Reflections on Twenty Years of Palestinian History
Two decades after Black September (1970), the main aspects of Palestinian life remain dispossession, exile, dispersion, disenfranchisement (under Israeli military occupation), and, by no means least, an extraordinarily wide- spread and stubborn resistance to these travails. Thousands of lives lost and many more irreparably damaged seem not to have diminished the spirit of resilience characterizing a national movement that despite its many achievements in achieving legitimacy, visibility, and enormous sustenance for its people, against staggering odds, has not discovered a method for stopping or containing the relentless Israeli attempt to take over more and more Palestinian (as well as other Arab) territory. But the discrepancy between important political, moral, and cultural gains on the one hand, and, on the other, a droning ground bass of land alienation is at the heart of the Palestinian dilemma today. To speak of this discrepancy in aesthetic terms as an ironic one is by no means to reduce or trivialize its force. On the contrary: what to many Palestinians is either an incomprehensible cruelty of fate or a measure of how appalling are the prospects for settling their claims can be clarified by seeing irony as a constitutive factor in their lives.
Edward W. Said is the Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. Among his most recent works dealing with the Palestine problem are Blaming the Victims (Verso, 1988) and After the Last Sky. Palestinian Lives (Pantheon, 1986).