To the Editor:
Your article on the clash between the Jewish Defense League and "pro-Arab" students, the appearance of David Fahri, and the editorial cautioning moderation on the Palestine question requires clarification. First, David Farhi, regardless of his academic qualifications, is a colonial official. There are no two ways about that. By sponsoring his visit here and provoking the concern of students and faculty, the university (through the Center for Israel and Jewish Studies) acted a role similar to one it would have played had it sponsored the visit here of a white South African in charge of "black affairs." Farhi works for the Arab Affairs section of the Israeli "H.Q. on the West Bank," and it was because of his post that his presence here on October 7 was enabled, not because of his scholarly attainments. His visit, and everything he said or did, were therefore political, by no means academic. Second, Farhi's political line is: a) the dissociation of the West Bank Palestinian from the Palestinian resistance organizations and b) the encouragement of a subservient "national" line amongst West Bank Arab Palestinian residents. His style is liberal and conciliatory but neither a) nor b) could have been possible without the very fact of Israeli occupation, the deportation of potentially troublesome "elements" from the West Bank under Emergency Defense Regulations formulated by the British, but still used by the Israelis exclusively against Arabs, the emasculation of Palestinian political life, and psychological terror and threats. The expropriation of Arab land (most recently in East Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Beit-Jala, and Beit-Sahour), the systematic destruction of Arab houses and property, and the detention without trial of thousands of Palestinian Arabs—all these are what Farhi would call "simple police matters," but somehow they do the job of making a liberal attitude possible for those who want the Palestinian to appear cooperative. (Incidentally, your reporter must have been dreaming if he heard Farhi say that "guerilla leaders" were among the Arab spokesmen on the West Bank. The only spokesmen allowed to speak, or be, on the West Bank are "good" Arabs.) The recent, wide-spread campaign—initiated by Israel— in this country to gather support for a so-called separate Palestinian State on the West Bank has to be understood in the light of these truths, not as an example of Israeli noblesse oblige. Colonialism is colonialism.
As for the JDL and disruptions of the sort that occurred at the SDS forum last Monday, speakers supporting the Palestine liberation struggle were screamed at, constantly interrupted, harassed, photographed and tape recorded as if for some obscure intelligence purpose. Recall if you can an Arab Defense League, try and find the Palestinian viewpoint substantially present in the press or on the television, show me examples of Palestinian attacks in New York on Israeli offices. Moderation seems to mean treating Palestinians like James Michener does, as colored refugees who must be made to be settled, since they won't do it themselves, or like Farhi, as compliant, but slightly scared, children. If people are now beginning to connect Israel with Western imperialism (see Benjamin Welles' Times article, October 8, detailing the plan for joint U.S. and Israeli intervention on Hussein's side) it is not because of some insidious anti-Semitic plan, but because the connection is there, and reinforced daily. And because Palestinian liberation, there for 22 years, is at least being taken seriously by people no longer satisfied with liberal hogwash.
Edward W. Said
Professor of English
Oct. 8, 1970
("Letters: Mideast Comes to Columbia," Columbia Daily Spectator, October 9, 1970, p. 3)