Commentary Magazine

Edward Said's fabrications; the Republicans; World War I.

Edward Said’s Fabrications TO THE EDITOR: Justus Reid Weiner’s "’My Beautiful Old House’ and Other Fabrications by Edward Said" [September 1999], largely a collage of petty and irrelevant calum- ny, has a clearly political and ideological motive, name- ly, the neutralization of one of the most important and credible advocates of Pales- tinian rights at a most crit- ical time in the unfolding peace process. The article also has a broader objective, which is, as Edward Said himself has noted, "dis- crediting… Palestinian claims to return and com- pensation." Mr. Weiner’s main argu- ment comes down to this: if Edward Said’s nuclear fam- ily maintained its major domicile in Cairo rather than Jerusalem, then Said is not a Palestinian refugee.

This reveals more about Mr.

Weiner’s prejudices than it does about the complica- tions of a cosmopolitan identity: for Said’s family to have maintained affiliations in both Cairo and Jerusalem need be no more surprising or improbable than it would be for a Jewish American to maintain citizenship and identity in both the U.S.

and Israel.

If Mr. Weiner’s research were as meticulous and credible as he would have us believe, it is odd that he learned only recently-"af- ter completing the manu- script of [my] article"- about the publication of Said’s memoir of his early life, Out of Place. Could Mr.

Weiner, having spent the last three years researching Said, honestly not have known that this book was coming out? As Christopher Hitchens pointed out in an article in the Nation, Said’s memoir was commissioned in 1989 and begun in 1994.

Moreover, the fact that Said was working on a memoir was mentioned in scores of publications such as the Co- lumbia Record and the Lon- don Review of Books. Mr.

Weiner himself cites the ar- ticle in the London Review, thus making his professed ignorance of the impending publication of the memoir even more ridiculous.

Mr. Weiner suggests that Said wrote his memoir in order to "camouflage and backfill" his previous state- ments regarding his youth, and thus to protect himself from Mr. Weiner’s findings.

Nobody else seems to agree.

Said’s book has so far re- ceived favorable reviews from respected journals and newspapers. Furthermore, people familiar with his work and life story do not see the alleged contradiction between his current account and his earlier ones (see Hitchens in the Nation, Is- raeli dissident Israel Shahak, quoted byJulian Borger in the [London] Guardian, and Said’s former classmate Haig Boyadjian quoted in Coun- terpunch). Many others have disputed Mr. Weiner’s ac- count in articles and letters to the editor.

Indeed, several quotations from Said’s own work-ap- parently disregarded by Mr.

Weiner-show that he has never made conflicting claims about his family’s res- idence in Jerusalem or de- nied that his family spent considerable time in Egypt.

What is equally plausible is that Mr. Weiner, who once worked at Israel’s Ministry of Justice apologizing for Israeli human-rights viola- tions, caught wind of Said’s project and sought a com- mission to discredit it. Why else would someone pay an inconspicuous scribe to spend three years searching for dirt on a prominent Palestinian thinker? Other omissions, mis- takes, and prejudiced com- ments in Mr. Weiner’s article are too numerous to men- tion, but we will cite a few brief examples to illustrate the degree to which Mr.

Weiner is biased. He de- scribes the Institute for Palestine Studies as a "pro- PLO think tank" (hardly the case); he contends that the [3]COMMENTARY JANUARY 2000 legal procedure for claim- ing compensation and repa- rations in Israel is "simplic- ity itself’ (questionable); he asks why Said has "not lift- ed a finger to secure the fi- nancial restitution due him" (as Said has noted, his fam- ily did try to obtain com- pensation and redress, but was denied; efforts became futile after the promulga- tion of the 1950 absentee- property law). And, as Said has written (in Al-Ahram), Mr. Weiner commits a se- ries of further factual errors and (perhaps intentional) oversights such as failing to note that Said’s mother held a Palestinian passport and misidentifying Boulos Said, Wadie Said’s cousin, as Ed- ward’s uncle.

More significant and striking, however, is the ar- ticle’s clear intention of dis- crediting Palestinian griev- ances stemming from the 1948 war, and of promoting what has become a common and highly dishonest litany of right-wing Zionism: that a great number of Palestin- ian nationalists have har- bored myth-driven passions that have animated the revan- chist program … whose expanding political ambi- tions often seem … per- manently insusceptible of being satisfied through the normal processes of pol- itics.

Notice the words and phrases Mr. Weiner uses: animated, myth-driven pas- sions, revanchist, expand- ing, permanently insuscep- tible. The logic is that Pales- tinian nationalism is some- how abnormal and that Palestinians have no one but themselves to blame for their plight. For example, Mr. Weiner’s assertion that "the war of 1948 was insti- gated not by Israel but by the Palestinian-Arab lead- ership, which launched hos- tilities against the Jewish in- habitants of Palestine after refusing to accept the UN partition resolution" is fa- miliar Zionist boilerplate that seeks to obscure the complexity of the events of the time with a well-placed verb: to say that hostilities were "launched" is to imply that there were none before the Arabs initiated them, an interpretation clearly not supported by the historical record, and which has been challenged even in Israel it- Gramercy Park Hotel Your Private Oasis Just South of Midtown Manhattan Imagine…You’re just minutes away from a trip to Europe! Whether you’re dining on one of Chef Robert’s 20 freshly prepared pastas ($12.50 – $19.50) or planning a wedding, (packages begin at just $64 per person), you’ll find our hotel to be an oasis of Olde World charm. With Soho, the Village, Madison Square Garden and Off-Broadway theaters in the neighborhood, make it your business to pleasure yourself in style.

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Thus, Mr. Weiner’s at- tack on Edward Said is not only an attempt to discred- it a leading intellectual and humanist but also part of an unceasing right-wing Zion- ist program to reinterpret selectively and dishonestly the history of the Palestin- ian-Israeli conflict. In our view, it is not Said’s work but rather Mr. Weiner’s ar- ticle that emerges as a con- trivance of "deception and outright obfuscations care- fully tailored to strengthen [a] wider ideological agen- da." MARWAN D. HANANIA FREDERICK M. HOYT Cornell University Ithaca, New York To THE EDITOR: We are a group of New York-based American Jews and Arab-Americans who founded the Arab-Jewish Peace Group to promote a just resolution of the Arab- Israeli conflict. We are writ- ing to express our dismay at the article by Justus Reid Weiner claiming that the renowned, Jerusalem-born Palestinian literary critic Edward Said "fabricated" much of his life story.

