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The Question of Palestine (Vintage) [Paperback]

Edward W. Said
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 Feb 2003 Vintage
Still a basic and indespensible account of the Palestinian question, updated to include the most recent developments in the Middle East- from the intifada to the Gulf war to the historic peace conference in Madrid.


Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House USA Inc; Reissue edition (1 Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679739882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679739883
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.3 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 527,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Edward Said was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He was the author of more than twenty books, including Orientalism, Culture and Imperialism and On Late Style and his essays and reviews appeared in newspapers and periodicals throughout the world. Edward Said died in September 2003.

(Photo credit: Brigitte Lacombe)

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About the Author

Edward Said was born in Jerusalem in 1935. In 1951 he attended a private preparatory high school in Massachusetts, America and he went on to study at Princeton University for his BA and at Yale for his MA and PhD. He became University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Said was bestowed with numerous honorary doctorates from universities around the world and twice received Columbia's Trilling Award and the Wellek Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association. He is best known for describing and critiquing 'Orientalism' and his book on the subject was published in 1978. He died in 2003. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Until roughly the last thirty years of the nineteenth century, everything to the east of an imaginary line drawn somewhere between Greece and Turkey was called the Orient. Read the first page
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
...in the truest sense of the word.

Edward Said wrote this book in 1979, around the time of the Camp David accords, one of the many efforts to bring peace to the region. Said's most famous work is Orientalism, a critical examination into the perceptions, and their formulation, of the Middle East by Europeans and Americans. He was a Professor of English at Columbia University in NYC, and, as a Palestinian Christian, was the most erudite and effective voice for the Palestinian people. In 1986 I was touring the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Below each of the arches, engraved in stone in large letters is the name of the location of one battle. Certainly there is "Gallipoli," but there was also the one word: "Palestine." It commemorates the efforts of Australian troops there in 1916, and is devoid of present-day political connotations. But as a person who primarily had read the American media, I found seeing simply the word itself, unadorned, in stone even, so unusual, that I had to capture it on film.

