ADC Demands Retraction from Commentary Re: Attack on Edward Said
ADC Press Release:
ADC Demands Retraction from Commentary for its Scurrilous Attack on Edward Said Washington, D.C., August 23 — The magazine Commentary, published by the American Jewish Committee, has once again published a scurrilous, ad hominem attack on the noted Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said. An article in its September 1999 edition, “‘My Beautiful Old House’ and Other Fabrications by Edward Said,” falsely claims that he has systematically misrepresented the details of his childhood for political purposes.
The main evidence for this conclusion is that a house Edward Said has described as belonging to his family was owned by his aunt rather than his parents. Commentary does not present evidence that the “Beautiful Old House” was not owned by Said’s family or that they were not deprived of that ownership by Israel’s seizure, through the notorious “absentee property law,” of the property of all refugees expelled in 1948. Said’s family was also deprived of its business, the Palestine Educational
Company. Although Said was not, and has never claimed to have been, a destitute inhabitant of a refugee camp, every single member of his family was expelled by Israel in 1948. Commentary even questions whether Said attended St. George’s School in Jerusalem, which he did. Tellingly, the magazine never directly contacted Said about the details of his own childhood.
The easily verified truth is that Said has always maintained that his childhood was spent in Cairo and Jerusalem, the city of his birth. This is demonstrated by excerpts to be published in the next issue of the New York Review of Books from his forthcoming memoir “Out of Place” (Knopf). Commentary’s article is an undisguised and clumsy polemic designed to negate the Palestinian experience and undermine Palestinian national identity. It contends that Said’s “outright deception and artful obfuscations carefully tailored to strengthen … the claims of Palestinian refugees against Israel.” While the rights of Palestinian refugees are clear and recognized by the international community, Said’s personal narrative has emerged as a powerful example of Palestinian consciousness and experience. Commentary openly intends to counter this narrative by casting doubt on it without regard for the simplest academic or journalistic standards. Commentary even asserts that because Said and his family were Palestinians living in Cairo as well as Palestine “They cannot be considered ‘refugees’ or ‘exiles’ from Palestine in any meaningful sense of those weighty and politically charged terms.” The point of Commentary’s sordid exercise is to suggest that Palestinians, barred from their homeland and robbed of their property as well as their country, did not suffer a major loss with the establishment of Israel.
Commentary has a long history of intense hostility to Palestinian rights, and for years has maintained a vendetta against Said. This latest diatribe is only the latest example. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) strongly condemns this unscrupulous slander.