The article, engaging one of the Palestinians’ most ar- ticulate spokesman in a minute-by-minute justifi- cation of the first twelve years of his life, is simply wrong on one important point after another, as Ed- ward Said himself has al- ready shown in the weekly edition of Al-Ahram, where each one of Mr. Weiner’s al- legations is addressed and refuted, as well as in his newly published memoir, Out of Place, where he de- scribes in vivid detail his [4] . A r~~~r~srraLETTERS FROM READERS early life in Jerusalem, Cairo, and Beirut.

Claims like Mr. Weiner’s hurt the Palestinians in the same way that revisionist historians who try to deny the Holocaust hurt the Jew- ish people. This not only hinders the peace process but also the reconciliation that must take place for the survival and healing of both peoples.

In recent years, Edward Said has "advocated the ac- knowledgment by each oth- er of the Palestinian and Jewish peoples’ past suffer- ings" as a means toward peaceful coexistence; he himself has taken Arab mu- sicians on a tour of Buchen- wald. Indeed, his insistence on reconciliation through learning the history of mu- tual suffering is a point he makes about all ethnic con- flicts. His is the kind of courage on which peace in the Middle East will be built. It will not be built on denial of the facts regarding Edward Said or the rest of the Palestinian people.

AMMIEL ALCALAY, professor ESTHER COHEN, labor organizer ADEEB R. FADIL, attorney ZIVA FLAMHAFT, educator and author NADIA HIJAB, author NICK KHOURY, executive SHERYL MILLER, media producer LEILA RICHARDS, MD JEANINE SHAMA, former banker JILL STRAUSS, activist PETER WEISS, attorney The Arab-Jewish Peace Group New York City To THE EDITOR: Now that Justus Reid Weiner’s assertions about Edward Said’s life and ori- gins have been found inac- curate, does COMMENTARY have any plans to issue a formal apology or clarifi- cation? And now that the "parable of 1948" seems to be factually borne out in Said’s life, would Mr. Wei- ner consider extrapolating it to the entire Palestinian people? I am referring to his last few paragraphs, where he makes a connection be- tween Said’s purported lie and "the myth-driven pas- sions that have animated the revanchist program of so many Palestinian nation- alists." If Said’s lie would condemn the entire corpus of Palestinian nationalists, would the fact that it is not a lie persuade Mr. Weiner that the passions of the Palestinians stem from gen- uine personal suffering? RAZA MIR West Long Branch, New Jersey To THE EDITOR: COMMENTARY should be ashamed of publishing Jus- tus Reid Weiner’s nasty, hypocritical, and morally corrupt piece on Edward Said. This is not scholar- ship, but sophistry of the basest sort and only con- tributes to the deceit that enshrouds Palestinian and Israeli disputes.

KEITH GALLAGHER Watsonville, California To THE EDITOR: It is clear that Justus Reid Weiner’s intent in his cheap smear campaign against Ed- ward Said is to make the de- tails of one man’s life the central issue rather than the clearly documented history of forced emigration of Palestinians from what is now Israel. Mr. Weiner’s at- tack is, in fact, very similar to the recent attack on Rigoberta Menchu in which her accusers focused on mi- nor discrepancies in her bi- ography to dismiss the very real history of the military’s mass murder of indigenous peoples in Guatamala.

As a Jew and an intellec- tual, I cannot fathom how a Jewish publication could sponsor such an attack, which denies the history of an oppressed people sys- tematically subject to exile, torture, murder, and the loss of civil rights. Such denials sound a little too familiar to Jewish ears.

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STEPHEN BERGER Venice, California To THE EDITOR: I am sure that Justus Reid Weiner did his homework, as he maintains, but I am concerned about any claim we Jews have on the land of Israel that rests on the ve- racity of one or more of our opponents. Regardless of whether Edward Said is a man of honor or whether he has fabricated a past in or- der to legitimize his role as Palestinian spokesman, the Jews have to be able to make a legal and historic claim (not to mention a re- ligious one) to the land.

DAVID A. HORTON Columbia, Maryland To THE EDITOR: Edward Said’s oft-told tale of his Jerusalem boy- hood, lost home, and agony of dispossession is now re- vealed byJustus Reid Wein- er as a self-constructed myth of forced exile, to put it most charitably. Surely it was designed by Said to lend credence to his con- tinuing recital of the heart- less cruelties that Israel in- flicted upon the Palestinian people by forcibly driving them from their homeland.

Who, therefore, could ask for a more poetically just rebuke to Said than Mr.

Weiner’s discovery that it was Martin Buber who was expelled from hisJerusalem home by the Said family, or that the Nasser revolution in Egypt, not the struggle for Jewish statehood, in- flicted upon the Said fami- ly its most grievous depri- vation of property? What, if not guilt, was the source of Said’s contrived identity? Here his newly published memoir, Out of Place, is quite instructive. His father, born in Jerusalem, left Palestine in 1911 for the United States, where he be- came an American citizen and lived for ten years, thereafter claiming that America was "his country." Returning to Jerusalem in 1920, he moved to Cairo in 1929. There he lived and there he conduct- ed his business.

Although many members of Said’s extended family lived in Palestine, his parents’ identity was anything but Palestinian. Indeed, his father, we are told, "never much liked the place." With a lux- urious home and lucrative business in Cairo, and with three-month vacations in Lebanon virtually every sum- mer, it is hardly surprising thatJerusalem was a place for the Saids to visit during "off- and-on sojourns." If his memoir clarifies any- thing, it is that young Edward and his parents, all born in Palestine but in no other dis- cernible respect "Palestinian," lived prosperously as wan- dering Arabs, never at home anywhere, but invariably re- turning to their "native en- vironments" in Cairo and Lebanon. Palestine hardly was, as Said still claims, the place "I grew up in." Said has now lived in the United States, one more place that is not home, for nearly 50 years. It was here, burdened by "the unsettled sense of many identities" and "the deeply disorga- nized state of my real his- tory and origins," that he reinvented himself as a Palestinian. The rest is not only history, but, as Mr.

