By John Randolph LeBlanc (auth.)
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Extra resources for Edward Said on the Prospects of Peace in Palestine and Israel
76 In opposing these exclusions and making the argument for the Palestinians, Said attempts to work both sides of the street: the Palestinian movement is democratic so Palestinians must be left alone in order to be self-governing; and, Palestinians are entitled to the liberal freedoms embodied in human rights, up to and including the right to self-determination. In making these arguments, as we have seen, Said is not unmindful of how powerful and, often, how problematic their terms might be. The cynical and undemocratic practices of democracies pushed him away from a faith in institutional arrangements while the dubious commitments that most nations make to the human rights of nonmembers D E M O C R AT IC ASP IRAT IONS, DE MOCRAT IC A MB IGUITIES 33 made him hesitant to rest comfortably with that argument.
41 Brown’s diagnosis and response to the emptiness of democracy as a term is useful here in a couple of ways. First, it suggests half of the difficulty faced by Said in his embrace of the term. He must be a stringent critic of Israeli, American, and Palestinian democratic policies as examples of how the idea is co-opted by political actors to “un-democratic” ends. Second, Brown’s insistence that the meaning and importance of the democratic be worked out through honest and deep deliberation is consonant with the critical practices that Said will insist upon.
In a circumstance where the existence of a Palestinian identity was, until very recently, not even recognized by Said’s interlocutors, at least not civilly, he had to live and speak in the agon as the only means to get the Palestinian voice heard. But from the perspective of the marginalized, the agon by itself has marked limitations as an only means to just political ends. In Said, the democratic paradox takes the form of a tension, within the idea of democracy as a liberationist form of political community, between its affiliation with national or cultural particularity on the one hand and universalizing liberal values on the other.