We have to learn how to read words that have been erased, that is our story, we, a people whose story is erased and its language erased, so if we do not learn how to read what has been erased, all will be lost.
— Elias Khoury, Yalo
The propaganda work of the Israel lobby in the US has made unthinkable any political identification by Americans with Hizbullah. It has thereby erased the Arab Muslim narrative from all US public discourse and debate. And yet it turns out, in one of the most surprising ironies of our age, that the anticolonial resistance movement in Lebanon has a close affinity to America’s own pantheon of culture heroes and archetypes. Azmi Bishara has put it lucidly:
The Arabs admire Hizbullah not as an Iranian tool, but because it is made up of Arab Muslim fighters who are rebuilding a people’s confidence in their identity. If these Arabs can take on Israel so can others, once they are free of the fetters of underdevelopment and armed with resolve. The Arabs admire Hizbullah for the same qualities that Americans or Europeans would admire a political party that led them in a struggle against a foreign enemy: valour, courage, persistence, organizational skill, modesty in words, strength in action, a strong grassroots base, a desire to help the needy and other manifestations of a social conscience. They admire Hizbullah because it avoids hollow sloganeering, it is not corrupt and its electoral victories are not the result of nepotism, favoritism, or bribes.1
Bishara’s analysis brings to mind other political identifications also made impossible by the Israel lobby, such as with Hamas, which came to political power in the West Bank and Gaza, in a landslide democratic vote, above all because of the moral and intellectual integrity of its community activists and organizers, many of whom are tireless advocates for the poor, underpaid professors, elementary school teachers, and healthcare workers.2 It is a powerful irony that of all the political parties in the world today with which economically exploited, politically repressed, and socially alienated Americans can identify, arguably the two closest to their own outlook and sensibility are the two most regularly vilified by their government and its so-called liberal media.
It is easy to see the symptomatic character of this type of blocked political identification between Americans and Arab Muslims – as evidence of a much deeper kind of rightwing ideological indoctrination and political repression of the world’s laboring classes by global capital. Still, rarely on the American Left is this question pursued with very much interest. Kathleen Christison’s exhaustive historical study of the American-Israeli relationship, Perceptions of Palestine, is an exception to the general pattern. In a recent article published in CounterPunch, co-authored with her husband Bill Christison, the kernel of her book’s main thesis is advanced: that the US identifies with Israel’s “national style.”
Israel is essential to the “ideological prospering” of the US; each country has “grafted” the heritage of the other onto itself. This applies even to the worst aspects of each nation’s heritage. Consciously or unconsciously, many Israelis even today see the US conquest of the American Indians as something “good,” something to emulate and, which is worse, many Americans even today are happy to accept the “compliment” inherent in Israel’s effort to copy us.3
Hamas leader Khalid Mishal has aptly described this kind of rightwing identity formation as an “Israelization” of the mind.4 Edward Said explained it perspicaciously thirty years ago in The Question of Palestine – as “the road of minority provincialism with regard to the surrounding majority,” an essential point to which we will return.5
Thus if the Israelization process has its origins not in Palestine or the Arab world but rather in a certain kind of Eurocentric or racist identity politics, as both Said and Christison have shown convincingly – one peculiarly Anglo-American, coming as it has from a particular type of European settler-colonial or white ethnic experience in the New World – and that it is precisely this long reactionary road which has led us directly to the disastrous and hugely unpopular US invasion and occupation of Iraq, then the search for an alternative path is the obvious task at hand. The thesis here is that in carrying out this task there is no need to reinvent the wheel – that it is not a “new” path we will cut, but a matter of getting back onto a road that has been here all along.
A Concrete Utopia
Today is the time for theory. Time to withdraw and think.
— Slavoj Zizek
In the West Bank town of Abu Dees, where in 2006-2007 I lived and worked as a professor of writing and literature at Al-Quds University, I found myself being asked the same question over again: Why do Americans keep supporting the racist Jewish state? Aren’t they supposed to be against fascism? It is a straightforward question for any person under this US-financed forty-year-old military occupation to ask, especially during a period in which Israel is disappearing four or five Palestinian civilians a day – what the Israeli authorities refer to as “targeted assassinations”6 – and more than a million Gazans are being deliberately starved to death.7 But what is the right answer? In a pro-Israeli environment like the US academy and mainstream media, the query never gets off the ground. Ironically, directly under the military occupation is where a host of competing theories can be heard daily, in shops and on buses, on street corners and in neighborhood cafés and restaurants, in college classrooms and at the dinner table.
This kind of discourse is often motivated by a commonly held belief among Palestinians: that Christians and Muslims share a common cultural heritage deeply rooted in the history of the region, not at the expense of Judaism but in the form of a new radically transcending consciousness: a conscious rejection of classical Judaism’s exclusivist and recidivist orthodoxies. That is to say, Palestinians arguing the Christian-Muslim cross-cultural thesis point to the eight centuries of Arab Muslim and European Christian cross-cultural fusion in Arabic al-Andalus (Spain), through which the Andalusian Christians became eventually known as Mozarabs (“wanna-be-Arabs”).
Whether scholars in religious studies agree or disagree with this proposition is purely, and literally, academic, as sentiment in the street is never shaped by academic discourse. It is determined by historical circumstances caused by seemingly inexorable forces constantly being perceived through a collective political common sense. In this case, the common sense among Palestinians is that Christianity and Islam, in bold contrast to classical Judaism, are thoroughly modern and humanizing religions, premised on a catholicity of knowledge and an impulse toward universalizing this knowledge, so that every human being can participate openly and democratically in a common spiritual community.
I did some research on the subject at Al-Quds University, where I soon found a fascinating article by Yale professor of Spanish and Portuguese, Maria Rosa Menocal. She documents in her scholarship on al-Andalus the fact that the leading churchmen of ninth-century Córdoba often complained bitterly that “young Christian men can barely write decent letters in Latin but are so in love with Arabic poetry that they can recite it better than the Muslims themselves.”8 Professor Menocal shows that the absolute centrality of Arabic poetry in al-Andalus “meant that the educated Jewish community came to know it and write it and in some profound way covet it, because it was so at odds with their own relationship to Hebrew, with which they had, for hundreds and hundreds of years, a dried-out, formal, purely liturgical relationship.” Her main argument is that the “post-Solomonic revival of Hebrew as a language for secular poetry, which is the earth-shaking transformation of Jewish culture unique to that time and place, cannot be understood merely as the result of progressive social policies.” In a compelling formulation Menocal states the matter felicitously: “Pious Muslims could recite the Qur’an in God’s own sacred language, but for the Muslims God did not hoard His language and keep it locked up in His temples, and so those same Muslims could also do a thousand different things in Arabic.”9
Menocal’s scholarship adds on to the Caribbean scholar Jan Carew’s important research on “the Moorish Enlightenment.” Carew shows that, “At a time when the most insignificant provinces of Moorish Spain contained libraries running into the thousands of volumes, the cathedrals, monasteries and palaces of León, under Christian rule, numbered books only by the dozen.”10 He cites in particular the case of Arab Muslim scholar Ibn-Hayyan of Córdoba, who wrote a history of Spain in ten volumes. In comparison, all that eleventh-century León could produce in terms of historiography “were the fifteen sparse and imprecise pages of Sampiro, notary to Alfonso V.”11
The glorious Arab Muslim Enlightenment in the Iberian Peninsula was brought to a stunning and deeply depressing end on 2 January 1492, when the Moorish suzerainty surrendered to Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille. A few months later Isabella signed the edict ordering the mass expulsion of the Arabs and the Jews. Carew is one of the few historians of the period to note that all four of Columbus’s voyages were financed by funds seized from dispossessed Arabs and Jews. Carew summarizes the long period of Muslim-Christian cooperation thus: “For centuries, Muslims, Christians, and Jews had lived side-by-side, and, in many instances, had so intermarried that numerous families were part Muslim, part Christian and part Jew. The teachings of the Prophet, too, had stressed repeatedly that peoples of all races and colours were equal in the sight of Allah, and these teachings were not only preached but practiced.”12
The legacy of al-Andalus is a complex problem, profoundly double-sided in character. On the one hand al-Andalus stands today in Palestine for a type of irreducible singularity – a dynamic, radically discontinuous (historically speaking) paradigm of cross-culturality which remains completely unique in world history for having actually attained to the level of an impossible ideal: the development of social conditions in which there can be perfect co-existence and cooperation in one place among all three of the world’s monotheistic religions. On the other hand al-Andalus functions as political symbol – an open defiance of the core principle and overriding goal of Zionist ideology, the establishment of “Eretz-Israel,” i.e. the making into historical reality, through military force, of the biblical myth that the “Holy Land,” which according to Zionism includes not just all of historical Palestine but substantial parts of Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan as well, was promised by God exclusively to the Jewish people. This founding principle of Zionism was enshrined in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, and on 29 November 1947 the United Nations General Assembly sanctioned it officially, by passing a resolution calling for “the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel” and, moreover, by requiring “the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as are necessary” for this resolution’s implementation. In other words, the projection of al-Andalus is at one and the same time a case of reversion at the symbolic level (defiance of the ongoing Western European Zionist project of “Eretz-Israel”) and a modern secular democratic national longing for form – for a concrete utopia in the land of Palestine, in which freedom for Palestine is the same as freedom from territorial acquisition and any and all religious dogmatisms enabling it.