Weiner convincingly dem- onstrates, duplicity.

JEROLD S. AUERBACH Wellesley College Wellesley, Massachusetts To THE EDITOR: Justus Reid Weiner tells us that Edward Said in- vented a home in Jerusalem.

I would like to suggest that this phenomenon may be more common among Pal- estinians than the one exam- ple given by Mr. Weiner. If my conjecture is correct, we may conclude that the Pal- estinians’ yearning for the past, real or imagined, is so deep-seated emotionally as to make sense of Said’s in- vention.

I have owned a house in WestJerusalem, in a neigh- borhood known as Neve Bezalel, since the late 60’s.

One fall morning in the early 70’s, I found an Arab man at my door. He was well-dressed, spoke English though with an accent, and was accompanied by two teenagers, who spoke good American English. The man, in his late 40’s, said he would like to show his children the house he grew up in.

I was dumbfounded. My house is in a neighborhood that never had Arab home- owners or even lodgers. Be- fore purchasing and restoring it, I had traced its ownership back to 1910, when it was built. There had been only one family there before me, and it was definitelyJewish.

At a loss, I invited the man and his two children to come in; he showed them the house, explaining the function of each room before, he said, he had been forced to leave.

Very strange! Most of the house did not exist in 1948.

When I purchased the prop- erty, the original floor space was 500 square feet in all and now it is 1,800 square feet.

Originally there were two rooms on one level and now there are seven rooms on two-and-a-half levels.

The man was polite and graceful, and his children listened in rapt attention to his "history." I was amazed at the detail in his descrip- tions of rooms that were not there in his time.

The experience was un- settling but now-in light of Said’s similar invention- I find it easier to accept.

ROBERT WERMAN Hebrew University Jerusalem, Israel To THE EDITOR: Let me add toJustus Reid Weiner’s fine expose. Edward Said has claimed (in an in- terview quoted by Mr. Wein- er) that in 1947 his family was forced to flee its home in the Talbieh section of Jerusalem by "a Jewish-forces sound truck warn[ing] Arabs to leave the neighborhood." I too lived in Talbieh in 1947 and can report that this alle- gation is totally untrue.

At that time and through- out the entire year of 1948 I was an editor of the Palestine Post in Jerusalem. From Sep- tember 1947 until May 1948, when my wife and I were compelled by constant Arab sniping and shelling to leave the neighborhood, we resid- ed in a ground-floor apart- ment on what is now Ho- vevei Zion Street in the heart of Talbieh.

Our landlord was a fine Arab physician named Dr. Ja- mal. He lived around the corner and was the first to visit me after I was hurt in the car-bombing of the Post on February 1, 1948. During [6] , . vO ne said, "Hip," another "Jazzy." One said, "Off- beat," and still another called us "Opinion-forming." This is the praise that The New York Observer has garnered from the likes of The New York Times, The Denver Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, "W" Magazine and a host of others.

And why all this praise? Because these publications know where to go to find the kind of insider information, commentary and criticism that gives them a unique perspec- tive on business, politics, the arts, events, real estate, restau- rants, movies, fashion and our society in the 1990’s: The New York Observer.

Experience the kind of writ- ers that are missing from today’s slick, glossy, celebrity and sound-bite addicted media — the kind of writers that make reading a pleasure again. See for yourself why The New York Observer is praised as "The freshest voice of the 90’s" (The Boston Globe).

Frankly, if you’re not read- ing The New York Observer, you’re getting your news (and gossip) second hand. The New York Observer reveals with incisive reporting, wry com- mentary and a bite of wit just what really goes on "on the inside." The word is out, and every- one agrees: The New York Observer is the weekly newspa- per for today’s savvy reader. As one reader said recently, "This is a publication you will want to add to your must- read list!"COMMENTARY JANUARY 2000 the bitter winter of 1947-48, when our supplies were cut off by Arab forces who laid siege to the Jewish area of Jerusalem, he supplemented our meager food with fresh eggs and vegetables from Arab markets, and refused to take compensation.

One morning in April 1948, Dr. Jamal woke us to say that the Arab Higher Committee (AHC), led by the Husseinis, had warned Arab residents of Talbieh to leave immediately. The un- derstanding was that the residents would be able to return as conquerors as soon as the Arab forces had thrown the Jews out. Dr. Ja- mal made the point repeat- edly that he was leaving be- cause of the AHC’s threats, not because of the Jews, and that he and his frail wife had no alternative but to go.

At least until a month or so before the British left Palestine in May 1948, Tal- bieh was a tightly-controlled military zone. During that period, when I would return home in the early morning hours after putting the newspaper to bed, I had to show my entry permit and my U.S. passport to Arab guards serving the British.

They were stationed at the corner of what are today Jabotinsky and Alkalai Streets. A barbed-wire fence ran the entire length ofJab- otinsky Street, the east-west artery running through the neighborhood.

Under these circumstan- ces, and particularly with British military and their Arab guards on hand, it would not have been possi- ble for Jewish forces to rout the Arab population of Tal- bieh. Nor was it the policy of the Jewish leadership in Palestine to do so.

MARLIN MOSHE LEVIN 7erusalem. Israel To THE EDITOR: I was pleased to see in his marvelous article that Jus- tus Reid Weiner mentioned the Jews driven out of their homes in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria in the 1947-48 war. Much-albeit not enough-has been writ- ten about the Jews in Arab countries who suffered mur- derous pogroms (for exam- ple, 600 Jews murdered in Baghdad in 1941) and oth- er persecutions during World War II by Arabs sym- pathetic to and inspired by the Nazis. But the Jews dis- possessed in Jerusalem in 1947-48, not only in the walled Old City but in oth- er areas that came under Jordanian occupation, have gotten very little journalis- tic or academic coverage in recent years.

Consider the Shimon ha- Tzaddik quarter adjacent to the tomb of Simon the Just, not far north of Orient House and the American Colony Hotel. In Decem- ber 1947, when Said claims his family was driven out of Talbieh, Arab armed gangs began violent harassment of the Jews in this area. They fired shots, set houses on fire, and attacked Jews phys- ically. By early January 1948, the Jews had fled the neighborhood. To my know- ledge, Shimon ha-Tzaddik was the first residential area in the whole country where the inhabitants were driven out in that war.

