The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination, 1969-1994


Ever since the appearance of his groundbreaking The Question of Palestine, Edward Said has been America's most outspoken advocate for Palestinian self-determination. As these collected essays amply prove, he is also our most intelligent and bracingly heretical writer on affairs involving not only Palestinians but also the Arab and Muslim worlds and their tortuous relations with the West.

In The Politics of Dispossession Said traces his people's struggle for statehood through ...

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The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination, 1969-1994

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Ever since the appearance of his groundbreaking The Question of Palestine, Edward Said has been America's most outspoken advocate for Palestinian self-determination. As these collected essays amply prove, he is also our most intelligent and bracingly heretical writer on affairs involving not only Palestinians but also the Arab and Muslim worlds and their tortuous relations with the West.

In The Politics of Dispossession Said traces his people's struggle for statehood through twenty-five years of exile, from the PLO's bloody 1970 exile from Jordan through the debacle of the Gulf War and the ambiguous 1994 peace accord with Israel. As frank as he is about his personal involvement in that struggle, Said is equally unsparing in his demolition of Arab icons and American shibboleths. Stylish, impassioned, and informed by a magisterial knowledge of history and literature, The Politics of Dispossession is a masterly synthesis of scholarship and polemic that has the power to redefine the debate over the Middle East.

Writing with passion and intelligence, Said retraces the Palestinian Hejira, its disastrous flirtation with Saddam Hussein, and its ambitious peace accord with Israel. Said demolishes Western stereotypes about the Muslim world and Islam's illusions about itself, leaving a masterly synthesis of scholarship and polemic with the power to redefine the debate over the Middle East.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The most eloquent and visible voice of the Palestinian struggle in America.... [Said's] combination of flamboyant style and erudite radicalism, honesty and advocacy... makes The Politics of Dispossession necessary and informative for anyone interested in the complexities of the Palestinian question." — San Francisco Chronicle

"This book should be read by anyone who wants to get beyond the shallow stereotypes that bedevil American thinking on the Middle East." — Robert Hughes

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this forceful, challenging collection of 37 political essays from the past 25 years, Said, University Professor at Columbia, emphasizes that the Palestinians are a people with their own history, society and right to self-determination. He is highly critical of Yasir Arafat's dominance of the PLO, which he calls undemocratic, corrupt and incompetent. He also forthrightly condemns the political right wing that dominates virtually every Arab government, enforcing repression, censorship and ``intellectual thought control.'' A recurrent theme is the West's longstanding prejudice against the Arabs and Islam, manifested in media coverage of the Persian Gulf War, nonrecognition of Arab literature and racist stereotypes of Arabs. Highlights of this collection include a critique of U.S. policy in the Middle East, an analysis of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and a discussion of Palestinian identity with writer Salman Rushdie. Tracing his own direct involvement in the Palestinian national movement, Said deems the recent Israeli-PLO accord a sellout by Arafat, an instrument of Palestinian surrender that suspends most of the Palestinian people's rights and consigns diaspora Palestinians (those living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) to permanent exile or refugee status. (June)
Library Journal
In this volume Columbia professor Said, for some an enfant terrible while for others the most articulate English-language spokesperson for organized Palestinian efforts to achieve political recognition, has collected 37 of his previously published political essays. There will be no disappointments here for readers familiar with the author's work (e.g., Culture and Imperialism, LJ 3/1/93) or for those reading him for the first time. Said deals with the hotly debated concept of a geopolitical Palestine and its people; the Arab world in general, with which he is not always entirely pleased; and the intriguing relationship of the intellectual to politics and the impact of that relationship on events surrounding the ``Palestine Question.'' Recommended for its style and potency as well as for its alternative viewpoint to the mainstream perspective, Said's book should be acquired by academic and larger public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/94.]-Sanford R. Silverburg, Catawba Coll., Salisbury, N.C
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679761457
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Table of Contents

1 The Palestinian Experience (1968-1969) 3
2 The Palestinians One Year Since Amman (1971) 24
3 Palestinians (1977) 30
4 The Acre and the Goat (1979) 33
5 Peace and Palestinian Rights (1980) 43
6 Palestinians in the United States (1981) 52
7 The Formation of American Public Opinion on the Question of Palestine (1980) 56
8 Palestinians in the Aftermath of Beirut: A Preliminary Stocktaking (1982) 69
9 An Ideology of Difference (1985) 78
10 Solidly Behind Arafat (1983) 101
11 Who Would Speak for Palestinians? (1985) 104
12 On Palestinian Identity: A Conversation with Salman Rushdie (1986) 107
13 Review of Wedding in Galilee and Friendship's Death (1988) 130
14 How to Answer Palestine's Challenge (1988) 137
15 Palestine Agenda (December 1988) 145
16 Palestinians in the Gulf War's Aftermath (1991) 152
17 The Prospects for Peace in the Middle East (1991) 156
18 Return to Palestine-Israel (1992) 175
19 U.S. Policy and the Conflict of Powers in the Middle East (1973) 203
20 The Arab Right Wing (1979) 224
21 A Changing World Order: The Arab Dimension (1980) 231
22 The Death of Sadat (1981) 243
23 Permission to Narrate (1984) 247
24 "Our" Lebanon (1984) 269
25 Sanctum of the Strong (1989) 273
26 Behind Saddam Hussein's Moves (August 1990) 278
27 A Tragic Convergence (January 11, 1991) 283
28 Ignorant Armies Clash by Night (February 11, 1991) 287
29 The Arab-American War: The Politics of Information (March 1991) 295
30 The Intellectuals and the War (April 1991) 304
31 Chomsky and the Question of Palestine (1975) 323
32 Reticences of an Orientalist (1986) 337
33 Identity, Negation and Violence (1988) 341
34 The Orientalist Express: Thomas Friedman Wraps Up the Middle East (1989) 360
35 On Nelson Mandela, and Others (1990) 366
36 Embargoed Literature (1990) 372
37 The Splendid Tapestry of Arab Life (1991) 379
38 The Other Arab Muslims (1993) 384
Epilogue 413
Permissions Acknowledgments 421
Notes 423
Index 433
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2001

