Edward Said was a rare voice of reason

Edward Said, Palestinian writer and intellectual, died of leukemia last week at age 67.

His death is a tragedy for Palestinians and the world. Said, who spent most of his adult life in the United States, will be remembered for his influential writings on the Arab-Israeli conflict, which uniquely reflected his personal truth rather than a blind adherence to one political ideology.

Said is most well known for his 1978 book, “Orientalism,” in which he critically examined Western stereotypes of Arabs. His work pointed out the tendency of Western scholars to take Arab authors and artwork out of historical context and give the impression of a unilateral, unchanging Arab people. The criticism is especially relevant post-Sept. 11, 2001, when thousands of frustrated Americans hop on Amazon.com to find any book written by a Westerner that might distill the Islamic mentality for about $16.95 or 150-200 pages.

Today, we have a desperate need for more critical, nonpartisan dialogue regarding Palestinian-Israeli relations. Said is an inspiration to future thinkers because he was unafraid to move past the tired, well-established arguments in this debate. He was a member of the Palestinian National Council, a parliament in exile, from 1977-1991. He stepped down when he became frustrated with Yasser Arafat.

Said was unpopular among some Palestinians for his open criticism of their methods of reaching peace. For others, he was a beacon of hope because he offered intelligent discourse free from strict political loyalty.

The world will continue to look to Said for inspiration. He bravely shared his ideas at the risk of being excluded from his own community. In doing so, he demonstrated the value of moving beyond the strict dualistic view of Palestinians versus Israelis. Said was able to shine light on the faults of both groups and remain true to his identity as a Palestinian. To show that we are all fallible also shows our shared humanity. We will remember Said for giving us a clear, unfaltering voice in support of lasting peace.