It seems, then, that the Palestinian political common sense that a robust Christian-Muslim cross-cultural alliance once existed, one in which world Jewry benefited immensely, has a solid foundation in historical fact. More important is that, in flat contradiction to all the vitriolic rhetoric about Hamas in the Western media, this historical fact is actually one of the guiding principles of the Islamic nationalist movement in Palestine, a principle clearly articulated and widely disseminated in its literature. One of the founding members of Hamas, Khalid Mishal, recently re-stated it in an interview with the Journal of Palestine Studies, namely, that “being an Islamist movement in Palestine or the Arab world does not mean you are opposed to the Palestinian or Arab Christian, or even to the liberal and secular Palestinian or Arab.”
To the contrary, we are taught to reinforce the culture of co-existence, dialogue, cooperation, of give-and-take, and to avoid fanaticism in religion, thought, or affiliation. A distinctive feature of the Arab world, and particularly Palestine, is tolerance, and Palestine since the Arab conquest has always been a model for religious co-existence between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. So there is no contradiction between being an Islamic movement in Palestine, where most of the population is Muslim, and having good relations with all sectors of society, including the Christians, who are a part of our society and our partners in the nation.13
The idea that Protestantism and Islam are counterparts has a firm footing in the historical record. As Eric Hobsbawm has documented in The Age of Revolution, among all the world’s religions in the period from 1789 to 1848 only Islam and the Protestant revivalist movement “showed a particular aptitude for expansion.” Importantly, Hobsbawm points out that just as systematic Protestant missionary activity was beginning in Western Europe and the US, “Islam was continuing that silent, piecemeal and irreversible expansion unbacked by organized missionary endeavor or forcible conversion, which is so characteristic of that religion.” There was, however, a significant difference between the two: Protestant revivalism (or millenarianism) “was almost entirely confined to the countries of developed capitalist civilizations.” Still, those attracted to the movement in Western Europe and the US (from artisans and pauperized craftsmen to frontiersmen, seamen, and small individual cultivators and miners) shared much in common with those being drawn into the world Islamic revival (from small traders and bond-laborers to landless peasants and dispossessed farmers), namely the need for “a welcome release from the stresses of a society which provided no equivalent outlets for mass emotion, and destroyed those which had existed in the past.” In the case of Protestant revivalism, Hobsbawm shows that it “could easily turn into a democratic, egalitarian assembly of the faithful without social or religious hierarchy, and thus appealed to the common man,” while with Islam (especially in the Arab world, Africa, and Brazil) “a useful counterweight to slavery” was made available, as well as social, educational, and political institutions which enabled militant resistance to Western European colonialism, in particular to the French. To put it another way, while the Protestant revivalist movement “spread most readily among those who stood between the rich and powerful on one side, the masses of traditional society on the other: i.e. among those who were about to rise into the middle class, those about to decline into a new proletariat, and the indiscriminate mass of small and independent men in between,” the world Islamic revival “sunk its roots more deeply into the population” by appealing directly to religious teachers who “anticipated a pan-Islamism which sought not merely a return to the original purity of the Prophet but also to absorb Western innovations.”14
Yet because historical facts are today out of fashion, it is necessary to shift into mythology, where all the real action is anyway.
In one of the most elementary cases of circular reasoning, Christian and Jewish Zionists stake Israel’s historical claim to the land of Palestine entirely on the notion that the Hebrew Bible is objective history. This is the same kind of tautological argument parents are sometimes reduced to when pressed by their children to explain the imposition of a new house rule: It’s the law of the house because in my house I make all the laws – if you don’t like it, go some place else. More to the point, if the Bible is objective history and not mythology, then everything outside the Bible is pure mythology. In fact, this is the dominant Zionist structure of feeling, whether Christian or Jewish, in which each and every challenge to its grand narrative of history is dismissed out of hand as “anti-Semitic.” In this respect, one of the most astounding contradictions of the American Cultural Left is that, in its embrace of French theory or “poststructuralism,” i.e. the notion that history is a discursive field no different in its ideological effects than novel writing or the cinema, it has managed to completely elude the case of Israel, whose Zionist narrative perfectly exemplifies cultural theory’s simplistic “social construct” thesis, whereby – as the popular Foucauldian cliché puts it – power creates truth and truth in turn creates power.
In Israel it is not the lunatic religious settler movement that is most responsible for the invention of “ancient Israel,” but rather the “dovish” secular-Jewish Israeli intelligentsia. Take, for instance, one of Israel’s most celebrated writers and intellectuals, A.B. Yehoshua. In a recent interview he says:
The birthplace of the Jewish people is Israel: the land that is called Eretz Yisrael, the people are called Am Israel, the people of Israel. In asking ourselves what is the relationship between Jew and Israeli, the answer is that the Israeli is the total Jew, the whole Jew, meaning the Jew who is living in a total, all-embracing Jewish reality, on Jewish land, where the diverse components of life (culture, economy, government, etc.) are all Jewish.15
In this intellectual shell game Yehoshua substitutes mythology for history, but does the empirical record of ancient Palestine support his historical narrative? This is the kind of inquiry perfectly suited for graduate seminars in cultural theory, yet in the US the Palestine taboo remains firmly in place and thus no such project has ever been attempted.
Nonetheless, several prominent biblical scholars have in the past ten years strongly critiqued their own basic assumptions about “ancient Israel,” which had been taken directly, they acknowledge now, from the pro-Israeli and Zionist controlled Hebrew Bible industry. Writing in the wake of the first Palestinian Intifada, whose effect was to puncture all the wispy and romantic rightwing fantasies of an innocent Jewish state surrounded by bloodthirsty Arab predators, these scholars began reassessing everything they had believed with certainty and, more crucially, had themselves committed to the scholarly record. Keith W. Whitelam is one such scholar, whose book The Invention of Ancient Israel shocked the entire field of biblical studies when it first appeared in 1996. Since then there have been savage attacks on his character by the Zionist movement, but his book remains in print and its central conclusion has never been contradicted: that “Viewed from the longer perspective, the history of ancient Israel is a moment in the vast expanse of Palestinian history.”16
Whitelam demonstrates that what has been posited in biblical studies as “ancient Israeli history” is nothing more than selective paraphrasing of the Hebrew Bible, itself a massively edited volume, one that has been translated creatively into more languages than any other literary text in world history. He shows that the empirically verifiable archeological record provides no evidence for the existence of a “Davidic empire” and a king called Solomon, much less for people called “Israelites.” On this same note, the eminent historian of ancient Palestine, Gösta W. Ahlström, in one of his final works of empirical archeological scholarship, concluded that “No kingdom called Israel or Judah, much less an Israelite empire, is anywhere attested in the records of the non-Palestinian countries.”17
What the documentary record does show conclusively is an expansive Cana’anite cultural radiance emanating throughout the whole region, in the form of the Cana’anite religious pantheon headed by El and administered by his sons and daughters Ba’al, Yahweh, Asherah, and Anat. Another major biblical scholar, Mark S. Smith, has recently demonstrated in his rigorous study, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, that in the ancient Cana’anite religious pantheon can be found every important myth of the subsequent Hebrew Bible, from the great flood and the life of Job, down to the virgin birth, the crucifixion, and the return of the Messiah.18 In the case of Whitelam, his overall thesis is straightforward and expressed cogently. He writes:
The discourse of biblical studies has imagined an ancient Israeli state that is remarkably similar in many aspects to the modern state. What is striking are the recurrent themes, images, and phrases which appear throughout the discourse from the 1920s onwards to the present day: the Davidic monarchy as the defining moment in the history of the region, the existence of a Davidic empire to rival other imperial powers in the ancient world, the defensive nature of David’s state, the paradox of the alien nature of the monarchy to Israel, and Israel as a nation set apart from surrounding nations.19
Whitelam proves that each of these Zionist claims is, from the standpoint of the historical record, pure mythology.
Palestinian scholar Basem Ra’ad has pursued a similar line of inquiry in his recent research on Cana’anite mythology and the monotheistic appropriation of its religious pantheon. For instance, he shows that traditional Bible translations that render “Yahweh” as “Lord” and “El” as “God” “muffle distinctions between the two gods to preserve the impression that they are the same deity.”20 In the ancient Cana’anite tradition the god of the Old Testament, Yahweh, is the son of the Cana’anite chief deity El. But in the Hebrew Bible’s narrative of the pantheon, El’s singular identity is totally diffused and ultimately erased. Ra’ad’s original research points to an esoteric Jewish cult of the ninth century, the Masorites, as the particular Hebrew Bible editors responsible for collapsing El into his son Yahweh. He documents that the Masorites altered significantly the Dead Sea Scrolls, in specific the crucial phrase “the sons of Adam (or man).” Under heavy Masorite editing, this phrase in Deuteronomy was changed to “the sons of Israel.” Yet not until the late 1970s did biblical scholars take note of this Masoritic fabrication and change it back to the original formulation (see The Complete Parallel Bible, Oxford University Press, 1993). The events of the Hebrew Bible, argues Ra’ad, “are now increasingly seen as fictional or fictionalized (or appropriated or misdated or exaggerated), and therefore the locations of these events are doubtful at best.”
