Professor Edward Said: Scholar, Activist, Palestinian

StorySeptember 26, 2003
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Renowned scholar, activist and intellectual, Professor Edward W. Said, 67, died Thursday morning after a decade-long battle with leukemia. His death comes just days before the third anniversary of the Palestinian Intifada, or uprising. He had been diagnosed with cancer during the Persian Gulf War. The past decade he fought tirelessly against both the cancer and the war.

Said, a Palestinian-American, was known throughout the world as a leading thinker, and there are few fields of intellectual endeavor that have been untouched by his contributions.

He was a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and the author of over a dozen books, including Peace and its Discontents: Essays on Palestine in the Middle East Peace Process, Culture and Imperialism and Orientalism. His writings have been translated into 26 languages. He was a frequent guest on Democracy Now! and other Pacifica programs and a great fighter for voiceless victims around the world. [Includes transcript]

Said was born in Jerusalem on November 1, 1935, when it was under British control. He grew up in Cairo. At the age of 17, he was sent to the United States as a student. He received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 1957 and a master’s and Ph.D. from Harvard, in 1960 and 1964.

The 1967 Arab-Israeli war stirred him to political activism. When Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir infamously declared in 1969, “There are no Palestinians,” Said decided to take on “the slightly preposterous challenge of disproving her, of beginning to articulate a history of loss and dispossession that had to be extricated, minute by minute, word by word, inch by inch.”

He was an eloquent voice for justice throughout the Palestinian struggle and noted as one of the foremost intellectuals on the Middle East and colonialism.

Because of his advocacy for Palestinian self-determination and his membership in the Palestine National Council, Said was not allowed by Israel to visit Palestine until several years ago.

A prolific scholar and intellectual, Said was also an acomplished concert pianist and music critic and was fluent in Arabic and French.

Today we spend the hour listening to Edward Said in his own words. We play a speech he gave on June 15, at the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s annual conference. It was one of his last major addresses.

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