860, for example, in Lebanon and Syria, there was a war between the Maronites and the Sunni and Druze, with massacres on both sides. The Christian quarter of Damascus was destroyed with a thoroughness reminiscent of the present war, and 12,000 Christians were killed. This had nothing to do with “colonial arrangements.” And I doubt that today’s average Coptic Christian would agree with the author’s statement either.

Brennan [also] has a strange way of dealing with criticisms of Said. He calls the famous article in Commentary, drawing attention to Said’s fabrications about his own past, “malicious”—as if proof of malice were refutation in itself. The article was indeed intended to destroy, or at least severely damage, Said’s reputation: but if the allegations were true, such that he falsely claimed to have fled Jerusalem in 1948, it deserved to be destroyed. And there is no strong denial in the book that Said did sometimes fabricate his history in a very gross fashion, let alone refutation of it.

Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: Academia, Edward Said, Middle East, Middle East Christianity

 

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority