General Union of Palestine Students honor Edward Said mural anniversary

SF State’s General Union of Palestine Students and Associated Students, Inc. honored English and comparative literature professor, author and Palestine nation advocate Edward Said Thursday.

“Edward Said is a genius, essentially,” said GUPS general member Lubna Morrar. “I view him on the same level as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Angela Davis, as a person who was fighting for Palestinian people.”

Metzali Andrade of the Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations delivers the "blessing of the land and space" to open the 8th Annual Edward Said Mural Celebration at SF State's Cesar Chavez Student Center, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015. (Brian Churchwell / Xpress)

Metzali Andrade of the Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations delivers the “blessing of the land and space” to open the 8th Annual Edward Said Mural Celebration at SF State’s Cesar Chavez Student Center, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015. (Brian Churchwell / Xpress)

The eighth-annual Edward Said Mural Celebration, co-sponsored by SF State’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies and the Richard Oakes Multicultural Center, was held at noon in the Malcolm X Plaza and continued with a ceremonial banquet in Jack Adams Hall at 6 p.m.

The mural has been the center of controversy and criticism since its inception, with some arguing that it promotes anti-Semitism, according to a 2013 story from the Golden Gate Xpress.

After a yearlong debate, the mural was unveiled in 2007 to honor Said’s impact on the Palestinian community and homeland, according to Xpress.

Said, who died in 2003, was born in Palestine and moved to the U.S. in 1951, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He became a professor at Columbia University in 1963 and published multiple books criticizing Western cultural misconceptions regarding the Middle East. His well-known book “Orientalism,” published in 1978, examines the issues of modern imperialism and analyzes the Western study influencing cultural errors that misrepresent the Eastern world, according to the Colonial and Postcolonial Literary Dialogues website.

“(Said) was a poet, an artist and eloquent in his being,” Morrar said. “He gave a sense of pride to the Arab nation and Palestine people. It’s important to honor and celebrate him and to know it’s not just a mural for art, but a mural for the road of liberation.”

The celebration opened with GUPS welcoming SF State’s Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations member, Metzali Andrade, 21, to the stage as she gave their “blessing of the land and space.”

Palestinian Cultural Mural: Honoring Dr. Edward Said painted Fayeq Oweis & Susan Greene. The mural was dedicated on November 2, 2007, in honor of Dr. Edward Said's activism for human rights, justice, and a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict inspired millions of people around the world. (Emma Chiang / Xpress)

Palestinian Cultural Mural: Honoring Dr. Edward Said painted Fayeq Oweis & Susan Greene. The mural was dedicated on November 2, 2007, in honor of Dr. Edward Said’s activism for human rights, justice, and a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict inspired millions of people around the world. (Emma Chiang / Xpress)

Morrar said GUPS recognizes that the University is sitting on stolen indigenous land; they allowed members from S.K.I.N.S to come and bless the space during the ceremony. She said they recognize that the universal struggles faced by both Palestinian and indigenous people are interconnected.

GUPS provided dinner for everyone in attendance as Morrar spoke briefly about her personal experience and the importance of resistance and standing in solidarity.

Attendees were treated to a special performance by Said’s daughter Najla Said, who performed her one-woman play “Palestine” in honor of her father’s mural and the Palestinian community. Najla Said is the author of the memoir “Looking for Palestine: Growing up Confused in an Arab-American Family,” which discusses the challenges she faced finding her own Arab identity in America.

SF State professor of both ethnic studies and race and resistance studies Rabab Abdulhadi spoke about the history of the Palestinian community and expressed the importance of learning the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies, while introducing Najla Said.

“Najla Said represents the power of culture and what we stand for in AMED (Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies),” Abdulhadi said. “She is representing everything we are educating and speaking about, the place of culture in people’s struggle.”

Emotions were high as Najla Said described her time in Gaza and her experience during and after Sept. 11. The audience stood and applauded as she teared up near the end of her performance and the celebration came to a close.

“A good portion of my childhood was spent avoiding the fact that I might be Arabic,” Said said. “Since, I have felt my love for the Arab culture grow. Although I have never returned to Palestine, Palestine returns to me.”

Latest comments
  • Page 1.

    It is now five years after the death of Edward Said, the man who made it cool to hate the West, and the reevaluation of his thought and work is thankfully well underway. Said forged a career out of revisiting the past, “deconstructing” what he found and writing it anew. Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’sOrientalism by Ibn Warraq, founder of the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society, reveals just how massive a fabrication Said’s version of history is. The book spells out in great detail Said’s deeply flawed writings and his legacy: the modern academic fetish for examining microscopically the flaws and failings (real and imagined) of the West while simultaneously portraying an ever-peaceful East perpetually victimized by the technologically superior but, of course, morally benighted West. This is the fashionable narrative in the humanities departments of virtually every college and university in America, if not in all of Western academia.

    Those who perpetuate it Ibn Warraq calls “Saidists.” Among them, Said has achieved cult-like status as a prophet who (in the tired cliché of the Left) “spoke truth to power.” They see it as their mission to reveal cracks in the deception foisted on the world by an older generation of historians whose work attempts to disguise an aggressive, dominating West. A corollary, more covert mission is to erect their own wall to insulate the East from the kinds of attacks they themselves make on the West. And the Saidists have been so successful that many people now see colonialism and empire as creations of the West and symptoms of a Western moral inferiority that (especially for Western scholars) must be atoned for in many ways. Saidism, one might say, is a way to atone.

