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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 September, 2003, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
Palestinian scholar Edward Said dies
Edward Said
Edward Said spent most of his life in the United States

The renowned Palestinian-American academic Edward Said has died in New York after a long battle with leukaemia. He was 67.

Mr Said was a tireless spokesman for the Palestinian cause in the West and a fierce critic of Israel.

Born in Jerusalem, he made his name as a writer and academic in the United States, where he spent most of his adult life.

He is the author of a hugely influential book, Orientalism, published in 1978.

As a professor of comparative literature at Columbia University in New York, Mr Said engaged with a huge range of subjects, including classics of English literature such as the works of Jane Austen.

He was also interested in music, but it was his writings on the Middle East that established his wider reputation.

In Orientalism, he argued that the entire Western academic discipline of oriental studies was based on imperialist and racist myths about the Middle East.

'Greatly missed'

Mr Said took a hard line against Israel, accusing the Jewish state of displaying xenophobia towards the Arabs.

When Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo peace accords with Israel, Mr Said criticised the Palestinian leader for, as he put it, "collaborating with military occupation".

Many Israelis saw Mr Said as an unreasonable and unreliable critic.

There even were suggestions that he had over-dramatised his own background in order to enhance his credentials as a Palestinian spokesman.

But the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says that for the Palestinians - particularly in America where their cause has never been as popular as in other parts of the world - Mr Said was a supremely articulate advocate whose presence will be greatly missed.

In recent years, Mr Said's most high-profile intervention in the politics of the Middle East has probably been his collaboration with the Israeli musician, Daniel Barenboim.

A gifted pianist himself, Mr Said gave joint recitals with Barenboim in the West Bank and elsewhere as part of a campaign to get Arab and Israeli musicians playing together.

Watch Edward Said appearing on the BBC's Hardtalk

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