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The Question of Palestine Paperback – 4 Aug 1988

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Product details

  • Paperback: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Random House USA Inc (4 Aug. 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394745272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394745275
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 2 x 18.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 943,508 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.

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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 April 2012
Format: Paperback 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 36 reviews
237 of 259 people found the following review helpful
Taking Sides 18 Sept. 2002
By nadav haber - Published on
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.
84 of 103 people found the following review helpful
Ignored or Denied 4 Aug. 2003
By Virgil Brown - Published on
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.
66 of 82 people found the following review helpful
The Question of Palestine 11 May 2002
By Barry D. Smith - Published on
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!
36 of 47 people found the following review helpful
A very thoughtful introduction 29 Nov. 2001
By jacob cohen - Published on
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Question of Palestine 13 May 2014
By David - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Edward Said's The Question of Palestine has many positives, even if some of those positives are not as relevant today as they were when the book was published in 1979.

Indeed, in 1979 Said had grounds for arguing that the Palestinian narrative was far less known about in the West than the Zionist narrative. However, today it is very different.

In addition, Said is relatively moderate comparatively speaking. It is admirable that in a time when Israel and the PLO would not recognise each other, Said was willing to discuss peace. Moreover, Said shows great sensitivity in discussing the Holocaust.

While it is important to acknowledge the positives, it is also important to note the flip side. One can forgive the bias, perhaps even understand it. However, the historical distortions and manipulated quotes, among other things, cannot be ignored.

For example, Said distorts PLO decisions, portraying the decisions as realistic offers for peace. (pg 224)

In reality, the PLO published its Six Point Programme in 1977 accepting the idea of an independent Palestinian state, but did so without reconcilation, recognition or negotiations as an interim aim of the Palestinian Revolution. Moreover, the PLO rejected UN Resolutions 242 and 338.

An example of a manipulated quote is best illustrated on page 13, quoting from Theodor Herzl's diaries about what would have to be done with the "Palestinian natives".

Here, Said omits much of diary entry, leaving the reader with the impression that Herzl is referring to all the inhabitants. Said also changes the word 'try' to 'have' in the first quoted line. Moreover, Herzl's diary entry makes no mention of the Palestinians because Herzl's thinking was isolated from mainstream Zionist thought. As Herzl wrote on June 13, 1895, 'I am assuming that we shall go to Argentina'.

Another issue with Said is best illustrated on page 9, when Said incorrectly attributes the phrase "a land without people, for a people without land," to Israel Zangwill. In reality, Zangwill attributes the phrase to Lord Shaftesbury. Moreover, Said omits the article 'a' from the quote, changing the meaning from the political to the literal and demographic. Finally, Said provides no citation.

In conclusion, while the book has positives, at least worthy of acknowledgment, the book is overshadowed by histortical distortions, manipulated quotes and at times questionable and poor citation. Its not a reliable source.
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