Turbulent history

by Kristin Gustafson

The Middle East peace process is flawed because it leaves the core issue — the displacement and dispossession of an entire Palestinian people in 1948 — unaddressed, Edward Said told his audience Monday.
The Columbia University professor and prominent Palestinian intellectual tried to remedy this by giving his audience a history lesson and an insider perspective. He addressed an audience of more than 800 people at the Ted Mann Concert Hall with his lecture, “The Consequences of 1948: The Palestinian Catastrophe.”
Born in the city of Jerusalem, Said said when he turned 12-years-old, “Palestine, as I knew it, was destroyed and most of the people in it evicted.” The state of Israel was then created for Jews as a homeland in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust.
He took the audience through the past 80 years of Middle East history — a history, he said, the media has not told.
Now one of the most prominent Palestinian activists in America, Said is an outspoken critic of Israeli policies towards Palestinians, the United States’ Middle East policies and of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The Princeton University and Harvard University graduate is also an author, distinguished humanities professor, opera critic, media analyst and essayist.
When the state of Israel formed, Palestinians became second-class citizens in their homeland, Said explained.
“Israel as only for Jews,” he said, cannot work. Jews are seen as the classic victims of history, and allowed Israel as their homeland, Said noted. But Israel’s displacement of Palestinians and control of borders, security, air and water rights makes Palestinians, “the victims of the victims and the refugees of the refugees,” he said.
Said’s solution is for “Palestine-Israel,” as he called it, to become a state of its citizens, offering political and cultural rights to all of its citizens.
“His main point is that Palestinians and Israelis need to start working together and have a one state system with civic and civil rights,” said Laila Wuollet, a first-year international relations student. “I knew that they’d been tortured. But I didn’t know to what extent.”
Daniel Larimore, a senior English and political science major, agreed that the Israelis and Palestinians need to get along with each other in order to live together, but said that completely ruling out the current peace processes is somewhat of a mistake.
Marisela Bixby, a University law student who studied the Middle Eastern and Latin American issues, said she agreed with “the way that he interpreted the facts.”
The media has misinterpreted Palestinians and portrayed them as terrorists, similar to how those in Cuba and the Sandinistas have been presented, Bixby said. As an intellectual speaking out, Said helps others “figure out who these people are, give them a face — give them a humanity.” We need someone like him, Bixby added.