BY JENNY LONG
SYDNEY — Around 120 people gathered at the Metcalf Auditorium, in the NSW State Library, on October 17 for a memorial meeting for the highly influential Palestinian intellectual and activist Edward Said. Said died in the US on September 25 after a long battle with leukaemia. He was 67 years old.
The diverse range of speakers included Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) activist Rawan Abdulnabi, academic Tony Birch from University of Melbourne, anti-colonial cultural theorist Suvendi Perera from LaTrobe University, Bill Ashcroft from University of NSW's English department and Ahmad Shboul from the Arab and Islamic Studies department at University of Sydney .
All paid tribute to Said's academic work and activism. Birch spoke of his incredible contribution to inspiring oppressed groups everywhere to challenge the lies, ignorance and misinformation that helps perpetuate the status quo. Perera pointed out that Said refused to be co-opted by Western academia, in which he could be the "token person of colour", and instead drew on his experience of being Palestinian and Arab to maintain his restless campaigning for justice for the Palestinians and other oppressed peoples.
The PHRC also screened an interview with Said broadcast on the BBC's Hardtalk to give an example of his ability to unite intellectual and activist approaches to confront the corporate media. With persistence and humour, Said forcefully refuted a range of racist lies about the Palestinian people's struggle for their national rights. He defended the intifada as the only option available to the Palestinian people, who are faced with oppression and violence by the Israeli occupiers.
The evening came to a close with a commemoration speech by Arab community activist Paula Aboud, who urged those present to continue Said's activity against colonisation and racism.
The PHRC's next event is a public forum with Palestinian human rights activist and spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi, who will be in Sydney to accept this year's Sydney Peace Award. The forum will be at Petersham Town Hall on November 8, at 1.30pm.
From Green Left Weekly, October 22, 2003.
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