In many cases (such as notions of “Mount Zion” or “temple” or “flood” or “exodus” or “virgin birth” or “resurrection”), the ideas are transferred from other geographical or chronological contexts, projected onto new locations with new prerogatives by the carriers of belief – which beliefs, in isolated form and removed from their original contexts, become a major “tradition” in the West, attributed through insistent repetition or ignorance to people and areas other than their original sources. However, there is an “industry” in the West and in Israel that wants to maintain, in whatever guise, the illusions of a biblical past.21
In this same light, a major publishing event took place in Israel last year when the Jewish Israeli historian Shlomo Zand offered to the public his long years of research on the origins of the Jewish people, a text provocatively titled When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? (published by Resling in Hebrew – an English-language translation is now underway). The venerable Israeli historian Tom Segev, in his review of the book in Ha’aretz, synthesized Zand’s thesis as follows:
There never was a Jewish people, only a Jewish religion, and the exile also never happened – hence there was no return. Zand rejects most of the stories of national-identity formation in the Bible, including the exodus from Egypt and, most satisfactorily, the horrors of the conquest under Joshua. It’s all fiction and myth that served as an excuse for the establishment of the State of Israel… According to Zand, the Zionist need to devise for them a shared ethnicity and historical continuity produced a long series of inventions and fictions, along with an invocation of racist theses. Some were concocted in the minds of those who conceived the Zionist movement, while others were offered as the findings of genetic studies conducted in Israel.22
Professor Shlomo’s intent, says Segev, is “to promote the idea that Israel should be a ‘state of all its citizens’ – Jews, Arabs and others – in contrast to its declared identity as a ‘Jewish and democratic’ state.”
Were it not for the total scale of the Israeli Zionist ordeal in historical Palestine and the universal consequences of the Jewish state’s further confiscation of Palestinian land and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, these issues would be important mainly to academics and people curious about the historical origins of the world’s dominant monotheistic religions. But if the epic anticolonial Palestinian struggle for national independence and self-determination has changed anything at all – and from the standpoint today of a savagely besieged West Bank and Gaza, where an end to the occupation appears much less likely than the end of Palestine itself, this point needs special emphasis – it is the way that the Palestinian movement has been clearing our heads about the crucial distinctions between myth and history.
Myths are not simply textual and cosmological, and history is far more than a discursive field. Contrary to what the cultural theorists say, there is such a thing as an empirically verifiable historical fact, and likewise there are massive human consequences of certain “discursive formations” such as “ancient Israel”: they do not merely circulate around in literary texts producing playful gaps in meaning and scintillating (for the cultural interpreter) aporias in logic. The main distinction between myth and history is that while people can be easily sheltered in myth, in empirical history there is never any place to hide. In my view, the failure to make this distinction helps to explain the current derangements in, and deformities of, US and Israeli civil society, in which the citizens of each nation enjoy a great deal more democratic freedoms than the rest of humanity yet use these freedoms not to participate in the making of history but to climb deeper inside the womb of myth. In so doing, they surrender the making of history to corporate CEOs, neo-imperialists, war profiteers, and Wall Street speculators, people for whom history is merely a ridiculous fairy tale. Gore Vidal puts it plainly: “We live in an impermeable bubble without the sort of information that people living in real countries have access to when it comes to their own reality…we are not actually people in the eyes of the national ownership: we are simply unreliable consumers comprising an overworked, underpaid labor force not in the best of health.” The force of Vidal’s critique is in how he gets to the root of the problem, not only the particular class responsible for constructing the bubble (the corporate media) but the nature of the reactionary anti-Enlightenment ideology with which it constantly indoctrinates the American public. As a result, “fifty-nine percent of Americans believe that John’s apocalyptic prophecies in the Book of Revelation will be fulfilled, and nearly all of these believe that the faithful will be taken up into heaven in the ‘Rapture.’” Vidal argues that the root of the matter is that the “great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism.”23
From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three antihuman religions have evolved – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal – God is the omnipotent father – hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates…. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not just for one tribe but all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good…. Ultimately, totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the sky-god’s purpose. Any movement of a liberal nature endangers his authority and that of his delegates on earth. One God, one king, one Pope, one master in the factory, one father-leader in the family at home.24
The preference for myth over history reveals a panicked fear of the present. Many will point to the national housing crisis and the current financial meltdown, the “War on Terror,” falling real wages, increased police repression, gigantic consumer debt, massive job loss, failing public schools, and exponentially rising healthcare costs as rational reasons for a culture of fear in the US. But these are symptoms, not causes, of the fear. The cause of the fear is a lack of historical consciousness. And this is the main difference between Arab Muslims and American Christians: the possession of basic knowledge of their own history and an understanding of that history in line with the everyday struggle for self-emancipation. Whereas for those trapped in the Zionist narrative of history the only social horizon in sight is one drenched in blood, that is, in biblical Armageddon, for everyone else it is the opposite: that precisely in the total madness of the Zionist narrative is our realistic hope in the future, and for genuine security. For with the imminent collapse of this narrative will emerge a new social horizon: a way of thinking and feeling based not on religious myth but on reason and self-consciousness, on historical understanding. It is a good way to explain the unconditional support Americans keep giving to the antidemocratic Israeli regime in Palestine – that is, as a resistance to having to think historically – yet the analysis itself can of course do little to end it. We return, then, to the blocked political identifications of politically alienated Americans with Hizbullah and Hamas. What if these identifications were freed from the Zionist corral and enabled to follow their own rational logic? Where would this logic lead?25
There are several steps open to those who reject the Zionist narrative of history. The first is a re-imagined American civil rights movement. Like African Americans in the Jim Crow South and their Black South African counterparts under apartheid, Arab Muslims today are fighting an inspiring war against the forces of racial oppression. The catastrophic Israeli destruction of Gaza and Lebanon, and large parts of the West Bank as well, is explicitly racial in character, and those leading the heroic resistance against it occupy the racial bottom of the two societies. Hizbullah and Hamas are political parties of the abjectly poor – of the refugee camps – and the Arab poor they represent have been made this way by decades of US-sponsored Israeli racial terror and colonialist oppression. Their immediate struggles are national in scope, yet their ultimate goal is the overthrow of a whole regional system of racial oppression, which in the case of the Palestinians is more than sixty years old.
Several new scholarly books have been published on the origins of Hamas that solidly substantiate this thesis: that Hamas is a comprehensive anticolonial movement with deep roots in the Palestinian people’s long resistance to Western imperialism in the Arab world. For instance, Azzim Tamimi shows in his study, Hamas: A History from Within, that many Hamas leaders had fathers who fought in the Palestinian uprising of 1936-39.26 In fact, the formal establishment of Hamas came in the early 1980s, in direct response to the barring of the Islamic Justice List by Fatah and the PFLP from participation in the General Union of Palestinian Students.27 In this light Loren D. Lybarger argues in Identity and Religion in Palestine that the Hamas movement’s staying power, in the face of overwhelming force against it, is due mainly to how its organizers “adapt and creatively recombine overlapping orientations into novel expressions of collective belonging.”28
Another important element of the Zionist narrative of history is the tendency on the liberal-left to see the Israeli occupation as a great tragedy, as an epic case of a whole people going, in a single generation, from oppressed to oppressor – the assumption being that Zionism started as a national liberation movement. This view conveniently displaces the question of the current US and Israeli capitalist ruling-class policies and political priorities behind Zionism and its six decades of military and political conquest in Palestine. In other words, it misses the point that the indispensable condition for US hegemony in the Arab world is, and always has been, the Israeli Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Israeli scholar and civil rights activist Israel Shahak debunked several decades ago the left-liberal myth that Zionism arose in the West as a liberatory movement in defense of European Jewry. Shahak documented the delight with which Zionist leaders in Germany welcomed Hitler’s rise to power – “because they shared his belief in the primacy of ‘race.’” He proved that rather than opposing Hitlerian fascism, German Jewish Zionists welcomed it enthusiastically. “They congratulated Hitler on his triumph over the common enemy – the forces of liberalism.”29 Though ignored during his lifetime, Shahak’s main thesis about Israeli Zionism, that it is an embrace of the most reactionary feature of classical Judaism, its “hatred and contempt for agriculture as an occupation and for peasants as a class,”30 is far more relevant today than it was twenty years ago. From the Jewish Israeli destruction of Palestinian olive groves and the siphoning of Palestinian natural springs for the purpose of watering their illegal settlement lawns, to the economic strangulation of Jericho farmers through the digging of a massively long trench along the Jordan valley, Israeli Zionist policy toward the Palestinians is consciously and deliberately anti-laboring class, and in this way belongs to the avant-garde of late imperialist social control theory and practice.31 That is, Israel’s destruction of Palestine is a microcosm of the whole: late imperialism’s single-minded attempt to destroy small farmers and independent laboring people across the globe, wherever they exist – the only people left standing who actually understand nature, who have humanized nature. While capitalist land concentration schemes face militant resistance in rural France and across Latin America, in the US and Palestine they continue to enjoy uninterrupted success.
Palestinian political economist Adel Samara has pointed out that Israel’s destruction of Palestinian small farming began within days of its conquest of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, when hundreds of new military orders were issued, half of which involved Israel’s economic interests. “These interests include the employment of a cheap labor force,” says Samara.
