A Language for Our Struggles

Against the Current, No. 107, November/December 2003

Nadine Nader

MY HEART CONNECTS with my Arab sisters and brothers during this time as we mourn the loss of a person who produced a language through which we could speak about our struggles. In addition to the exceptional role he has played in shaping the field of post-colonial studies, Edward Said has provided linguistic and theoretical frameworks for exposing the colonialist nature of the Israeli state and the asymmetry in power between Israelis/Palestinians.

As an Arab American woman who regularly confronts the ongoing attempts to silence any and all critiques of Israel in the United States, I find that Edward Said’s work has provided me with the tools to expose the injustices of colonialism. It has been invaluable to my understanding of the ways that anti-Arab discourses and practices are legitimated, justified and rationalized.

Said’s work has also shaped my understanding of the ways that colonialist projects rely on racist images of colonized women as a tool in marking the colonized as a backwards people. He has provided me with a framework for challenging dominant media images that portray Arab women as passive victims of Arab men, or as bad mothers who throw their children out in the streets to die.

His courage has provided me with the power to speak about the massacres that have been central to the history of Israel, and the murder of Palestinian children. Most importantly, from Edward Said I have learned the significance of naming one’s oppressor(s).

Edward Said’s work inspires me to say that no matter how many times they try to silence us, we will continue to speak, write and resist; and I promise you, Edward, that we will continue this struggle until Israel ends its occupation and until all Palestinians are granted the right to return home.

What you have left behind extends way beyond academia and the Palestinian struggle — there was your kindness and your sense of humor, your beautiful family and your support of young scholars. The list is endless and these are only a few thoughts reflecting how I am grappling with this loss and remembering you. — September 25, 2003

ATC 107, November-December 2003