This morning I read Edward W. Said’s essay on Isaiah Berlin, “An Afterthought”, and after reading it I had a little afterthought of my own; why does Edward seem surprised and dismayed, that Berlin, who “was a liberal, a man of fairness and compassion, of civilized moderation in everything”,(1) was not only an unequivical supporter of Zionism and the Jewish State but also someone who was totally indifferent to the fate of the Palestinian people? Said appears to see a contradiction between Berlin’s liberal “Weltanschauung” and an indifference towards the Palestinians. What, however, would have happened had Berlin been open to discussion on the Palestinians, if he had accepted their existence and if he had addressed the wrongs that had been committed towards them? The evidence would seem to suggest that had Berlin, a very intelligent man, done so, then the very foundations of that one belief that was not open to liberal discussion would have been substantially shaken. It is this that, indeed, reveals the myth of liberalism, a philosophy that breeds both indifference and a concept of tolerance that is a bourgeoisie invention and nothing more than a luxury to be enjoyed when the going is good.
On the real issues, where a standpoint is required, where real conviction is the order of the day and where, sometimes, both physical and intellectual resistence is required, there is no place for liberalism, bourgeoisie democracy and tolerance, all of which, a priori, require indifference. On this point I am sure, the late Edward W. Said, would have, albeit reluctantly, agreed.
1 Edward W. Said, “An Afterthought”, Chapter Thirty Three in ‘The End of The Peace Process’,