    Ibn Warraq’s ambitious book brings together three projects, each worthy of a full-length study: first, a critique of Said’s thought and work focusing on the insidious effects of his magnum opus, Orientalism;[1]second, a defense of the West against the academic assaults that have become commonplace since Said’s book was published; and third, a welcome reappraisal of the eighteenth- through twentieth-century linguists, historians, artists, and writers who studied the East and who are known today as Orientalists, a term Said made pejorative. Ibn Warraq masterfully weaves the three projects together in 556 pages.

    The author lays bare Said’s methods of obfuscation, which often use nonsensical and impenetrable prose, insinuation, and outright falsification. Said’s ad hominem attacks against those who criticized his work are recounted, demonstrating that Said was both a metaphorical as well as a literal stone-thrower. And the growing list of Said’s “historical howlers” (obvious inaccuracies and misstatements of fact) unmasks an amateur historian who was either extremely sloppy or just plain dishonest.

  • Page 2.

    In reappraising the Orientalists, Ibn Warraq defends their works as labors of love rather than exploitative endeavors. Those readers unfamiliar with these Orientalists will find themselves seeking out their work where, Ibn Warraq tells us, can be found “no disdain, but rather sympathy, patience, attentive curiosity, and the surprise of discovery.” Ibn Warraq argues that rather than the conniving and condescending bogeymen Saidists portray, “Orientalists of the late nineteenth century were drawing upon a humane tradition established 250 years earlier.”

    In adducing evidence for his arguments, the author proves versatile, equally at home summarizing the latest academic arcana, describing the pleasures of Orientalist paintings, and quoting comments left by a tourist in the guest book of a museum exhibiting Orientalist art work. Passages range from the erudite to the commonsensical. On the erudite side, Said’s claim that the Orientalists “essentialized” the Orient is itself exposed as an argument dependent on an “essentialized” portrayal of the West. On the commonsensical side, there are many outstanding passages: My favorite comes in chapter 12 where Ibn Warraq neatly dismantles the arguments of Linda Nochlin, a Saidist of some note. Discussing the paintings of Jéan-Léon Gerôme, Nochlin claims that the absence of a Western colonial presence in the scenes comprises an attempt to hide the historical reality of that presence, presumably in the furtherance of some vaguely imperialist agenda; Ibn Warraq responds with the following bit of disarming logic:

    If you have ever visited the Taj Mahal … you have not resisted the temptation to take a photograph of it. If you have taken a photograph, you were anxious not to include some fat Western tourist, in shorts, hat, and sunglasses with a camera slung around his neck, in the frame. You waited until there were no tourists near to spoil the view; such tourists would have looked out of place and as inappropriate as their dress. Orientalist paintings were often commissioned by Europeans or Americans back home, and the latter certainly did not want to buy views that showed tourists.

    This is brilliant in its clarity and simplicity-Occam’s razor meets art history. Another gem comes in an attack on the cultural relativism that has become academic orthodoxy: “relativism, like cholesterol, comes in two forms: good and bad … the good type of relativism was originally only a way of preaching tolerance to others-the Other.” Insights abound, many of them very quotable

  • Page 3.

    Those readers who were intrigued by Ibn Warraq’s brief scheme of “the three Islams” in the introduction to his ground-breaking Why I Am Not a Muslim[2] will appreciate the elaboration on the idea in his chapter “The Pathological Niceness of Liberals, Antimonies, Paradoxes, and Western Values.” This section would serve nicely as a stand-alone piece and as an excellent anodyne to any college freshman who has survived, mind intact, the institutionalized pabulum that passes as “global studies” in most public schools today.

    Will Ibn Warraq’s new book end forever the deleterious effects of more than thirty years of petulant, dishonest, self-loathing Saidism? Probably not. But any honest acolytes of Edward Said who read this book will either be forever relieved of their knee-jerk faith in the simple dichotomy of Western guilt and Eastern victimhood that is at the core of Said’s thought, or they will be forced to participate in their own hoodwinking. Ibn Warraq’s critique of Said’s thought and work is thorough and convincing, indeed devastating to anyone depending on Saidism. It should do to Orientalism what Mary Lefkowitz’s Not Out of Africa[3] did to Martin Bernal’s Black Athena.[4] And it should force the Saidists to acknowledge the sophistry of their false prophet.

  • “Emotions were high as Najla Said described her time in Gaza and her experience during and after Sept. 11. The audience stood and applauded as she teared up near the end of her performance and the celebration came to a close.”

    Gaza? Were not Palestinians celebrating in the streets the day of 9/11?

  • Let’s ignore how Muslims treat Palestinians, OK?

    ++

    The Palestinian expulsion from Kuwait or 1991 Palestinian
    exodus from Kuwait took place at the end of the Gulf War, when Kuwait expelled
    almost 450,000 Palestinians.[1] The policy which led to this exodus was a
    response to the alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with
    Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait. The exodus took place during
    one week in March 1991, following Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi occupation.
    The story received little media attention in the aftermath of the liberation of
    Kuwait.

    The policy which led to this expulsion was a response to the
    alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with Saddam Hussein,
    who had earlier invaded Kuwait. The expulsion took place during one week in
    March 1991, following Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi occupation. On March 14,
    only 150,000 Palestinians were still residing in Kuwait, out of initial 450,000
    – many of them fearful for their fate.[4]

    In total, Kuwait expelled 443,000 Palestinians.[1] Several
    Palestinians were killed by vigilante groups including some with links to the
    royal family.[5] With the completion of the exodus only 7,000 Palestinians
    remained.[1]

    Kuwaitis said that Palestinians leaving the country could move
    to Jordan, and that most Palestinians held Jordanian passports.[4] No reports
    of where the Palestinans actually went to after the expulsion have appeared.