For One Democratic State
in the whole of Palestine (Israel)


FOR One Man, One Vote



The Wise Raven Is Dead

by Israel Shamir


It takes an enemy to eulogise a great warrior. His hurt cry is sweeter than friends’ approval. A few days ago died my great countryman Edward Said, and our comrades-in-arms wrote obituaries tolling like copper bells in the air of his native Jerusalem. They stressed goodness of his heart, expanse of his knowledge, his relentless support for the downtrodden of Palestine. But to my ears, the most pleasing obituary to Said was that composed by his and ours enemy, one Zev Chafets, who wrote in an American Zionist (well, aren’t they all?) paper The New York Daily News:

"Said didn't blow up Marines in Lebanon in 1983, ignite the Palestinian intifadeh or send Wahhabi missionaries to preach violence against infidels. He certainly didn't fly a plane into the World Trade Center. What he did do was jam America's intellectual radar."

Above: Edward Said takes part in intifadah


Who the hell is Zev Chafets? This symbol of integration of two Jewish elites, of America and Israel, an American Jew from Michigan went to Israel in 1969. When he was in the IDF he was posted to the West Bank, where he found he liked kicking Arab ass and even was reprimanded for his brutality. His first marriage broke up because he raised his hand to his wife once too often. His career of a petty sadist shot up when Menachem Begin, the arch-terrorist and mass murderer, became the Prime Minister of Israel. Begin appointed him the head of the government press office. Now he poisons Americans’ minds with his racist propaganda and promotes war. On August 19, 2003, he wrote: “The people of Iraq have made their choice. They want barbarism. The polite term for this in the Arab world is self-determination. The Arabs have been given the chance to rule themselves. The result is almost two dozen impoverished, xenophobic dictatorships. This is not a condition imposed upon the Arabs. On the contrary, it expresses their political culture. It's what the Arabs want” .
What do ‘the Jews’ personified by Chafets want, then? On November 12, 2002, Zev Chafets wrote in the New Haven Register an article headlined, "Disarming Iraq is only a start in Middle East". He explained that the Arab and Iranian cultures were "irrational" and that nothing could be done to "improve the collective mental health of Arab societies" short of invading and subjugating them to direct Israeli – American rule . In short, they want domination.

Inverting his own rhetoric, we can say: Chafets did not drive a 65 ton bulldozer over the pregnant Nuha Swaidan and the Seattle girl Rachel Corrie, he did not sodomise the Lebanese prisoners of war in the dark cellars of Shabak, he certainly did not pour bombs on Baghdad and Kabul. He provided intellectual support for these deeds. And Edward Said was the greatest adversary he came across.

Edward Said could not stop single-handed the mighty Judeo-American disinformation machine, but he explained to us its working. Like the wise raven from Tolkien’s Hobbit, he pointed out the vulnerable spots of the dragon. He explained to us the vital importance of the battle for narrative, the struggle for discourse, this spiritual plane of the war on the ground. He understood that the scientists and columnists’ ‘explanation’ of the world outside its Anglo-American ‘core’ precedes its conquest. Paradoxically, I came to his reading of history in snowy Moscow of 1991, when the theories of Milton Friedman, the tools of neo-liberal discourse were applied as powerful systemic weapon and turned the people of Russia into poor strangers in their own home.

Though the name of Edward Said is inseparably connected to the sad and haunting Holy Land, it would be a mistake to view his oeuvre through Palestinocentric eyes. He was a Karl Marx to Foucault’s Hegel, to wit, like Marx overturned Hegel and placed his theory on the feet, while previously it was standing on the head; Said overturned Foucault and gave his great ideas to the people. His Orientalism provides a revelatory reading, for it explains that ‘area studies’ of the American discourse – not only Oriental Studies, but its sisters Kremlinology, Russian Studies and Chinese Studies as well – are tools of subjugation.

But he was also a Karl Marx to Karl Marx. While vulgar Marxists concentrated their attention on the ownership of the means of production and saw the capitalist owners as ultimate enemy of the people; Said perceived the true order of the battle. The great and evil minds that direct politics from their university cathedra are infinitely more important to our future than the rich but feeble-minded bastards. Indeed, their takeover of American universities, so clearly presented by Saul Bellow in his Ravelstein was the paramount event of the last thirty years. Whoever controls media, promotes an academic school, whoever controls universities, decides the content of the media; whoever controls media and universities, controls government. Or, in Biblical terms, Sulzberger chose Leo Strauss, Leo Strauss begat Wolfowitz, Wolfowitz begat Iraqi War. Milton Friedman begat IMF, IMF begat world poverty. Bernard Lewis begat Samuel Huntington, Samuel Huntington begat the War on Islam. Bernard-Henri Levy begat Andre Sacharov, and the Soviet Union was privatised by Gusinsky and Chodorkovsky.

