His Excellency Yasir Arafat
President of the Palestinian Autonomous Authority
Gaza City, Gaza
It has been widely reported, as in The New York Times for Sunday, August 26, 1996 (“Palestine Security Agents Ban Books by Critic of Arafat”), that security services responsible to you have seized books written by Edward W. Said and carried them off from all bookstores in the Palestinian Autonomous Zones in Gaza and the West Bank. Furthermore, that the sale of his books has been forbidden in these same areas and in Palestinian bookstores in East Jerusalem.
This news is especially alarming at a time when those around the world who support the aspirations of the Palestinian people are looking to your Administration for evidence that any emerging Palestinian entity will try to found itself on basic democratic principles and most specifically on the principle of freedom of expression and dissent. This freedom necessarily includes Edward Said’s expressions of difference with some of your current policies.
Edward Said is one of the most prominent, influential, and admired of cultural critics. In particular, his writings about the Palestinian experience have been an essential instrument in shaping opinions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, and the Middle East that are favorably informed about the Palestinian cause. We therefore urge you in your own interests as well as in the interests of people everywhere to reaffirm his right to be heard in the areas where an effort has been made to silence him.
President of International PEN
President of PEN American Center
Executive Director of PEN American Center
K. Anthony Appiah
October 17, 1996