Military orders cut the occupied territories off from the rest of the world, making Israel their main supplier (90 percent of the occupied territories’ imports come from or through Israel). Thus the wages paid to the workers were returned to Israel as payments for Israeli consumer goods. By absorbing the labor force, while at the same time pursuing a policy of rejecting Palestinian applications for licenses to start productive projects, the Israelis were able to destroy the occupied territories’ economic infrastructure, thus facilitating the integration of the latter’s economy into that of Israel.32
The African American civil rights movement both inspired and was inspired by the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. In this aspect, a second civil rights movement in the US cannot be motivated by something like the struggle of undocumented immigrants for voting and labor rights, as many on the American Left wish to believe. History proves that effective international solidarity happens when distinctly national class struggles are linked emotionally, and the reality is that most American workers will never identify politically with those who are willing to work dangerous jobs for three or four dollars an hour. They might come to empathize, but they will never identify politically, for reasons of both national pride and economic self-interest. Often forgotten is that the African American civil rights movement advanced successfully a revolutionary American theory: that at the level of the symbolic most Americans identify with those whose national pride comes from disciplined resistance to foreign oppression. The civil rights struggle had little trouble showing that the Klan and other white supremacist groups are completely foreign, morally and politically, to the American national ideal, by revealing to the world white supremacism’s shameless contempt for every basic principle of solidarity, valor, and courage. Likewise, an exclusivist religio-racial state such as Israel, in which all non-Jews, including Christians, are socially degraded and held in racist contempt, is completely alien to the revolutionary American national tradition.
In the US today, one of the main political problems is the lack of an analogical vocabulary to describe these things. For example, with whom would Tom Paine or Thoreau align himself today: Hizbullah and Hamas or Israeli Zionism? With whom would Twain or Melville choose to identify, or the US’s first Nobel laureate in literature, Sinclair Lewis? Does anyone doubt for a moment on which side America’s greatest poet of the twentieth century, Langston Hughes,33 would be standing? The other problem here is not a lack of information but rather a total inertia produced by information excess. The path to a reenergized revolutionary American culture will not be cut by a dedicated cadre of Internet bloggers – it will happen through political education conducted in churches and reading groups, in labor unions, schools, and community centers, the way it is in Palestine and Lebanon today. The way it was during the early stages of the civil rights movement fifty years ago, the same way fighting oppression has always been.
Are Americans a bunch of idle complainers? Most Arab Muslims I spoke to every day do not believe so. In general they are concerned about America’s future, for a combination of self-interested and humanistic reasons, and talk in nuanced and sometimes conflicting ways about how Americans might one day take the action necessary to overthrow the white imperialistic ruling clique that continues to destroy Arab societies throughout the region, both on behalf of the Jewish state and in pursuit of big oil hegemony. A rejection of the Israel lobby is the first step, all agree. But from here the horizon appears infinitely wide, and therefore it is difficult to see the particular path on which Arab Muslims and those in the US who want a real alternative could walk together in the same struggle for a decent society, the way Muslims and Christians and Jews once walked together in al-Andalus.
Capitalist ruling classes are famous for their reinventions, the latest being that of the genocidal Crusades, which has followed directly from their reinvention of the Cold War (“global communism” to “global terrorism”). But the American Cultural Left is enamored by the fake “new” and not the dynamic “old” – old in the sense of the present is also history. Thus instead of rereading the classic anti-capitalist texts of the Enlightenment and the Romantic era, in which warnings about the horrifying human consequences of a capitalist-dominated planet were first articulated – from Blake, Shelley, Byron, and William Morris, down to Hegel, Marx, and Melville – the American Left is busy, in a scatterbrained way, trying to secure its very vulnerable middle-class enclaves in the US academy. It is a futile project underwritten not of course by Blake, Hegel, Marx, and Melville, but by the reactionary anti-Marxists – Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, and Kristeva.34 The American academics read Blake’s anti-capitalist prophesies as “religious literature,” Hegel and Marx as racists and Orientalists, and Melville as a manic-depressive. Indeed, the making of a revolutionary American culture will not come from the academy, although this is clearly one of the best places in which it can be independently imagined.
In Occupied Palestine revolutionary culture comes from the constant reproduction of a collective historical consciousness, without the help of cultural studies departments, the Internet or the media. The second step, then, is for Americans to learn from the struggle of Hizbullah and Hamas the same way they learned in the 1980s from the Sandinistas. How do you make a revolutionary culture? Not a “revolutionary discourse” or a “revolutionary critique” of power, but an actual culture of class struggle that produces hundreds of revolutionary activists every day? For today more than 10,000 Palestinian resistance leaders remain in Israeli jails, and yet rather than weakening the struggle for national independence, the revolutionary culture in Palestine has become even stronger: the people elected Hamas knowing full well that the instant reprisals from Israel and the US would be ruinous on their already crippled and dependent economy. As many have pointed out, the election of Hamas was in fact a firm message to Fatah: return to the principles of anticolonial liberation struggle, which do not include personal enrichment and brainless compromises, or you’re out of the picture. This is exactly what Americans could be doing today with the Democratic Party if they had their own Hamas or Hizbullah.35
It took Hizbullah and Hamas around fifteen years to build revolutionary cultures able to keep alive a national liberation struggle in the face of unrestrained Western imperialist terror, such as the ongoing mass starvation of Gazans and the Israeli Air Force’s 2006 cluster bomb blitzkrieg in Lebanon. New polls in Palestine and Lebanon show that Hamas is still as popular as it was two years ago, and that a significantly larger number of Lebanese now support Hizbullah. These are extremely important facts for Americans who say they want a better US society, and not for the typical liberal bourgeois reason – that more Western imperialism produces more anti-Americanism. The liberal argument is transparently self-serving and therefore will only push more Americans into the arms of the far Right. The correct argument, politically, is that when you fight foreign occupation you make history, and while making history you create an authentic national identity, without which you will continue drifting along, without meaning or purpose.
The foreign occupation of the United States is not a military one, of course, it’s political: the private monopolization of its enormous national wealth by a small group of the super-rich. These occupiers rightly perceive in revolutionary Islam a mass movement that can never be bribed or co-opted, thus they remain in permanent war against it. So far a great deal of time has been wasted talking about Islam’s attack on Western materialism, for the fact is that the attack is much more precise and supple. It is an attack on the undialectical approach to life, the one that tells people: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. It is also a spirited, and ruthless, attack on a capitalist culture of belief that offers not the slightest resistance to human commodification – that celebrates it shamelessly.
Hamas’s and Hizbullah’s recent breathtaking victories – Hamas for simply holding on against the entire Western world’s campaign to destroy it – would seemingly appeal to an American national culture steeped in Puritanism, in which the accumulation of wealth is an unforgivable sin and collaborating with corrupt regimes an abomination. Yet with the nightmare of the Israel lobby weighing on everyone’s brain, it is nearly impossible to speculate whether or not this current conjuncture is the one that will produce a different kind of al-Andalus. All the same, the political opportunities are abundant now, a kind of paradise on earth for Arab Muslims and everyday Americans just waiting to happen, and perhaps for the Americans a necessary paradise if they plan on surviving for much longer in this world. At the moment they have very few friends, but when they throw off the Israel lobby they will gain a billion new ones – one of the most uncontroversial claims a person can advance today. Certainly nothing of the sort can be said of China, which currently likes the US because of its vast import markets, but as soon as the US consumer economy collapses, it will hurriedly abandon Americans to the merciless winds of the capitalist global market.
Bourgeois Doom and Gloom
In Palestine the al-Andalus historical paradigm is countered frequently by a popular theory based on the extremely gloomy premise that Americans are not in the least duped by the Israel lobby. This theory holds that American society is inherently both white supremacist and anti-Muslim, that the Americans’ senseless and self-defeating unconditional support of Israel is in fact perfectly consistent with its imperialistic white racist Christian national tradition. Not all Christians are racist opponents of Islam, it is acknowledged, but the vast majority believes firmly that Islam is the ultimate enemy, and thus all the political education in the world will never change their minds about Israel, because this would mean changing the very nature of their whole belief system. And because Americans are a very conservative people, with a strong immunity to new ideas and radical proposals, especially when these proposals are so shockingly against the grain of their religious belief system, this Palestinian common sense has it that US support of the Judeo-Fascist regime in Israel will continue until the end of history.36
Postmodernism has not yet caught on in Palestine. While lampooned in the West by historical materialists, the end of history is not necessarily a bad idea, not from the standpoint of Palestine, because for Palestine the end of history is also the end of USraelism. Unfortunately, this particular scenario is not philosophic: it means, logically, nuclear holocaust, the literal end of the world. For those who have been born and raised in Israeli concentration camps, from Gaza and Hebron to Nablus and Jenin, the end of the world is a jubilant prospect. But I would argue that this is not a uniquely Palestinian structure of feeling. Rather, it is a feeling that the Palestinians have arrived at many years before anyone else, including Baudrillard himself.