It should be kept in mind thatJews have been the ma- jority in Jerusalem since 1870, that is, for 129 years.

In the Old City, manyJews lived in the Muslim Quar- ter continuously from the 1800’s up to the mid-1930’s, in order to be close to the Temple Mount. Yet Arabs began driving Jews out of the Old City in 1920, with the Nebi Musa pogrom and later violence in 1929, and in the Arab uprising of 1936 to 1938; in 1929, Jews were also driven out of certain neighborhoods outside the Old City in what is now called East Jerusalem. Jew- ish civilians were murdered in all these incidents, and the British authorities did not act to protect them.

I do not expect that Ed- ward Said will bring the suf- fering of these hounded, dispossessed Jews to public attention.

ELLIOTT A. GREEN Jerusalem, Israel TO THE EDITOR: In addition to the dis- honesty documented by Justus Reid Weiner, we must consider a different sort of deception found in Edward Said’s writings. In tone, Said’s writing sounds reasonable and moderate, but in substance, he does not disagree with Hamas, the government of Iran, or other extremists who call for the death of Israel and, pre- sumably, its people.

Just as there are sins of omission, there are lies of omission. Said’s tone conceals the substance of his position.

GEORGE JOCHNOWITZ College of Staten Island, CUNY Staten Island, New York To THE EDITOR: The early reactions of my acquaintances in the peace- activist community to Justus Reid Weiner’s article were ho-hum. To most, the fact that Said had led people astray about details of his childhood has not discredit- ed his writings about the Is- raeli-Palestinian conflict.

Some five years ago, how- ever, I discovered that Said’s writings about the history of the conflict were not neces- sarily more forthright than those about his childhood. In the title chapter of his semi- nal work, The Question of Palestine, Said laid out the case that the Zionists, starting with Herzl, knew that their movement would be unac- ceptable to the native popu- lation. He claimed that the Zionists intended to evict the natives and steal their land, that they planned to destroy the then-current political or- der in order to build on its "ruins," and that they showed no regard for rights of non- Jews. As evidence, he cited a short passage from Herzl’s diaries. But he carefully omit- ted the sentences preceding this passage, which suggest that Herzl expected Zionism to bring not ruin but "im- mediate benefits to the state that receives us." And he also omitted the sentence follow- ing, in which Herzl stated that the Zionist aim was to acquire land by purchase, not by theft, and the very next one that began, "It goes without saying that we shall respectfully tolerate persons of other faiths and protect their property…." IRA P. WEISS Rockville, Maryland To THE EDITOR: One could feel the false pathos and see inconsisten- cies in Said’s books and arti- cles over the years, but only the painstaking research of Justus Reid Weiner finally exposed him as a liar and a dishonest propagandist for the Palestinian cause.

I hope Israeli researchers will learn from Mr. Weiner how to examine documents more carefully, will stop rewriting Israeli history in an anti-Zionist spirit, and will start defending the achieve- ments of the Jewish people.

F BRAUER Fair Lawn, New Jersey [8] J , .LETTERS FROM READERS To THE EDITOR: In the 30 years or so that I have been a COMMENTARY reader, few articles have im- pressed me more than Justus Reid Weiner’s exposure of Edward Said. It is good that Mr. Weiner, and COMMEN- TARY, have told the truth about Said’s duplicity, and- who knows?-maybe some good will also come of it.

JOSEPH SHATTAN Silver Spring, Maryland JUSTUS REID WEINER writes: Since my article on Ed- ward Said’s fabrications of his childhood history was first published in COMMEN- TARY, and apart from a number of thoughtful ac- counts of it in the public prints, scores of angry ref- erences to it have appeared around the world, often in connection with reviews of Said’s new memoir, Out of Place. In addition, perhaps a dozen short articles have been devoted to "rebutting" its findings. For the most part, these exercises have ig- nored or simply deprecated my exhaustively document- ed research demonstrating that, contrary to Said’s long- retailed version of his early life, he did not grow up with his family in Jerusalem and was never dispossessed from there as a Palestinian ref- ugee but rather spent his entire childhood and early youth in Cairo, with brief visits to his cousins in Jerusalem.

To this day my findings, and the issue of Said’s un- truthfulness, have yet to be seriously confronted, let alone weighed dispassion- ately, by his partisans. In- stead, aspersions have been freely cast, often in the mQst vitriolic language, on my presumed motives in writ- ing the article, my associa- tions, my politics (again pre- sumed), and my person. For one unschooled in this mode of intellectual discourse, it has been an eye-opening ex- perience.

The assault has been led by Said himself, whose care- fully manicured reputation for fastidiousness is amply belied by the relish he takes in mud-slinging, arguing from false or nonexistent premises, and rhetorical vi- olence. Thus, in the Egypt- ian newspaper Al-Ahram and in a succession of in- terviews with credulous or sympathetic reporters, the Parr professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University has thought it a sufficient refu- tation of my research to note triumphantly that the Jeru- salem Center for Public Af- fairs (JCPA), with which I am affiliated, receives fund- ing from Michael Milken’s foundation: ergo, I am not only a "Zionist"–the basest insult in the professor’s ar- senal of invective-but a running dog of American fi- nance capitalism. As it hap- pens–though this is whol- ly immaterial to the truth or falsity of my findings-I re- ceive no salary from the JCPA, and my research for the COMMENTARY article was entirely self-financed.