Said's work provides much carefully documented evidence why seeing the word "Palestine" was so unusual at the time. Bluntly, the existence of the native inhabitants in this area was an enormous inconvenience, to say the least, for those who were proponents of the Zionist enterprise. Said quotes from the The complete diaries of Theodor Herzl, its "founding father": "We shall have to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
219 of 239 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking Sides 18 Sep 2002
By nadav haber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Does the fact that I am an Israeli Jew living in Israel mean that I should reject this book ? Does the fact that I think the book is crucially important mean that I am "taking sides" ?
I believe otherwise. I found this book to be very important, as it is an account of a Palestinian - an admittedly interested party in the conflict. Said knows about the Jews and Zionism much more than most Israeli Jews know about the Palestinians. But of course - Said is never "objective" - he himself is a refugee, who describes the side of Zionism as he and many others like him experienced.
Said shows surprising understanding of Zionism - he even says that one cannot compare the situation in Israel to that which existed in South Africa. He says that things here are more complicated. Said acknowledges the achievements of Zionism as far as Jews are concerned, another surprise.
I felt a deep passion for peace and compromise in this book - I believe that the author accepts the reality of a Jewish state in Israel. However, Said points out that no such peace can be achieved as long as Palestinian dreams are constantly shattered or ignored.
There are two sides to this story - I am on one and Said is on the other. Still, this book is important because it acknowledges the existance of two sides, and thus provides a road to conciliation that is so important to all of us.
I think every Jew and every Paelstinian should read this book, and so should evreybody with a serious interest in our troubled piece of land.
82 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignored or Denied 4 Aug 2003
By Virgil Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In this book Edward Said presents an argument for the right of Palestinians to the land known as Palestine. Since the 7th century Palestine had been predominantly Arab. For example a 1922 census showed that 78% of the population was Arab. With the creation of Israel in 1948 by the UN, these Arabs were dispersed quite often by force. Ironically 1948 is the same year that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared that everyone has the right to return to his own country. The right of the Palestinians has been ignored or denied. Not even a plebiscite represents their point of view.
His argument is compeling. Edward Said writes logically and with insight. If finally the reader does not agree with him, the reader will surely think long and hard about it.
59 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Question of Palestine 11 May 2002
By Barry D. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The cover of my book has a quote from the NY Times that says books like this one need to be "read in the hope that understanding will provide a better chance of survival." That quote couldn't be more accurate. The Question of Palestine is a cry for understanding of Arab culture and history, and subsequently a more balanced view of the conflict today (or 1979, when it was published. But that doesn't matter because it is still applicable today).
The Q of Palestine is divided into two main sections, the history of the ignorance of Araba culture and the true nature of Zionism, and how the Palestinians are mobilizing today. Said describes Zionism as both a colonial adventure with little regard for the Arab natives, and the subsequent effort to create facts to make it more acceptable. Said does a remarkable job of describing how the U.S., Israel and the rest of the western world have misperceived the entire conflict because we see the conflict through a western lens. Through this lens, the Arabs are for the most part, innocently ignored. His attempt, then, is to try and give a view that is NOT through this western lens. He shows that yes, contrary to popular opinion, the Arabs DO have a history and culture that have both been destroyed by Zionists. He shows that no, contrary to popular opinion, they will not just get up and leave after being hit on the head enough times. They have a very strong nationalistic pride, and it will only get stronger.
I highly recommend this book. It is definately not aimed at filling the niche of "historically objective, comprehensive history of the conflict" (for that see Benny Morris's "Righteous Victims"). So if you are new to the subject, probably start with something else. But it does fill a necessary roll of a look into the existence and the understanding of a distinct Palestinian pride and culture. Only when enough people start recognizing some of the things Said talks about will the leaders of Israel and the PLO ever find some common ground on which to move toward peace. Essential Reading!
32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very thoughtful introduction 29 Nov 2001
By jacob cohen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is a very considered and informative guide to Palestine and its colonisation. For me, though, this book perhaps spends too much time on the ideology of Zionism rather than spelling out some of the basic facts of dispossession and oppression. Still, it is salutary to be reminded of Zionisms ideological origins in European Romantic nationalism, with its notions of "People" and "Homeland" (which very much took root of course in Germany - the crucible of much Zionism). It is useful too to be reminded how the rhetoric of Zionism is uncannily similiar to other colonialist rhetoric, in particular the notion of the "land without a people". That is to say, as Said points out, colonial powers have ALWAYS attempted to justify their settlements, their forcible dispossession of indigeneous peoples by insisting that the target land was barren or underdeveloped, that the people currently residing there were in no fit state to look after the land - and so on and so on. We can see from Said's book that Zionism, far from being some unique self-expression of "Jewish Destiny" is wholly consistent with and emerges out of this larger intellectual tradition. Ultimately, the Zionists who settled in Palestine were European nationalists.
What is also very illuminating here, is that Said reveals just how candid Zionist polititians and military leaders/ agitators were about their aims and objectives and about the dispossession of the native Palestinian population. Figures such as MOshe Dyan, the book shows, were perfectly upfront about this being an Arab country which they - the Zionists - were taking over. Said quotes Dayan as follows: "We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is Jewish state here.. There is not one place built in this country that did not have aformer Arab population." American supporters of Israel will I think be shocked reading amny passages of this book, and will find that many cherished beliefs are in fact convenient myths reproduced by the American Zionist doctrinal system.
31 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review on "The Question of Palestine" 14 Dec 2004
By Giovanni - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In "The Question of Palestine" author Edward W. Said analyzes the complexity in recognizing the Palestinian plight that has plagued a society since the establishment of Israel. Said eloquently illustrates a different perception to the omnipresent and biased understanding of the Palestinian/Israeli issue. It was enlightening to analyze Said's version on the international conflict, not simply because I am sympathetic to a society under foreign occupation and in exile, but rather because it is a perspective not often pursued by the American general public.

"The Question of Palestine" depicts the effects of Zionism and how its blatant disregard of Palestinians is culpable for the ongoing strife in the region. Said describes the historical context in which the existence of Palestinians was disregarded from the very onset of Israel's creation. The author explains that his purpose in writing this book was to illustrate how the Palestinian's perceive Zionism.

Although Said is clearly an enthusiast for the Palestinian cause, he credits Israel's political organization, cultural achievements, and economic stability as the strength behind Israel's permanence. What I find fascinating about this book is that it addresses issues often ignored by America's biased media. American society has yet to adequately analyze the inhumane political and social injustices suffered by the Palestinians. In fact, often is the case that news coverage of Arabs in the region reinforce an already inbred stereotype of Middle Eastern society, that chaos and violence is a standard practice.

Said also emphasizes on how Israel, once a victim of oppression, has evolved into an oppressor. In "The Question of Palestine," Said explains how Palestine has been plagued by acquisition and occupation. In his book, Said describes his view of Israel as an imperialistic society. He also addresses the issue that the Palestinians were not consulted when their land was given to a new society for development. In essence, Said explains how the existence of the Palestinians was thought of as a minimal complication that will dilute with time. However, the reality of the matter is that the identities of the Palestinians are far from accepting defeat.

In "The Question of Palestine" Said describes how nearly 4 million Palestinians are scattered throughout the world. In this book Said questions how nothing is said when it is irrefutable that Israel is responsible for the deportation, torture, and transfer of population of millions of Palestinian Arabs. Said gives his readers an account of the Palestinian reality -- a struggle in which the natives are the disadvantaged.

Fundamentally, the purpose of Said writing this book was to bring attention to a vaguely commented issue - the reality of the Palestinian refugees. An issue that Said describes as ignored, or willfully misrepresented is no longer so. "The Question of Palestine" provokes its readers to question an issue that would not commonly be addressed. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Middle Eastern politics and to any individual on gaining insight on an issue that is unfortunately not often discussed.
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