As Baudrillard put it with respect to the Islamic nationalist movements: their particular power comes not from fueling the Western myth of “the clash of civilizations” but from how they defy global capital – by giving Western globalization “a gift to which it cannot respond except by its own death and its own collapse.” That is, by shifting the struggle against empire “into the symbolic sphere, where the rule is that of challenge, reversion, and outbidding.”37
This same approach can be found in the shantytowns of Brazil and Uganda, Mexico and India. Yet the difference in Palestine is that here many of the wretched of the earth have PhDs and read classical Arabic poetry every day on the bus en route to a university surrounded by a 30-foot cement wall, through more than a dozen military outposts and checkpoints. What distinguishes the Palestinians is their self-conscious understanding of the concept of the end of history. Instead of simple-minded nihilism, the approach is humanistic. It understands that the Western totalization process has turned completely against its European and American architects, by rendering them pathetic victims of their own pointless profit-seeking system. They have lost control of themselves precisely by submitting to the lowest level of human commodification: the offering up of their brains to the voracious electronic media, evidenced by their election of morons and hustlers to political office and their obsession with being on TV, if only for a split second.
In this way, what is called in the West “political Islam” is not political, for it is higher than that: a self-conscious rejection of the West’s plunge into absolute asociality or non-consciousness, to a zone of existence neither alive nor dead, and a corresponding determination to help along as far as possible this rapid descent. This asociality (a term used by Baudrillard)38 is embodied by Foucauldian “poststructuralist” theory and is known more generally as “postmodernism.” It rests on the notion that every path of human development has been already fully exhausted: that because everything has finally been liberated from the laws of history as well as nature (be it politics, sexuality, and the forces of production, or art and the unconscious), all the goals of liberation are now well behind us. Therefore the only thing left to do is “simulate liberation.” This is the central premise of the entire field of virtual reality media technology, not to mention all the latest financial instruments devised by Wall Street.
The gloomy theory has, however, one major weakness. It is a corollary of non-consciousness – a form of hyper-consciousness in which self-irony is no longer possible, where sudden political opportunities are beside the point, where all surprises have been driven from the realm of possibility. In short, it seals off history from the forces of sudden chance the same way Western society seals “reality” (i.e. its media) off from the mounting waters of history. They are two sides of the same coin in that both have moved far beyond the simple pleasures of dialectical reversal.
This is why the first theory – an originary American projection of al-Andalus – is a concrete utopia well worth pursuing and the second – the notion that Americans are by nature pro-Israel – is ideologically delusional. At present the first theory is less popular in Palestine, though al-Andalus is acknowledged everywhere as one of the greatest moments in human history. The first theory has history behind it, while the second is, ironically, another fabrication of the Western media and hence increasingly difficult to resist. In this way it can be seen that the USsraeli military occupation of Palestine is also an attempt to finalize the work of Western colonialism in the very place it began – to make the circle of itself complete. What will come after the West’s final exhaustion of itself is the real question, one that can be best answered by those with the longest memory.
Defecting from the Israel Lobby
Whereas in Israeli society there thrives a wide range of independent scholars39 and a significant section of the mass media critical of the occupation, as well as a base of vigilant human rights organizations in constant battle against it, in American Jewish communities across the US there has been either wildly fanatical support of the occupation or tacit acceptance of it by way of a consensus of complete silence. To cite a salient example: When asked recently whether AIPAC’s militant support of the US war in Iraq and its constant drum-beating for a new war against Iran had turned American Jews against the Israel lobby, M.J. Rosenberg, director of policy analysis for the liberal Washington think tank, the Israel Policy Forum, said he believes “that group is relatively small.” In fact, Rosenberg sees American Jews and Israel in terms of two distinct and equally monolithic constituencies: 40 percent “who are absolutely indifferent” to Israel, and 60 percent who either do “blackmail work” on behalf of the Israel lobby or have recently defected from it and now support some sort of two-state settlement. The task of his organization, he says, is to encourage more defections. As Rosenberg rightly says, in general American Jews are no different from most Americans in their indifference to politics, and thus when it comes to protest against the Israeli occupation it would be a simple case of anti-Semitism to expect more from American Jews than from the rest of the US population.40
A valid and important point, yet Rosenberg seems unaware in his analysis of the moral element of the question, namely the compelling parallel between the work of persuading American Jews to break free of the Israel lobby and the struggle against white racial oppression and white supremacy by Euro-Americans themselves, one of the focal points of the African American civil rights movement. In other words, without a repudiation of the state of Israel by American Jews on moral grounds – that so long as Israel remains a Jewish state it will continue belonging not to the democratic tradition but to the list of every other racialist, fascist, and totalitarian regime in the world today – the effort to gain a significant number of American Jewish defectors from the Israel lobby will leave fully intact the Zionist narrative of history, and hence keep advancing the Israelization process while gesturing a critique of it.
The monolithic character of the American Jewish relationship to Israel can be seen clearly in the remarks of the outgoing prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, who says that Israel will have to withdraw from “almost all” the land it captured in the 1967 war, divide Jerusalem into a joint Israeli-Palestinian capital, and agree to long-rejected (by Israel) peace deals with the Palestinians and Syria. “I am not trying to justify retroactively what I did for 35 years,” he says. “For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at reality in all its depth.”41 The Israel lobby’s position on Olmert’s sensible policy advice can be summed up in one member’s assertion that Olmert has become yet another victim of “the fanaticism of reason” – that is, “the fantasy” among Western liberals “that all societies are like their own and Islamic cultures share the same basic values.”42
In terms of the Israeli monolith in US society, the lessons of the African American civil rights movement are enabling and instructive. Recall, for instance, James Baldwin’s insistent refrain that being “white” is a state of mind or outlook on the world, not a biological or psycho-cultural identity: that from the standpoint of the secular-democratic humanist tradition, or reason and self-consciousness, the white identity is the least natural or rational identity an individual could adopt. Ultimately, Baldwin’s then radical and iconoclastic way of seeing “race” became widely accepted among civil rights activists, and it fertilized the ground on which today’s Euro-American antiracist activists, scholars, and educators do their work. Without it, defection from the “white race” is impossible to conceive much less carry out politically. This same logic has been at work in Israeli society since the 1970s, mainly through the Israeli Communist Party or the Hadash movement, which argues for the formation of a bi-national secular-democratic state in Israel/Palestine, in which all Israelis can begin making for themselves new social identities.43 And second, that while history itself has been all along destroying relentlessly the whole narrative of white identity – above all in the form of global capital’s liquidation of white-privileged high-paying manufacturing jobs – the desperate, transparently ideological attempts by the Right to restore or stabilize it have been challenged by the Left not in a populist mode of attack – that is, a proletarian class war on global capital – but in the language of tolerance, multiculturalism, and the healing of old “racial” wounds.
Baldwin and the African American civil rights movement’s argument was in fact the opposite of cultural “tolerance” and the sensitivity training seminar: that whereas morally and ethically we believe in tolerance and equality, from the standpoint of class struggle against a corpulent US empire and its ruling class we need disciplined, well-organized non-stop war – the whole gist of Dr. King’s Riverside Church speech in April 1967, in which he argued passionately that “We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.” Thus, seen in the mirror of African American civil rights struggle, the wholly new and very hopeful struggle against the Israel lobby needs to be slightly reset. For it is not enough to oppose the occupation on cultural grounds, i.e. that it undermines Jewish identity – in fact this dovish or left-liberal strategy reinforces the Zionist narrative of history far more successfully than anything the rightwing Israel lobby has been able to muster. The idea, rather, is to make a break with “culture talk” altogether: to begin asking questions from the standpoint of economics and of history – from a new social horizon that is being made as we speak, under which all the old liberal bourgeois narratives are rapidly dissipating into air.
True Genesis is at the End, not the Beginning
A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization.
— Aimé Césaire
Thirty years ago Edward Said was at work on the second part of his magisterial trilogy The Question of Palestine – Orientalism and Covering Islam being the first and third. In 1979 Times Books published it in hardcover, and one year later Vintage printed the text in an inexpensive paperback edition. Said called The Question of Palestine “a political essay.”
A fact largely forgotten today is that his essay served for many Americans during the 1980s as a central organizing text for the highly energized and interconnected popular struggles against US imperialist interventionism in Central America, apartheid in South Africa and the Israeli colonial occupation of Palestine. The Question of Palestine was for us as Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth was for the 1960s’ generation of anti-imperialist students, workers, and educators. Another apt comparison would be to Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, which shaped the consciousness of three consecutive generations of African American and Euro-American civil rights workers.
At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where I was an undergraduate student in journalism, anyone interested in Palestine solidarity work was advised by campus political organizers to take two weeks before joining the movement to carefully read and study The Question of Palestine. This is how I came to know the book, and at the time I was joined by more than a hundred others. Within a few years, our local Palestine Solidarity Committee had been able to establish a dynamic sister-university relationship between UM and Birzeit University in the West Bank, and then send on a fact-finding tour a delegation of American students, teachers, nurses, and social workers to the Occupied Territories. This was during the momentous first Intifada’s second year.