As it also happens, Colum- bia University, where Ed- ward Said has drawn a sal- ary since 1963, is likewise among the beneficiaries of the Milken Family Founda- tion. What does that make him? In any case, perhaps sens- ing that this particular foray into McCarthyism has been losing either its charm or its efficacy, Said has lately esca- lated his efforts at character assassination by charging that my article, a work of schol- arly investigation published in one of America’s most re- spected intellectual maga- zines, was, in reality, the product of Israeli intelli- gence-the "Mossad"- which, he has intoned, "was probably behind it." When he leveled this bizarre accu- sation on National Public Radio, his obsequious inter- viewer, Scott Simon, saw no reason even to inquire as to his evidence. The Mossad? Why, of course! Then there are Said’s longtime personal friends Christopher Hitchens and Alexander Cockburn, both of whom have put in multi- ple appearances in print on his behalf, and the Israeli "human-rights activist" and "truth seeker," Israel Sha- hak, whose lavish testimo- nials to Said’s probitv and [9] – 7 I 2 L,COMMENTARY JANUARY 2000 love of peace are invoked by his defenders as if they were as irreproachable as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. To anyone famil- iar with these gentlemen, however, and the tainted political causes they have es- poused, it must be a matter of curiosity that a world-fa- mous professor of literature should have fallen among such low company.

In 1983, even the Village Voice found it could no longer give houseroom to Cockburn, at that time a regular columnist much- prized for his anti-Ameri- can venom, after it was re- vealed that he had secretly taken a "grant" from the now-defunct Institute of Arab Studies-whose chair- man of the board was one Edward Said-for a book slamming the Israeli inva- sion of Lebanon. (The book never materialized.) As for Shahak, this fringe figure of vaguely Trotskyite sympa- thies, co-coiner of the term "Judeo-Nazi" to refer to Is- rael’s occupation policy on the West Bank, is the author of a vicious diatribe,Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years. Leaping light years beyond mere anti-Zionism, the book ascribes present- day Israel’s supposedly rac- ist, totalitarian, and xeno- phobic makeup to Judaism itself. In one of those deli- cious ironies of politics by which extremes of Left and Right embrace, the French edition of this delicacy was brought out in 1996 by La Vieille Taupe, the "revision- ist" publishing house most notorious for its ventures in Holocaust denial. Contrib- uting a wildly fawning fore- word to Shahak’s nakedly anti-Semitic tract is none other than that self-de- scribed apostle of human reconciliation, the tweedy, contemplative professor of literature, Edward Said.

Deep calling unto deep? BUT ENOUGH: name-call- ing is a contagious disease.

What is more regrettable is that the smears of Said and his cronies have been echoed, in what he likes to deride as the "Zionist-con- trolled media," by other writers and reviewers who have not troubled to arm themselves with the evi- dence before offering sum- mary judgment of it. And they are echoed once again in many of the letters print- ed above. Substantivelvy these at- tacks and/or dismissals typ- ically take one of three rad- ically contradictory forms, and sometimes all three to- gether. First, it is alleged that the facts I uncovered about Said’s youth are, sim- ply, untrue. Contrary to my article, it is claimed, Said did grow up inJerusalem, dd reg- ularly attend St. George’s school there, and was dis- possessed along with his nu- clear family in 1947, when they lost their villa and his father’s prosperous business, thereafter arriving in Cairo as exiles. But since the evi- dence to support any such assertion has to be conjured more or less out of thin air, those mouthing it tend quickly to catch themselves and adopt a second, fallback position. This is that Said has never claimed that he did not grow up in Cairo; [10] Can’t find Commentary at your favorite newsstand? Help is just one phone call away.

Dial 1-800-221-3148 to ask where Commentary is on sale nearyour home or office.

L7 — 1—-1– — -- – — v .. . . . .LETTERS FROM READERS proof positive of this, ac- cording to his champions, is his new book, which does plainly narrate the story of a childhood in that city. Fi- nally, to complete the circle of illogic, it is asserted that how Edward Said has cho- sen over the years to spin the facts of his autobiogra- phy-now Palestine, now not-is of little or no im- port; what is of import is that, in daring to question his veracity and his bona fides, I, and COMMENTARY, have engaged in a plot to discredit the just claims of the Palestinian people for whom he speaks.

In short, to paraphrase Sholem Aleichem, he nev- er borrowed the pot; he re- turned the pot a long time ago; and the pot was broken when he got it.

Although it is a tedious task to wade through the farrago of misrepresenta- tions now piled haphazard- ly on top of Said’s original misrepresentations, a few points need to be made, and in doing so I shall conform to the three-part structure I have just outlined.

First, and I cannot state this often enough or em- phatically enough, nothing alleged in Said’s own rebut- tal or by his defenders shakes my findings by as much as an iota. Far from being "addressed and refut- ed" by Said, as the letter from the Arab-Jewish Peace Group asserts, those find- ings have been, if anything, reconfirmed, not least by the refusal of all concerned to confront the central is- sues I raised and their de- termination instead to ob- fuscate matters still further by picking on the most ir- relevant details imaginable and then, more often than not, distorting them beyond recognition.

Thus, among the most frequently bruited allega- tions are those repeated here by Marwan D. Hana- nia and Frederick M. Hoyt: that I misidentified Said’s cousin Boulos Said as his uncle, misidentified his mother’s nationality as Lebanese when she actual- ly "held a Palestinian pass- port," and ignored attempts by Said’s father Wadie to "obtain compensation and redress" for loss of real property in Palestine.

As to my misidentifica- tion of Boulos Said, a triv- ial matter that Said has typ- ically extrapolated into "he got it all wrong," this was indeed an error, acknowl- edged as such and correct- ed in print on page 19 of the October COMMENTARY. It arose in part out of the fact that the person in question, who was married to Said’s aunt Nabiha, shared the family name, and partly out of the fact that Edward Said himself has referred to him in print as "Uncle Boulos." But, uncle or cousin, none of this has the slightest bearing on my thesis: that Edward Said’s nuclear fam- ily held no ownership in- terest in the "beautiful old house" at 10 Brenner Street in Jerusalem that he has claimed he grew up in and has asserted to be his own, but which in fact, as I proved with archival Land Registry office ledgers, he could not have grown up in and the ownership of which passed from his grandfather di- rectly to his aunt Nabiha and her five children.

As to his mother’s na- tionality, Edward Said has himself typically offered contradictory testimony, stating in After the Last Sky (1986) that her passport (of unspecified origin) was tak- en away by a British official in 1932 when she married his father, and in Out of Place that she could have quali- fied for a U.S. passport in 1948 on the strength of her husband’s American citi- zenship but refused to ful- fill all the requirements, subsequently obtaining Leb- anese papers; all this is like- wise of no significance what- soever to my article.

