April 2, 2001

Edward Said Repudiates Arab Intellectuals' Call to Ban Beirut Revisionism Conference

Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001 14:28:23 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ibrahim Alloush

Dear List members,

Below you shall find a message from Edward Said on the banning of the conference of revisionist historians. As you all know, that conference was supposed to take place in Beirut on March 30. However, the Lebanese government banned it as a result of pressures from Western governments and the Zionist movement. A statement by fourteen Arab intellectuals calling on the Lebanese government to ban the conference of revisionist historians in Beirut was circulated in the media and on the internet. That alleged statement was used as a political cover to justify the banning of the conference and the curtailing of free speech rights.

It seems, however, that the statement was FABRICATED according to a statement by Dr. Edward Said below. The original text read to signatories over the phone was different from the one published in the press. Edward Said says he still does not have a copy of either texts.

Many of the signatories did not know that they will be signing a request to an Arab government to ban free speech. Initial contacts with Mahmoud Darwish indicate the same, even though there is no document like the one below to prove that yet.

This journalistic scoop was made by Samaa Abu Sharar, the daughter of Majed Abu Sharar, the Central Committee member of Fateh who was assassinated in Rome in 1981. Samaa is a journalist living in Amman, Jordan, who writes in English and French. She was out to prove that even if Edward Said disagreed with revisionist historians, he could have never signed the statement calling for banning their conference, which constitutes a violation of free speech rights. After all, Arab regimes don't need much encouragement in this area.

Below you shall find Edward Said's response to Samaa Abu Sharar's query. Please be aware that he authorized her to quote him in part or in full, and hence, she forwarded his message to others to make her point.

In the cause of objectivity, I am forwarding it to those who supported the banning of the conference of revisionist historians in Beirut without any alterations. I still think, however, that it is incumbent upon those whose names were added to a statement that they did not endorse, to MAKE A PUBLIC DECLARATION to that effect.


Ibrahim Alloush


From: Edward W Said
To: samaa Abu-Sharar
Subject: Re: A message from Amman
Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2001 07:15:17 -0400 (EDT)

Dear Samaa,

I don't have and never saw the memo since I was called by phone, told that there was no time to send a copy for me to see, and was asked to approve the text for signature. I did, on condition that there would be no appeal to any government concerning the banning of the conference.

I don't believe a), in addressing governments and b), asking governments to ban anything, least of all conferences, books, etc. Having been the victim of such governmental decisions I couldn't put myself in such a position. I was very clear about this. The next thing I knew is that the statement appeared with a request to Hariri's government to ban the conference.

All I had agreed to sign was a statement denouncing the holding of such a conference in Beirut. To repeat, I did not ask the government to ban it, nor would I ever. This request was added against my wishes, and without my knowledge. I am deeply opposed to holocaust-deniers but I am equally opposed to banning by government edict everyone's right to free speech.

This was a terrible breach of confidence and a small group of franco-arab "intellectuals" simply betrayed my trust. To this day they haven't had the decency to send me a copy of what I supposedly signed. You may use any and all of the information I've sent you here.


Edward Said