Rereading Said’s book today is a startling experience, for one would expect to be able to skip over certain parts considering all that has happened since he wrote it. Yet the opposite is true: every sentence is just as dialectically penetrating and supple, and no part of it feels the least dated. There is nothing in the book that is not today as crucially relevant and urgently needed, intellectually, politically and morally, as it was thirty years ago. And this is a very depressing conclusion to draw, since it means in effect that virtually nothing in thirty years has been done about the question of Palestine. Most depressing of all, perhaps, is the fact that the same cannot be said about many other social issues of the last thirty years, from environmentalism and gay and lesbian rights to racism and animal rights. A regular joke in Palestine is that the Americans will sooner come to the defense of laboratory rabbits than the Palestinian people. This distinctly, always brutal Palestinian self-irony is probably all that needs to be said about the present state of American politics and Palestine.
But that would be giving up too easily, and if Edward Said’s legacy teaches us anything it is to never surrender the moral high ground. On this note, let us begin this very partial reflection of Said’s great and seriously underread scholarly work with an especially powerful passage, taken from the book’s Introduction:
We were on the land called Palestine; were our dispossession and our effacement, by which almost a million of us were made to leave Palestine and our society made nonexistent, justified even to save the remnant of European Jews that had survived Nazism? By what moral or political standard are we expected to lay aside our claims to our national existence, our land, our human rights? In what world is there no argument when an entire people is told that it is juridically absent, even as armies are led against it, campaigns conducted against even its name, history changed so as to “prove” its nonexistence? For even though all issues surrounding the Palestinians are complex and involve Great Power politics, regional disputes, class conflict, ideological tension, the animating power of the Palestinian movement is its awareness of these simple, but enormously consequential, questions.44
“The animating power of the Palestinian movement” is The Question of Palestine’s animating principle. For this reason the book’s construction is complex – a structure of presentation at the level of ideas that reflects, exquisitely, what Said terms in the text “the cubistic form of Palestinian existence.”45
Later, in Culture and Imperialism, he streamlined this terminology into what he called “contrapuntal reading”: an approach to thinking that is always sensitive to all sides of reality and that places them against each other in a kind of constantly enigmatic tension rather than a pointless zero-sum game. The purpose is to bring to light the always changing, and thus always changeable, outcome of the fateful historic encounter, even (and especially) when the interchange is violently asymmetrical. For Said, without this structure of thinking it is impossible to choose, consciously and with careful forethought and planning, one’s ultimate political affiliation and hence course of individual action.
The Question of Palestine is an unusual text, then and now. Many have co-opted Said’s style in what is called “postcolonial studies,” that is, Foucauldianism, or, to use a trendy academic cliché, “hybridity,” this working in-between conflicting epistemes or ways of seeing, yet few have been able to talk about anything politically interesting or important while showing off their “theory.” Take, for example, Said’s use of various types of texts. He integrates into his total argument the following types of disparate material: empirical data on Israeli public schools and universities, including specific details about the nature of the curriculum as well as Palestinian versus Jewish graduation rates; selected poems; newspaper articles; speeches on the floor of the Knesset; short stories; secret reports by high commissioners in the Israeli government; passages from memoirs, novels, diaries, personal papers, history texts, social anthropology, studies in linguistics, philosophic treatises, and travel narratives; letters to the New York Times; private letters between politicians and statesmen; census reports; a tenth-century Arabic ethnographic study of Palestine; interviews; and maps. In terms of pure intellectual virtuosity, Said’s performance in The Question of Palestine has very few rivals still.
But by “cubistic,” Said means something very different than what the current hucksters of his thought mean by ambiguity, “hybridity,” “the liminal condition,” or “in-betweenness.” As he has it Part Three of the book, “Toward Palestinian Self-Determination”:
In a very literal way the Palestinian predicament since 1948 is that to be a Palestinian at all has been to live in a utopia, a nonplace, of some sort…. One redeeming feature of the cubistic form of Palestinian life is that it is focused on the goal of getting a place, a territory, on which to be located nationally. The mere retrospective fact of having been in such a place once, or the contemporary fact of being nonpersons in that place now, no longer supply Palestinians with righteousness or wrath enough to go on fighting. The 1967 war and, ironically, the additional acquisition of Palestinian territory by Zionism put the exiled and dispersed Palestinians in touch with their place.46
As Said will go on to show, this specifically Palestinian discovery of their national place (in the double sense: an ennobling national consciousness and a clear awareness of being massively robbed and exploited as a whole nation) gave to the world a new international symbol of resistance to oppression and social injustice, and a brand new kind of global awareness. He writes:
There is an awareness in the nonwhite world that the tendency of modern politics to rule over masses of people as transferable, silent, and politically neutral populations has a specific illustration in what has happened to the Palestinians – and what in different ways is happening to the citizens of newly independent, formerly colonial territories ruled over by antidemocratic army regimes. The idea of resistance gets detail and muscle from Palestine; more usefully, resistance gets detail and a positively new approach to the microphysics of oppression from Palestine. If we think of Palestine as having the function of both a place to be returned to and of an entirely new place, a vision partially of a restored past and of a novel future, perhaps even a historical disaster transformed into a hope for a different future, we will understand the word’s meaning better.47
This last sentence, like almost every sentence in the book, is on its own a lot with which to grapple. It also reminds us of the superior mind we lost and will go on missing a great deal. Its force lies in two interrelated areas. First is the total scale of the Israel lobby’s silencing and hence erasure of the Palestinian story, and second is the always reachable point of reversal, of being in the right strategic position to turn the tide once again. In terms of the first area, most of the mindless drones on the AIPAC payroll have no idea that they have been actively retarding the development of many more antiracist and national liberation struggles than simply the one in Palestine. In fact, most pro-Israeli propagandists, as well as your average Christian supporter of the Jewish state, consider themselves strong proponents of civil rights and believe they are “progressive” on all the basic social issues, including racial discrimination. And here is where everything becomes highly toxic, in which the dangerous destructiveness of the pro-Israel forces can be felt most fully. For to ban the question of Palestine while touting the virtues of difference and diversity, of “cross-culturality” and breaking bread in friendship, and so and so forth, is to disable the discourse of national self-determination and secular democracy from within. This is not a conspiracy. Rather, it is a logical outcome of Zionist irrationalism, which itself comes from a long tradition of reactionary European bourgeois philosophy. In short, humanities departments in the US academy are today politically weak and intellectually bland, and often stupid, in no small part because Palestine, a place where secular democracy is being fought for every day in the most dramatic and complex ways, has been completely expelled from the American curriculum.
In this respect, one of the great ironies of Said’s intellectual career is that while the first part of his trilogy, Orientalism, can be understood and appreciated on its own terms, it has been absurdly – and even violently – segregated from the second and third parts. Yet this has been the pattern in the US academy.48 The Question of Palestine and then Covering Islam were intended by Said to be read together with Orientalism – a “beginning intention” (the key term from his book Beginnings) that is in fact impossible to miss, as dozens of allusions as well as direct critical references to Orientalism occur throughout both texts. To take only one example:
The fact is that “the Arabs” were always being represented, never able to speak for themselves; this plus, paradoxically, their more and more evident political visibility, is why they have been so overwhelmingly refused a decent place in actuality – even when they sit on the land. Today, for example, the Palestine Liberation Organization is recognized by over 100 nations, and of course by all Palestinians, as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and yet neither the United States nor Israel concedes that the PLO represents Palestinians.49
Nothing has changed since Said wrote these words. In fact, the ongoing US and Israeli economic and political siege of the democratically elected Hamas government is arguably the clearest case of Orientalism the world has seen since his thesis was first published thirty years ago.
Rereading The Question of Palestine today is startling also for Said’s use of a new political vocabulary. Instead of slogans, academic jargon, and “oppositional” rhetoric, he advances a series of key terms and questions intended to enlarge the American Left’s social horizon. In our current conjuncture, in which identity politics (the so-called “discourse of the multitude,” that is, everything except socialist nationalism) is dominant and the conservative mode of criticism known as “social constructionism” de rigueur for any grad student in the humanities, Said’s language in The Question of Palestine is a prophetic negative critique. For instance, Said remarks that the “wildly multiple Palestinian actuality includes a capacity agenda whose individual items make sense perhaps, but whose totality is a political scientist’s nightmare.”50 By this Said means the opaque co-existence of Palestinian exiles living abroad, the millions of Palestinian refugees scattered across the region, several million others under direct colonial occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and a million more inside Israel. Somehow, Said wrote, “the various Palestinian communities, each with its own defined priorities, must be kept in touch with one another, tensions reduced or eliminated, alliances promoted. And on top of all this there is always the goal of maintaining the pressure on Israel, whose borders, to the Palestinian exiles, seem far and hard to get to.” Said calls this Palestinian reality a “string of competing material imperatives for action.”
Those Palestinians in manifest exile want to return; those in internal exile (inside Israel or under military occupation) want independence and freedom and self-government where they are. A refugee from Galilee or Jaffa who now lives either in Lebanon or in Kuwait thinks primarily in terms of what he lost when he left in 1948 or later; he wants to be put back, or to fight his back, into Palestine. He wants return. Conversely, the present Palestinian resident of Gaza, Nazareth, or Nablus faces or in some way daily rubs up against an occupying power, its symbols of authority, its basically unchecked domination over him; he wants to see that power removed or, in the case of the Arab Israeli citizen, he no longer wishes to be known and treated negatively as a “non-Jew.” He wants novelty. One Palestinian wants to move, the other to stay; both want a pretty radical change. But are these wants, which are rooted in urgently needed material circumstances, complements of each other? Is there an implicit concert of Palestinian political aspirations?51
The staying power of The Question of Palestine is Said’s refusal to give a quick answer to this question, to in fact raise a new set of questions from it.