And as, finally, to his fa- ther’s having made an at- tempt at "redress" after 1948, neither Said nor any- one else has ever named the property in question or of- fered a shred of evidence to support this irrelevant and uncheckable contention.

Nor does any such evidence exist with regard to the only two properties Edward Said has specifically claimed for his family over the years: the house on Brenner Street or the Palestine Educational [11] "—-I- —– -COMMENTARY JANUARY 2000 Company. As against this, his own failure to file a claim on "his" house at 10 Brenner Street, now valued at some $1.8 million, speaks for itself: he has none.

Messrs. Hanania and Hoyt are not alone in at- tempting to vaporize my refutation of Said’s claim of ownership by suggesting I am ignorant of the "cos- mopolitan" concepts of prop- erty typical of Middle East- ern families like the Saids.

As Said himself put it in Al- Ahram, "Land Registry records [from Palestine] are rarely complete," and the house on Brenner Street "was in fact a family house in the Arab sense, which meant that our families were one in ownership." Nice try, but legally im- possible and practically rid- iculous. After capturing Pal- estine from the Ottoman empire in World War I, the British enacted the Land Transfer Ordinance (1920), superseding the old Mulk Titles Law in force under the Turks. Foremost among its; provisions was the re- quirement that written con- sent of the Land Registry office be obtained for every disposition of immovable property; entry into posses- sion without such consent was punishable by a fine on both parties to the transfer.

Moreover, both during the Ottoman period and the British Mandate, all land in private hands was subject to taxation, with ownership as- certained by reference to the records of the Land Registry. Those records, as I indicated my article, are not only complete with re- gard to the chain of title ownership for the house at 10 Brenner Street, they are unequivocal on the point of who owned it and who, by implication, did not.

Then there is the matter of Said’s schooling. "He [Weiner] says that I didn’t attend St. George’s School" in Jerusalem, wrote Said in Al-Ahram. "That is an out- right lie." Both he and the mighty duo of Hitchens and Cockburn also accuse me of having failed to consult one of Said’s classmates at the school, Haig Boyadjian, now living in the United States, who could vouch for his presence there. But who is lying here? I explicitly stipulated in COMMENTARY that the young Edward Said could well have been, "now and then, a temporary stu- dent at St. George’s while on visits to his Jerusalem cousins." But I also demon- strated conclusively that he was never a regular student there and that, not surpris- ingly, there is no entry in the registry books of St.

George’s to attest to his ever having been enrolled in the school. This fact Said bra- zenly elided in the 1998 BBC television documen- tary, In Search of Palestine, in which he is filmed in the headmaster’s office remi- niscing about the school while examining those self- same registry books! As for Boyadjian, I did in fact lo- cate and interview him, and he did in fact recall his friend Said’s having been at St. George’s-but, signifi- cantly, he could not say for how long. All of this is doc- umented in note 88 to my article, available on COM- MENTARY’S website.

But consider the absur- dity of this entire ploy. Here we are arguing about whe- ther Edward Said was schooled in Jerusalem, as in the old version of his life, when he himself has already radically revised that ver- sion in favor of the truer one presented in Out of Place-where, among other things, we learn from his own lips that his schooling from 1941 to 1951 (i.e., from the age of six to six- teen) took place in three dif- ferent institutions, each and every one of them located in Cairo, Egypt. Or are we now expected to believe that during these very same years, half of which saw much transportation mobi- lized for the British effort in World War II, the young Edward Said, duly enrolled at school in Cairo, was si- multaneously commuting 250 miles back and forth across the Sinai desert to attend St.

George’s school in Jeru- salem? Outright lies, indeed.

THIS BRINGS us to point number two: the conten- tion, in the words of Messrs.

Hanania and Hoyt, that Said has "never made con- flicting claims regarding his family’s residence in Jeru- salem or denied that his family spent considerable time in Egypt." Well, if stat- ing repeatedly and in so many words that "I was born in Jerusalem and spent most of my formative years there," or pointedly recol- lecting "my early days in Palestine, my youth, the first twelve or thirteen years of my life before I left Pales- tine," does not conflict with stating that he spent most of his formative years in Egypt, then we are dealing with a novel definition of conflict. Shall we just say instead that Edward Said is capable of asserting (and causing others to assert) both a thing and its oppo- site? Here, too, in any case, I have anticipated my crit- ics, pointing out in my COMMENTARY article that, alongside the carefully cul- tivated impression that he had grown up and gone to school in Jerusalem, only to be driven therefrom by the "Zionists" in 1947, "hints of the truth" about Said’s ear- ly life had "also appeared in fugitive places over the years," even before the full- blown revisionism of Out of Place.

The utter obliteration from that book of any trace of the earlier version is, in- deed, what may have caused some agnostic or unin- formed reviewers (like the eminent literary scholar Frank Kermode in the New York Observer), who had nei- ther followed Said’s ter- giversations as a memoirist nor known much about my article beyond the contro- versy it stirred, to express puzzlement over the dis- pute: for surely the book they had in hand makes no bones about a childhood in Cairo. But others, includ- ing some of Said’s admirers, were not so easily snook- ered. One of them, Steven Howe, reviewing Out of Place for the (London) In- dependent, stated honestly that "The impression gained by most readers of Said’s earlier autobiographical writings is that Jerusalem was his home until the age of twelve, when the family was forced to leave. Cer- tainly this has been my per- ception-and I have read al- most everything that Said has ever published." Just so.

What, then, accounts for the revised standard version now presented in Out of Place? Much sport has been had with my tentative spec- ulation in COMMENTARY ("preposterous and insult- ing"-Edward Said) that "the 85 interviews con- ducted over the course of my own three-year inves- tigation, including many with persons known to him, [12] r . v rYOU CAN OR YOU CAN READ THESE . READ THIS.

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City Mail to: WORLD PRESS REVIEW, P.O. Box 228, Shrub Oak, NY 10588 State & ZipCOMMENTARY JANUARY 2000 may have alerted [Said] to the urgency of retrieving from amnesia this amaz- ingly full reconstruction of his Cairo childhood." In reply, Said has emitted a typical blizzard of mutual- ly contradictory assertions: that, having signed a con- tract for the memoir in 1989, he was really stimu- lated to "write and com- plete" it in 1991 after being diagnosed with leukemia, and finished it in 1997 (London Observer); that the book "was begun in 1994" and finished "in September 1998" (Al-Ahram).

