Edward Said did not fit into any single category. He was the very essence of human nature because he understood its contradictions. He was both a fighter and a compassionate defender. A man of logic and passion. An artist and a critic. A visionary of the future with an understanding of tradition. He fought for Palestinian rights while understanding Jewish suffering, and did not see this posture as a paradox. We founded the West-East Divan as a forum where young Israeli and Arab musicians understood that before Beethoven we all stand as equals.
I shall never forget his making a room full of young Arabs, Israelis and Germans understand that the devil exists in all of us, that Weimar, where that first Divan took place, represented both the best and the worst of German history. It was the city of Goethe, yet it was only a few kilometers away from the Buchenwald concentration camp. He impressed on all the youngsters not only the importance of reading Goethe's Faust but also the necessity for them to witness with their own eyes the remains of the brutality of the concentration camp. He did so in a way that did not offend the Israelis, did not distribute collective guilt to the Germans and made the Arabs see the necessity of understanding that period in Jewish history. The Palestinians have lost a formidable defender, the Israelis a no less formidable adversary, and I a soulmate.
DIED: EDWARD SAID, 67, Columbia University literary critic and advocate for Palestinian independence; in New York. A fierce critic of Israel and American Middle East policy, the Jerusalem-born scholar's most influential book, Orientalism, argued that Western writers had demeaned Arabs and Asians with stereotyping. Yet he lived most of his life in the U.S., acknowledging that he often felt like an outsider living "two quite separate lives.