Still, the direction of his argument is very clear. The Palestinian struggle for national self-determination is both a microcosm of the whole (the global collapse of deliberately limited and self-serving neo-colonialist and Eurocentric models of “democratic development”) and the political lynchpin of every liberatory anticolonial nationalist movement in the world today. In the 1980s, Said’s argument helped to crystallize this point for those involved in anticolonialist activism, and today in Palestine the legacy of his argument can be seen in the eclectic range of internationalist graffiti sprayed across Israel’s 700 kilometer apartheid wall, from Zapatista and Guevarist down to antiracist, as well as that of Christian liberation theology, which is still popular in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Yet these internationalist expressions of Palestine solidarity are remnants of a previous period and in this way are inscriptions of pathos not politics. Today, the question in Palestine is: What happened? And the different answers, if one asks this question every day, are more “cubistic” than those described by Said three decades ago. Contrary to the anti-Palestinian propaganda churned out every day in the US mass media, Palestinians are far less interested in Jewish Zionist conspiracy theory than they are in simply understanding how the whole world up and abandoned them in their greatest hour of need – a total political and moral abandonment that has deformed not only Palestine but their own Western societies as well.
My own answer to this question, when turned around to me, is that it has to do with the compromises made by the American Left after Vietnam. It was a classic deal with the devil – that is, an ideological restoration – by which the whole thrust of the militant antiwar movement towards solidarity with the national self-determination struggles being fought out by the world’s racially oppressed and colonized was co-opted by American middle-class aspirants, who on condition they stop all the talk about the class struggle, white supremacy, freeing Palestine, Fidel, the Sandinistas, and socialist nationalism were given lifelong stipends known as tenure. It is not a very complicated matter once you look into it, especially if you happened to have been a grad student in the humanities during the 1990s, when the American Left underwent its transformation from “existentially linked” (in Said’s felicitous terminology) with all the basic problems and questions of oppressed humanity, to a harmless bat flying around the luxurious halls of state power and bourgeois privilege.
The second area is more straightforward, I think. Today it seems impossible to find anything hopeful in the US occupation of Iraq, yet the whole situation is tightly linked to Palestine, as the Baker-Hamilton report has stated plainly. Freeing Palestine will not solve all the irreversible problems the US created in Iraq, but it will stop a lot of the bleeding. More than that, it will open a new social horizon, what Said described in The Question of Palestine as “the existential Palestinian predicament.” Under this new horizon is “the felt need for political survival combined with the tangible consequences of territorial as well as political alienation.” The result is a complete rejection of “the road of minority provincialism with regard to the surrounding majority.” In short, what the Palestinian ordeal under Zionism shows us is that the “self-enclosed world” of minority politics, embodied most fully by Israeli Zionism and American Christian conservatism, leads of course to inevitably much greater political alienation – to the trap of Israelization. For this reason Said rejected the use of the Palestinian predicament to advance a “race politics” or any other kind of minority political culture. If one is seeking a way out of this bad reality, he argued, look to the Palestinian struggle, a place where the making of a new secular national identity is not the end of history but the beginning. Said puts it compellingly:
No Arab community has in so short a period of time – a little less than a generation – reflected so deeply and so seriously as a community on the meaning of its history, the meaning of a pluralistic society given the dismal fate of multiethnic communities in the world, the meaning of national independence and self-determination against a background of exile, imperialist oppression, colonialist dispossession. But all these indexes of collective Palestinian maturity were enabled by, and indeed grounded in, the Palestinian approach to political effectiveness, which is a new phenomenon in people’s history.52
Exiting the Self-Enclosed World of Left Politics
The argument so far is not for some kind of ideological alignment of the US Left with the Islamic national movements of Palestine and Lebanon. Besides being absurd on its face, this would amount to a mere substitution of the current Left dogma of tolerance (or “cultural politics”) for a more up-to-date kind. Instead, the question is about how to best dislocate Israel ideology from Left theorizing itself, how to drive the politics of “minority provincialism” (or identity politics) from the language of radical Left anticapitalist critique, which has until now been severely disabled by it. While it is true that big deeds come from small gestures – and in no place today is this truism more important to understand than in the election of Barack Obama as US President – the crucial point is to begin thinking about what kind of theory we need that will be in accord with the unpredictable changes to come. The effort to wake the US Left from its stultifying Israel sleep is thus not political or ideological but anticipatory. It is a call not for solidarity with Hamas or Hizbullah, the last thing either movement needs today from the US Left, but rather a new kind of Left theory, a theory that follows their lead by understanding our own predicament as also “existential” – that combines our “felt need for political survival” with “the tangible consequences of political alienation.”
And so looking for a path to an American al-Andalus is the same as creating a Left theory that is both unyielding in its attack on global capital and highly adaptable and strategically cunning when it comes to every kind of populism, including especially the rightwing kind. The recent failure of the Democratic Party in response to the massive credit crisis and the housing market crash, which could end up being suicidal considering the total scale of the ongoing world financial meltdown and the deepening of the US recession, is a lucid illustration of this point. Having already long ago abandoned the 1960s’ populist critique of class oppression and imperialist war, the liberal Left, in what was probably the best chance it has had in the last 30 years to gain a firm upper-hand over the Right, simply squandered it away, rushing in to save Wall Street just as 90 percent of Americans were calling on their representatives to let the whole thing blow. What the American people were really saying is that they want a party like Hamas or Hizbullah – people with valor, courage, persistence, organizational skill, modesty in words, and strength in action.
1. Azmi Bishara, “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy,” Al-Ahram, no. 807 (August 10-16, 2006),
2. Hamas swept the January 2006 legislative elections in the Occupied Territories. Of the Hamas movement’s 34 candidates in Hebron, Tulkarem, and Gaza, 10 were college professors, four were doctors, and six were political prisoners or relatives of political prisoners or people killed in the Intifada. Only two were professional politicians. See Menachem Klein, “Hamas in Power,” The Middle East Journal, Vol. 61, No. 3 (Summer 2007), 452-53.
3. Kathleen and Bill Christison, “The Power of the Israel lobby,” CounterPunch, June 16/18, 2006, www.counterpunch.org/christison06162006.html.
Despite its comprehensive scale, as well as the freshness of its iconoclastic approach, Kathleen Christison’s historical study of US foreign policy in Palestine, Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on US Middle East Policy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001) has been systematically ignored in the discipline of Middle East studies.
4. By “Israelization,” Mishal means the inherently expansionist nature of the Zionist project in historical Palestine, in particular the full extension of Israeli cultural hegemony to the Occupied Territories. See Mouin Rabbani, “The Making of a Palestinian Islamist Leader – An Interview with Khalid Mishal: Part 1,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 37, No. 3 (April 2007), 70-1. For an authoritative account of the Israelization of Jerusalem, see Salim Tamari, Jerusalem 1948 – The Arab Neighbourhoods and their Fate in the War (Jerusalem: Institute of Jerusalem Studies, 2002).
5. Edward W. Said, The Question of Palestine (New York: Vintage, 1980), 148.
6. For many years the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, has been documenting and investigating Israel’s policy of so-called “targeted assassinations.” In a recent study they prove that a large number of the Palestinians killed by Israel’s security forces have been “civilians who were not suspected by Israel of having committed any offense.” (See “Take No Prisoners: The Fatal Shooting of Palestinians by Israeli Forces during Arrest Operations,” May 2005,
7. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the number of trucks allowed by Israel out of Gaza in 2006 was, on average, only 12 per day, i.e., just 8% of the 150 trucks-per-day quota established for the beginning of the year and a mere 3% of the 400 trucks-per-day target set for the end of the year. The effects of this illegal (according to international law) blockade on the Gazan economy have of course been catastrophic, especially on children and the elderly. According to B’Tselem, as a result of the Israeli siege of Gaza, 87% of Gazans now live below the poverty line, more than a tripling of the percentage since 2000. (See B’tselem’s comprehensive report, “Blocked Arteries: Israel’s responsibility for Gaza’s failing foreign trade,”
8. Maria Rose Menocal, “Culture in the Time of Tolerance: Al-Andalus as a Model for Our Own Time,” Palestine-Israel Journal, vol. 8, no. 4 & vol. 9, no. 1 (2001-2002), 175.
9. Menocal, 177. It should be said here that Menocal’s emphasis is on the Andalusian social conjuncture itself, which is of course incredibly vast in scale, covering nearly 800 years. Her specific focus is on the high period of Arabic poetry in al-Andalus, the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Those looking for some of the pre-Andalusian historical causes responsible for the Hebrew literature tradition’s insularity, namely the many centuries of Christian anti-Semitism, should consult the relevant authorities on this subject, such as Alan Davies in Anti-Semitism and the Foundation of Christianity (New York: Paulist Press, 1979), and Fred Gladstone Bratton in The Crime of Christendom (Boston: Beacon, 1969).
10. Jan Carew, “The End of Moorish Enlightenment and the Beginning of the Columbian Era,” Race & Class, vol. 33, no. 3 (1992), 5.