Whichever the case may be, the gestation period of this book-either eight or six years by one account, four by the other-is hardly sugges- tive of haste in the face of a life-threatening disease. And if the book was indeed fin- ished in 1997, or even as late as September 1998, why was publication dragged out for another year or two? My speculation that Said had become aware of my re- search was not merely idle.

Among the dozens of peo- ple interviewed for my arti- cle was his cousin Robert, who lives in Amman. Ed- ward Said has lately accused me of having verbally threat- ened this cousin when he "refused to cooperate" with my research into Edward’s past. That is a typical Said diversion-in fact, it was not I but my young Belgian re- search assistant Paul Lam- bert who visited Robert Said in his office on Janu- ary 23, 1997, and it was Robert Said who did the abusing, yelling "you have been brainwashed" (Lam- bert is a Catholic) and "the Jews are the worst people in the world." But is it unlike- ly Robert Said neglected to inform his illustrious cousin of this occurrence? At about the same time, I also made an attempt to contact Edward Said him- self, in connection with an article I was then working on for the Cornell Interna- tional Law Journal that in- cluded a review of his book flaying the Oslo peace process. Having already be- gun to discover discrepan- cies between his autobio- graphical claims and the his- torical evidence, I phoned his office and spoke to his longtime personal assistant, Zaineb Istrabadi, explaining that I was anxious to resolve the incongruities I had come across. Though I left my telephone number and e-mail address, Said never called me back.

Be all that as it may, there is, finally, reason to believe that as late as spring 1998, the memoir Said was work- ing on was still centered in Jerusalem. According to the April 24, 1998 edition of the Record, an official weekly put out by the office of public affairs at Columbia, the book being written by the university’s renowned pro- fessor of comparative liter- ature, Edward Said, "chron- icles his early years as the son of a wealthy Palestinian Christian businessman, his family’s exile to Cairo after the founding of Israel," etc., etc. Somehow, then, be- tween April 1998 and the time Out of Place was pub- lished in late September 1999, the first twelve years of Edward Said’s life would seem to have undergone a rather thorough transmuta- tion of geographical locale.

How come? Revisions, any- one? By the way, as of April 1998, the hard-to-improve- upon title the Parr profes- sor was giving to his child- hood memoirs was: Not Quite Right.

AND SO to point number three. The question raised by my article was really quite simple: was Edward Said telling the truth when, step- ping forward as an-no, the-emblematic Palestinian exile, he represented himself as having spent his child- hood in a particular "beau- tiful old house" in Jerusa- lem, only to "flee in panic" with his family in 1947 when a Haganah sound truck warned the Arabs to evacu- ate? The answer I arrived at was a thorough and resound- ing no. And this seemed to me most consequential: con- sequential, in the first place, for truth itself, which Said as an intellectual has professed to honor above all things ("’to speak the truth, as plainly, di- rectly, and as honestly as pos- sible"); and consequential, in the second place, for any honest reckoning between Is- raelis and Palestinians, in- cluding in the area of claims for compensation for lost property, which happens to be a professional interest of mine and about which I have written at length ("The Palestinian Refugees’ ‘Right to Return’ and the Peace Process," Boston College In- ternational and Comparative Law Review, Winter 1997).

I still hold such truth- telling to be of fundamen- tal importance. But, as I be- gan by noting above, evi- dently others do not. For many of Said’s most vocal defenders, and even for Said himself, whether he has told the truth or lied would seem to be of no consequence at all. It is rather I who, by questioning him, have com- mitted the heinous act of, as Kenneth J. Saltman writes here, denyingn] the history of an oppressed people"- just as was done in the case of similar accusations about discrepancies in the 2host- written autobiography of the Nobel Peace Prize lau- reate Rigoberta Menchu.

There is really little one can say in response to such attempts at silencing and moral blackmail. Shall I quote Edward Said once again on the intellectual’s responsibility to truth? Or, perhaps, his quite sensible and inadvertently revealing comments on the Menchu controversy in an interview last March? ("The whole question of passing off something as a document of a life raises ethical questions which make me uneasy.

There is a difference be- tween saying ‘I actually went through this’ and saying ‘I didn’t actually go through it but I could have gone through it.’ ") Should I, per- haps, point out (as George Jochnowitz does above) that Said’s actual position on Middle East "peace," reit- erated most recently in the Jerusalem Post (November 30, 1999), calls not for mu- tual recognition but for the creation of a new unitary en- tity in historic Palestine? Meaning, in plain English, that Said, whose supposed contributions to peace are trotted out by his support- ers as an amulet against any and all criticism, favors not a peace between Israel and a Palestinian entity, in what- ever juridical framework, but a Middle East without a state of Israel? None of this, I suspect, will satisfy Said’s partisans or their fellow travelers. Let me close, then, by restating my conviction that the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to which so many of them assert their devotion, is not well-served but-to the contrary-tra- duced by an attachment to historical lies. The fact is that the "best-known Pales- [14] 7 _ _~~~~~~~~~~3You deserve afactual look at…

The So-Called "Peace Process" Does it lead down the road to another Holocaust? Israel was founded fifty-one years ago. It has been a fixture in our lives for all of that time. It has played and con- tinues to play a role-in our emotional lives, economically, politically, and militarily-way beyond its size and its population. Whatever our personal feelings and background, life without Israel is almost unimaginable. But there is a very real possibility that, within a time not too long from now, Israel will no longer exist, that it will be destroyed in a Holocaust even more terrible than the Holocaust of the Second World War, which killed six million Jews.

