Few interested in the contemporary Middle East will not be familiar with Edward Said. An articulate, passionate, and often angry voice on behalf of Palestinian rights, Said has been a major critic of the policies of the United States, Israel, the corrupt Arab regimes, and most recently the PLO itself. This collection of his previously published essays brings together a wide range of provocative pieces. Many focus on the Palestinians themselves, but others deal with American policy, the role of intellectuals, the failures of Arab political regimes, and the roots of Islamist activism. Few are spared the sharpness of his pen. Throughout, he displays little taste for politics as often practiced -- the games of maneuver, the prevalence of short-term thinking and personal aggrandizement, the search for halfway measures. His preference for politics as principle makes him intolerant, to say the least, of most politicians, pundits, and political analysts. Despite his moments of irritating self-righteousness, no one can read these essays without being moved -- sometimes to anger, more often to greater empathy with the Palestinians. The greatest tribute to Said as a thinker and writer is that he forces one to think and to question, even when disagreeing. The introduction is of special interest.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.