11. Carew, 5.
12. Carew, 6.
13. Rabbani, “The Making of a Palestinian Islamist Leader” (note 4), 70.
14. Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution (New York: Vintage, 1996), 217-233.
15. A.B. Yehoshua, “Separating Religion from National Identity,” an interview with Victor Cygielman, Palestine-Israel Journal, vol. 8, no. 4 & vol. 9, no. 1 (2001-2002), 94.
16. Keith W. Whitelam, The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinian History (London & New York: Routledge, 1996), 5.
17. Gösta W. Ahlström, The History of Ancient Palestine from the Palaeolithic Period to Alexander’s Conquest (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), 35.
18. Mark S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
19. Whitelam, The Invention of Ancient Israel, 129.
20. Basem L. Ra’ad, “Sacred Geographical Constructions on Palestine,” The Arab World Geographer, vol. 8, no. 1-2, p. 79.
21. Ra’ad, 80.
22. Tom Segev, “An invention called the ‘Jewish People,’” Haaretz, March 1, 2008,
23. Gore Vidal, “President Jonah, Meet Oliver Cromwell,” Truthdig.com, Feb. 7, 2006,
24. Gore Vidal, The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (Tucson: Odonian Press, 1992), 77.
25. One of the most insane cases of the Israel lobby’s systematic suppression of any thought that leads to what I’ve been referring to as the utopian moment of an “American al-Andalus” is the recent denial of tenure by DePaul University in Chicago to Professor Norman Finkelstein. Spearheaded by the notorious pro-Israeli political hack Alan Dershowitz, the Israel lobby bombarded DePaul’s administration in the wake of Finkelstein’s academic department’s unanimous vote in favor of tenure (5-0) with threats of a massive PR campaign aimed at discrediting the university. In fact, a fat and entirely slanderous dossier was cooked up by Dershowitz in the midst of tenure proceedings and sent to every member of the voting faculty. DePaul’s top administrators quickly caved in to the pro-Israeli pressure tactics, reversing the department’s unanimous vote, in effect terminating Prof. Finkelstein. For a provocative and informative discussion of this episode, see the Israeli human rights lawyer Linda Brayer’s article, “Norman Finkelstein and the Catholic Church” (CounterPunch, July 3, 2007,
26. Azzam Tamimi, Hamas: A History from Within (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2007).
27. Rabbini (note 4), 72. A falsehood that has unfortunately become “common sense” on both the anti-Zionist Left and the pro-Israeli Right is that Hamas entered the stage of Palestinian politics largely because of Israeli funding and covert military support. The historical record provides no support whatever for this claim. While Israel naturally perceived in the rise of Hamas during the late 1980s a prime opportunity to undermine the secular-democratic Fatah movement and the Leninist-oriented PFLP, and acted accordingly by enabling Hamas to expand their operations (particularly in Gaza and Hebron, the poorest areas of the Occupied Territories) while at the same time greatly increasing its repression of Fatah and PFLP organizers, the birth and development of Hamas as a grassroots anti-Occupation movement is a wholly organic phenomenon, going back to the early 1970s, in the Palestinian exile communities of Kuwait. During this time its founding members were student activists in the Kuwait-based General Union of Palestinian Students, whose goal was to force Israel to withdraw from all the territories it had just seized in the 1967 Six-day War. Oddly, the fact that Israel used during the first Intifada divide and conquer tactics in the Occupied Territories identical to those deployed by the US government in the 1960s and 70s against the Black, Red, and Brown Power movements, i.e. the infamous COINTELPRO program (for example, using informants in the East Coast Black Panther Party organizations to propagate very dangerous disinformation about West Coast Panthers), has been largely forgotten when it comes to understanding the relationship between Hamas, Fatah, and the PFLP.
28. Loren D. Lybarger, Identity and Religion in Palestine: The Struggle between Islamism and Secularism in the Occupied Territories (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), 7.
29. Israel Shahak, “The Jewish Religion and Its Attitude to Non-Jews,” Khamsin, no. 9 (1981), 22.
30. Shahak, 6.
31. See Chris Smith, “Closure: The Daily Reality of Israel’s Occupation,” Middle East Report, August 27, 2001, www.merip.org/mero/mero082701.html.
32. Adel Samara, Epidemic of Globalization (Glendale, CA: Palestine Research & Publishing Foundation, 2001), 115-116.
33. Consider that when Hughes died in 1967 his writings had been translated more than those of any other living American poet. See Jonathan Scott, Socialist Joy in the Writing of Langston Hughes (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006), 2.
34. Regarding Melville, see his last literary work Clarel: A Poem and a Pilgrimage in the Holy Land (Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1991), a long narrative poem about the land of Palestine. In a radical departure from the Christian Zionist myth of Palestine, Melville perceives the land not from the colonizing perspective of the European settler but instead that of the indigenous population.
35. In 1994, Edward Said lamented the fact that other than his own, “there is no credible Palestinian voice putting forward the non-Hamas critique of Arafat’s actions and the so-called ‘peace process’” – that is, the Palestinian National Authority’s acceptance of its status as an Israeli protectorate, by which Arafat immediately became “a parody of a Latin American dictator.” Said’s extremely dour assessment of Hamas came from the fact that, till then, Hamas had offered “no sane strategy of resistance,” nothing “aside from terror” (quoted in Alexander Cockburn, The Golden Age Is in Us (London & New York: Verso, 1995), 418). However, less than 10 years later, in early 2003, all this changed when Hamas put forward a comprehensive cease-fire agreement, greatly expanded its grassroots organizing campaign all through the West Bank and Gaza, and substantially reformulated its original platform (see Klein, “Hamas in Power” [note 2], 449ff).
36. The term “Judeo-Fascism” was coined in the early 1980s by the Jewish Israeli scholar and civil rights activist Israel Shahak. Shahak grew up in the Warsaw Ghetto and survived the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. He moved to Palestine in 1945 and lived in Israel until his death in 2001. For an elaboration of his concept, see Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (London: Pluto, 1999).
37. Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism and Other Essays, trans. Chris Turner (London & New York: Verso, 2002), 17.
38. Jean Baudrillard, The Transparency of Evil, trans. James Benedict (London & New York: Verso, 1993). He writes: “We may pretend to carry on in the same direction, accelerating, but in reality we are accelerating in a void, because all the goals of liberation are already behind us, and because what haunts and obsesses us is being thus ahead of all the results – the very availability of all the signs, all the forms, all the desires that we had been pursuing… This is the state of simulation, a state in which we are obliged to replay all scenarios precisely because they have all taken place already, whether actually or potentially. The state of utopia realized, of all utopias realized, wherein paradoxically we must continue to live as though they had not been. But since they have, and since we can longer, therefore, nourish the hope of realizing them, we can only ‘hyper-realize’ them through interminable simulation” (3-4). The power of the al-Andalus utopia, following Baudrillard’s theory of simulation, is that it has never been considered in the West a state of utopia. That it has the potential today to do so is not, however, a simple matter. For one, without a class-struggle approach to it, that is, without infusing into it a working-class content, al-Andalus could easily become merely another simulation.
39. Ilan Pappe’s scholarship is the most well known and discussed in Israel, in particular his latest book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: OneWorld Publications, 2007), but there are many other Israeli scholars who call Israeli Zionism in Palestine ethnic cleansing, even those who strongly support the general aims of Zionism – for example, Benny Morris in The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), and Simha Flapan in The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities (New York: Pantheon, 1988). An excellent example of the anti-Zionist tradition in Israel is the work of Israeli anthropologist Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and author of An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel (London: Pluto, 2008).
40. Gary Kamiya, “Can American Jews unplug the Israel lobby?,” Salon, March 20, 2007, www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2007/03/20/aipac/. See also Peter Dreier and Daniel May, “Progressive Jews Organize,” The Nation, Vol. 285, No. 9 (October 1, 2007), 18.
41. Rory McCarthy, “Olmert: Israel must hand back land for peace with Palestinians and Syria,” The Guardian, September 29, 2008,
42. Jonathan Rosenblum, “Prisoner of ‘the fanaticism of reason,’”
43. The Hadash movement was formed in the early 1970s largely in response to Israel’s conquest of the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Six-day War. Currently Hadash controls three seats in the Knesset, out of 120. While distinctively Israeli in organization, Hadash’s politics resemble closely that of the African American civil rights movement, in particular the Black Panther Party. Unfortunately, there has been virtually nothing written about the Hadash movement in English. See Yossi Klein Halevi’s fascinating biographical sketch of a Hadash movement activist, “Her Mother’s Daughter, After All” (The Jerusalem Report, June 5, 2000) for a rare look into Hadash’s grassroots organizing community.
44. Said, The Question of Palestine, xvi-xvii.
45. Said, 162.
46. Said, 120.
47. Said, 125.
48. An exception to this pattern is George Snedeker’s perspicacious treatment of Said’s trilogy in his book The Politics of Critical Theory (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2004), the third chapter of which is devoted to Said’s intellectual career. In this chapter Snedeker foregrounds the key terms by which Said is able to unify, structurally, Orientalism, The Question of Palestine, and Covering Islam.
49. Said, 25.
50. Said, 123.
51. Said, 125-26.
52. Said, 177.