If I could, I would like to redraw comrades attention to this remarkable 2003 Edward Said speech given a just a few months before he died. It appeared on Democracy Now in the waning days of the Second Intifada, but the news from Palestine that Amy Goodman begins with could have been today’s.
In the speech, entitled “On Dignity and Solidarity” (the full text here), Said talks about a whole range of issues and ideas. Rachel Corrie, now the name christened to a Free Gaza Irish aid boat attempting to break Israel’s blockade in defiance of Israel’s latest massacre as I write this, had just been murdered in Gaza by a bulldozer-driving Israeli soldier as she attempted to prevent the demolition of yet another Palestinian home. That act, both the nobility of the solidarity and the vulgarity of the murder, set the tone as Said places the Palestinian struggle in the context of a larger struggle for human freedom as well as the arena of global politics.
This is Said at his best; combative, a little hammy, powerfully lucid and with a full pallet of intellectual colors to paint with. A humanist, Said places Palestine firmly in the human family even if it be its most violated member. He fills the speech with sharp turns all coming back to the central dignity and justice of the Palestinian struggle, a vital component of a larger struggle for freedom. For Said, justice cannot be compromised (he quit the Palestine National Council after Oslo) and words, the truth and the lies, a weapon.
He would die only a few months after this talk. His frailty clearly visible and adding to the urgency of his message. His fight for justice never ceased and the weapon he forged with his words, with his ideas, is a sword of the sharpest steel. Unsheath it. Wield it. The movement of solidarity that Said speaks of is now in the hands of a new, energized and determined generation, the Free Gaza Movement is one of a growing number of campaigns. The continued resistance such as that happening in the villages of Bi’lin and Ni’lin is a potent reminder of the creative dignity that is the struggle for Palestinian liberation. Now, more than ever we need the clarity, the courage of Edward Said. Let the Zionists, the imperialists rue their arrogance; that clarity and courage is increasingly alive and no longer afraid.