    Basic Said

    For those familiar with the writings and thoughts of Said, this volume will be a re-visiting of familiar themes. As he has been doing for a number of decades, Said continues to be an outspoken advocate for human rights, specifically for Palestinians in the Middle East. Of course, and as Said continues to acknowledge, the Palestinian situation is complicated. The Palestinians continue to be portrayed as 'terrorists' by the Western press (and rightly for acts of terrorism), but these violent expressions do not represent the whole of the Palestinian. 'It is not easy being the victim of victims,' Said says about the opressions of the Isrealis. Or, no matter how bloody and murderous the situation in the Middle East becomes, Said reminds us that Israelis are the aggressors in the situation - and this is something we should never forget...Note: for an excellent foundation on Said's writing, his 'Orientalism' is a great place to start.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2002

    Said: Chief Palestinian Revisionist

    Hiding behind a mantle of respectability as a Columbia University Professor of English, Edward W. Said has given the world several books of (mediocre) fiction that he calls factual. The Politics of Dispossession is his meanest attempt to rewrite history yet, amassing numerous claims that conflict with events surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict. Here he makes six significant points concerning Palestinian Arab rights, his personal rights as a Palestinian 'exile' and the Israel's history. He claims that: 1. Britain promised the 'Palestinian Arabs' independence after World War I as an incentive for them to join the Allies during the war. Said contends this meant 'Palestine' was to be given to 'Palestinian Arabs'. 2. The Jews owned only 6% of the land in Palestine in 1947--and 'Arabs owning all the rest'; the Jews were given 55% of the land to establish a Jewish state--'the best part of the country, at that.' 3. When war erupted in 1948, the 'British suddenly exited the country,' leaving the 'Palestinian Arab' militia to face a Jewish army 'ten times larger and a hundred times better equipped.' 4. David Ben-Gurion's May 1948 declaration of Israel's independence omitted to mention the state's actual borders, meaning that Ben-Gurion and the Zionists intended to grab more land. 5. Israeli immigration and citizenship laws unfairly discriminate against people who, like Said, were born in Palestine, and have no comparable 'right of return' or to citizenship. 6. Israelis killed 'Incomparably more Palestinians' than the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians in the last 40 years (Said wrote the piece in 1988). To anyone uninformed on the history of the Middle East conflict, or informed only of the pro-Arab view, the book would seem to conclusively paint Israeli wrongdoing. However, most of Said's statements are wrong. Consider point one. In exchange for Arab cooperation during World War I, the British promised independence and land to Arabs in general--and more specifically to Sharif Hussein of Mecca and his son Faisal. But the British did not mention 'Palestinian Arabs.' And the territory they promised to Arabs did not include current-day Jordan or lands west of the Jordan River, north of Egypt or south of Lebanon. In fact, that entire area--historic Palestine--was promised to the Jewish people, a fact agreed upon by Sharif Hussein and Faisal in a 1919 treaty with Chaim Weitzmann. World War I ended with Greater Syria's liberation from Turkish rule. The Allies gave Sharif Hussein, his sons, and the Arab people a total of more than 1 million square miles in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and northern Arabia. Then in 1923, the British unilaterally separated 75% of 'Historic Palestine'-TransJordan--and gave it to Hussein's family, which in fact hailed from the Hejaz--the northern part of Saudi Arabia, and therefore had no business occupying Jordan. So why didn't Palestinian Arabs fight with Jordan? Take point 2. The Arabs did not in fact own 94% of Palestine. Firstly, Transjordan's removal had cut 'Palestine' to 25% of its original size; Secondly, more than 80% of the land had been owned by the Ottoman government; it was never owned privately--not for hundreds of years--and this passed, by virtue of the Allied victory in WWI, to the British. The few Arab lands in pre-Transjordan Palestine were owned mostly by absentee landlords, not Palestinian Arabs. Thus, Jewish landlords, with only 6% of the land, by 1919 owned more than 'Palestinian' Arabs did. Britain's Peel Commission (1937) and the United Nations (1947) planned to further Partition 25% of historic Palestine based on majority populations. Thus the UN allotted to the Jews only 55% of one quarter of historic Palestine--which constituted areas where Jews were the majority. In the land that was to become an Arab State, Palestinian Arabs were the majority. Even maps from The Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development (a Palestinian entity) show this. Beside

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