The controversy over Edward Said's decision to throw a rock across the Lebanese-Israeli border has followed Professor Said back to Columbia and continues to occupy the pages of the Spectator and conversations around campus, in spite of efforts by Said and his friends to downplay the issue. Far more shocking and egregious than any rock-throwing could be was Professor Said's decision to meet with the leader of a terrorist organization on the same trip.
In an August 18 interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Professor Said admitted to meeting with the one of the leaders of the terrorist group Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Professor Said called Nasrallah "a remarkably impressive man" and praised Hezbollah's decision to "make them [the Israelis] feel it in body bags." He applauded what he called Nasrallah's "no bullshit" style. What kind of individual would talk to such a man, let alone sing his praises?
It is a tremendous embarrassent to Columbia that one of our most eminent professors threw a rock across the volatile Lebanese-Israeli border in the direction of Israeli soldiers.
But it is nothing short of unconscionable that Professor Said would meet with a leader of a radical band of murderers that the American State Department has branded a terrorist organization. It turns the stomach to read that Professor Said pat Nasrallah on the back for sending Israeli teenagers and civilians home in body bags. Why is this man who claims to support peace meeting with the leader of an organization that is responsible for innumerable murders?
Even though Said is frequently referred as Columbia's most celebrated professor, his publications and contributions to literature and history cannot shield him from criticism for consorting with terrorists. He is not above our judgment.
The United States State Department website lists and describes the organizations the American government considers terrorist organizations (www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/fto_info_1999.htm), which include Hezbollah (spelled Hizballah on the website). According to the State Department, Hezbollah is "known or suspected to have been involved in" the murder of 243 American Marines in the suicide bombing of a Marines barracks in Lebanon in 1983. There is no doubt about the organization's involvement in the 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy in Argentina and countless Katyusha launches into Israel, causing numerous deaths.
Hezbollah certainly does have a "no bullshit" style; its body-bag message rings clear and true, unlike Said's muddy and inconsistent menu of excuses for throwing the rock, which range from "symbolic gesture" to part of an "Oedipal competition" with his son. Professor Said met with and complimented one of the leaders of an organization suspected of sending 243 American Marines home to their families in pieces. That is despicable and sickening.
Predictably, his apologists will object that the suffering caused by all the bombs and Katyusha rockets Hezbollah loosed on Israel and American servicemen over the past two decades does not amount to the pain felt by the Lebanese under 22 years of occupation.
For that, the Lebanese have only themselves and their government to blame. Israel had to put an end to Palestine Liberation Organization terrorist activities in the early 1980s and then needed to maintain a presence to protect its citizens residing close to the border from Katyusha and mortar attacks from Hezbollah. America would do the same if it faced the same threat.
What is most regrettable about the situation is that so many lives were lost on both sides because of the actions by, and reactions to, terrorists. It is unfortunate that perhaps our best-known professor has chosen to publicly support a known terrorist whose organization is responsible for hundreds of deaths. He can hide behind his reputation no longer. His repugnant terrorist sympathies are exposed. Shame on you, Edward Said.