Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Edward Said and Kosovo

David Zarnett has written a devastating critique for Democratiya of Edward Said’s disgraceful record over Kosovo, about which I have been meaning to comment since it appeared at the start of this month. Some time ago, David wrote to me asking my opinion as to whether an article on Said and Kosovo would be a worthy endeavour; I remember expressing to him a certain scepticism as to whether Said had written enough about Kosovo to make an in-depth study feasible. I am sorry to say that my scepticism has proven unfounded and that David’s judgement as to the relevance of this topic has been entirely vindicated – Said wrote much more about Kosovo than he should have. I am sorry, because it means that yet another eminent left-wing intellectual may be added to the list of those prepared to denigrate the peoples of the former Yugoslavia and minimise their suffering, for the sake of the ‘higher cause’ of scoring cheap points against the US. Said was not, as I had imagined, someone who had simply added his voice casually to the ‘anti-imperialist’ chorus at the time of the Kosovo War in 1999, but a dyed-in-the-wool anti-American zealot to whom the question of whether the Kosovo Albanians would be able to live in their own country, or whether they would become the Palestinians of Europe, mattered absolutely nothing. Indeed, he was much happier with the idea of the Kosovo Albanians losing their homeland and becoming a diaspora than he was with the idea of the US intervening militarily.

The reason this is particularly shocking in Said’s case is, of course, because he was himself a Palestinian; indeed, the most eminent intellectual champion of the Palestinian cause in the Western world. Said perceived a parallel between the fate of the Kosovo Albanians in 1999 and the fate of the Palestinians in 1948; in an article published during the Kosovo War, he wrote of the ‘persecution, ethnic cleansing and continued oppression of Albanians in the province of Kosovo by the Serbian forces of Slobodan Milosevic’, before adding that ‘for Palestinians, 1948 was like this minus CNN: at that time 780,000 were evicted from their houses and property by Zionist forces. They remain a nation in exile fifty-one years later.’ But his perception of this parallel did not lead him to express the slightest solidarity with the Kosovo Albanians – on the contrary…

I do not wish to plunder Zarnett’s splendid article for quotes showing just how far Said was prepared to go in minimising both the suffering of the Albanians and the crimes of the Milosevic regime; I’d recommend instead reading the article directly. Suffice to say that Said used the term ‘Sunday school picnic’ in reference to the fate of Milosevic’s Albanian victims. A fate that was, in his opinion, similar to that which befell the Palestinians in 1948, only with added CNN coverage.

Thursday, 20 December 2007 - Posted by | Balkans, Former Yugoslavia, Israel, Kosovo, Middle East, Palestine, Serbia, The Left

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