Said taught us to perceive the big guns of aircraft carrier beyond academic mantle of the reticent professors. He noticed the unique place of Zionist ideas in the Western imperialist thought. He left further development of this thought to us. Indeed, when I pointed out the Zionist connection and the mean Judaic spirit of the new American imperialism, I was duly assaulted by gatekeepers of PC; but Edward Said wrote to me much needed letters of support. To his last days he referred to my writing, though it was extremely hazardous for a professor in a leading American university. For there are rich benefactors who support universities and think-tanks, who provide advertising to newspapers, and they are tied-in with the Zionist knot.

Edward Said was well aware of it, and he dreamed to use the Arab funds to counteract the Zionist propaganda machine in the tug-of-war for American minds. He could do it: not in vain, Chafets wrote that ‘his "Orientalism" did more for the jihad than a battalion of Osamas’. He was indeed a great warrior in jihad of spirit and he dreamed of our think-tanks fighting the JINSA think-tanks in a spiritual Armageddon. But the Arab princes and the Russian billionaires preferred to spend their money on tangible assets. They did not understand that material things are more fragile and perishable than the assets of spirit, and that tomorrow they will lose their material goods because today they did not invest into spirit.

Edward Said was an Arab, and it is natural that he frequently referred to the Arab experience. But his ideas are equally important for all the people who were deemed irrelevant by the new masters of the world. The evil wizards he confronted are the enemies of mankind; they are equally bad and foreign to a Detroit worker and a Palestinian peasant, to a Russian scientist or a Turkish writer. We do not know who will incarnate the dream of Said: a Californian computer genius or a Saudi prince, a Russian media lord or a wise Chinese Communist leader, an Indian Raja or a Malay Prime minister. But it will be done, for the magic of names tells us that Said (spiritual bliss) will overcome Chafets (desire for material things).

Edward Said jammed our view of Arab world by Zev Chafets

As far as we know, Saddam Hussein is on the loose in Iraq, Osama Bin Laden is hiding somewhere in the tribal lands of Pakistan and Sheik Ahmed Yassin is still dodging Israeli bombs in Gaza. But the jihad lost a hero last week right here in New York City. Edward Said, Columbia University's famous warrior-scholar, is dead, felled at age 67 by leukemia. Columbia mourns. "This death is an irreplaceable loss to the realm of ideas," said President Lee Bollinger. Bollinger's grief is shared by many. CounterPunch, a journal of the radical left, has run a series of fervid tributes to Said's life and work. The Saudi government-controlled Arab News has extolled him in almost glowing terms. Not since the Soviet-Nazi nonaggression pact of 1939 has there been such ideological harmony. Said not only united fascists and Communists, he also served as an ecumenical bridge. He was the rare Episcopalian admired by Hamas, whose goal of eradicating Israel he shared; Hezbollah - which was his host in southern Lebanon on his famous rock-throwing expedition - and other pillars of Islamic orthodoxy. This is not as incongruous as it might seem. Said was a dapper fellow, known in the salons of New York for his fine piano playing and nuanced appreciation of Jane Austen's novels. But beneath the foppish exterior beat the heart of a martyr. His most famous book, "Orientalism," published in 1979, did more for the jihad than a battalion of Osamas. Like all great polemics, "Orientalism" rests on a simple thesis: Westerners are inherently unable to fairly judge, or even grasp, the Arab world. In fact, any attempt to do so amounts to an act of intellectual imperialism. This idea was seized upon by American students of the Middle East as a liberating insight. If they couldn't understand the Arab world - if, indeed, studying the subject was tantamount to colonialist aggression - then they could skip class and go out for hummus. All they needed to become qualified Arabists was a humble attitude and a mastery of the orthodoxies propounded by Said and other experts. "Orientalism" made Said a hero not only in the mosques of Gaza, but in the halls of ivy. Not since Cliffs Notes has a work so simplified scholarship. Since 1979, a generation of Saidists - professors, diplomats and foreign correspondents - has dominated polite discourse on the Middle East. Their animating principle is politically correct simplicity itself: see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil about the Arab world. Of course, Said allowed himself to criticize Arab regimes - usually on the grounds that they weren't sufficiently revolutionary. But he carefully remained within the bounds of acceptable Arab opinion. He was until his death a valued contributor to Al Ahram, the house organ of the Egyptian government. Said wasn't responsible for the depredations of Hosni Mubarak's regime or any other Arab tyranny. He didn't blow up Marines in Lebanon in 1983, ignite the Palestinian intifadeh or send Wahhabi missionaries to preach violence against infidels. He certainly didn't fly a plane into the World Trade Center. What he did do was jam America's intellectual radar.

He wasn't the architect of 9/11, but he was the father of the 9/12 inability to comprehend it. Ah, well, Said is in paradise now. As an Episcopalian, he's ineligible for the customary 72 virgins, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's honored with a couple of female doctoral candidates. No one deserves it more. Meanwhile, the legacy lives. Like George Steinbrenner, Bollinger has recruited a new superstar for Columbia's "realm of ideas." Rashid Khalidy is now the enforcer of Arab authenticity in Morningside Heights, and he's got the title to prove it: Edward Said professor of Middle Eastern studies.
Originally published on October 1, 2003