W hat are the facts? Israel – Utterly Vulnerable. These and other myths are Victimized by Arab Myths. Israel is the only country what fuel the insistence of the Arabs, of most of the world, in the world whose legitimacy, whose "right to exist", has and, yes, also of the United States, that Israel allow itself to be always been questioned. From its very beginning, from dismembered and to turn part or even most of its tiny territory before its birth, Israel was surrounded by mortal ene- over to the "Palestinians." All concerned know well-and it mies,single-mindedly obsessed with its destruction. The has been acknowledged by our military leadership-that very day of its birth, in the truncated and minuscule terri- Israel would be utterly indefensible, at the mercy of its tory assigned to it by the United Nations,six Arab armies implacable enemies, if it were to divest itself of the Jordan invaded the newborn state. Valley, of the "West Bank", of In what was clearly a bibli- "By its pious insistence on ‘justice for the the Gaza Strip, and of the cal miracle, the invading Palestinians’ and pursuit of the ‘peace Golan Heights. Why then hordes were defeated by does the world insist that the ragtag Israeli army. process’, by fomenting and profiting from the Israelmakeitselfsoutterlyvul- In 1967, the s a me buildup of weapons of mass destruction solely nerable? Does anybody really aggressors launched destined for the destruction of Israel, the world oeleve ththe Arabswouldnbe another attack against or any of the Arabs, would be Israel, from the north actively promotes this second Holocaust." appeased, thattheywould rec- (Syria), from the south oncile themselves to the exis- (Egypt), and from the east (Jordan). The Six- tence of a diminished Israel, even if Israel were to yield Day War resulted in a complete rout of the everything, turn the whole country over to the Arabs, except Arabs, and a victory for Israeli arms that will be perhaps Tel Aviv and its suburbs? Everybody knows the studied in war colleges for centuries to come. answer. It would be an emphatic "NO", because the very U n a b 1 e to v a n q u i s h I s r a e 1 on t h e b a t t 1 e – existence of Israel, in whatever reduced territory, is an intol- field, the Arabs launched a propaganda war erable insult to the Muslim Arabs, for whom Israel must be that has been very successful, and which the rubbed out regardless of the sacrifices to be brought. Jews (despite their reputation for being so Why does the world focus on the spurious claims of the "smart") have clearly and irretrievably lost. "Palestinians", an artificially created nationality that never Among the many myths propagated by the Arabs are that in recorded history had an identity or country of their there is such a thing as a "Palestinian nation" (it’s a con- own? Why is there no clamor that the French and Spanish cept that is not more than 40 years old); that the Israelis give an independent country to their Basque minorities? (Jews) are "occupiers" (if they were, who would be the How about the Kurds, who are under the heavy thumbs of sovereign that they displaced?); that Jerusalem is Islam’s the Iranians, the Turks, the Iraqis, and the Syrians? How "third holiest city" (it’s never once mentioned in the about the Tibetans, subjugated by the Chinese; and so Koran, but hundreds of times in the Jewish Bible); the many others? Nobody cares. Nobody wants to "liber- transformation of the age-old provinces of Judea/Samaria ate" them. It’s only the Jews who are being asked to into the "West Bank"; the concept of "settlements" (with dismember their tiny country, less than half of the its connotation of illegality); and much more. size of San Bernardino County in California.

The Arab countries (and Iran) are frantically arming themselves with the most dreadful weapons of mass destruction. As the world knows, it is for one purpose only-their only political objective and their relentless obsession-namely the destruction of Israel. Two or three nuclear weapons would wipe Israel off the map once and for all. Retaliation by Israel, the destruction of major Arab cities, and millions of Arab casualties, would not deter the Muslim fanatics from pursuing their goal. For them, it would be a small price to pay. With Israel dismembered, with five or six Arab states poised to attack with weapons of mass destruction, with 40,000 Palestinian "police" armed to the teeth in Israel’s midst, can anybody really doubt that a second Holocaust, even more terrible than the first one, is just about upon us? During the Nazi Holocaust, the whole world stood silent- ly by and didn’t lift a finger to prevent the most gruesome slaughter of innocents in the history of the world. In fact, many who were given the opportunity joyfully and enthusiastically participated in the bloodbath. By its pious insistence on "justice for the Palestinians" and pursuit of the "peace process", by fomenting and profiting from the buildup of weapons of mass destruction solely destined for the destruction of Israel, the world actively promotes this second Holocaust. Deep down inside, does the world really want the Jews to live or to disappear? This ad has been published and paid for by FLAME Facts and Logic about the Middle East PO. Box 590359 U San Francisco,CA 94159 FLAME is a tax-exempt, non-profit educational 501(c)(3) organization. Its purpose is the research and publication of the facts regarding developments in the Middle East and exposing false propaganda that might harm the interests of the United States and its allies in that area of the world.Your tax- deductible contributions are welcome. They enable us to pursue these goals and to publish these messages in national newspapers and magazines. We have virtually no overhead. Almost all of our revenue pays for our educa- tional work, for these clarifying messages, and for related direct mail.COMMENTARY JANUARY 2000 tinian intellectual in the world" (as he was recently described on the BBC) made wholesale political use of the supposed circum- stances of his childhood, weaving an elaborate myth of paradise and expulsion from paradise out of one or two circumstances and a raft of inventions. That myth has been exposed, and its purveyor has been revealed not as a refugee from Pales- tine, but as a refugee from the truth. To judge by the way he and his supporters have responded, he, and they, are still on the run.

I want to thank most warmly those readers who have taken the trouble to write in praise of my article.

The Republicans To THE EDITOR: Daniel Casse’s "What the Republicans Have Forgot- ten" [October 1999] is es- sentially a hymn to Nelson Rockefeller. There is, of course, the obligatory bow to Ronald Reagan, a conserva- tive, but clearly the proper sort-a big-government con- servative.

Let me pose the follow- ing questions to Mr. Casse: Are the lives of most people really improved by the departments of Energy, Commerce, Education, and Transportation? Has in- creased social spending actu- ally done more good than harm? Mr. Casse’s obvious affirmation of these notions is of a piece with his parrot- ing of the Democrats. For example, he writes that "the Republican-led Congress shut down the federal gov- ernment," without any men- tion of presidential intransi- gence during the 1995 show- down. He even cites the Clinton impeachment and the push for term limits as instances of the Republicans being "reflexively anti-gov- ernment." But Mr. Casse’s disdain for conservatism is rawest in the intimation that fanaticism inheres in being pro-life.

Perhaps Republicans ded- icated to buying votes using the public treasury and act- ing indifferently toward per- jury and abortion are the kind of Republicans most likely to succeed. S

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