Justus was an astute writer. In his 1999 Commentary article that deservedly gained widespread attention, he eviscerated the spurious claim by Columbia professor and Palestinian advocate Edward Said that his family (himself included) had become refugees in 1948 when Zionists forced them to abandon their elegant home in the Talbieh neighborhood of Jerusalem.But what gave away the lie by Said was:
On Said’s birth certificate (1934) his parents had identified Cairo as their permanent address. Throughout his boyhood, Said’s immediate family — parents, sister, retinue of servants, and Said himself — resided in Cairo, where his father, who had lived in Egypt since 1926, owned a lucrative office supply business. Family photographs showed young Edward in the Mena House gardens in Cairo; on the Alexandria beach and visiting the Giza pyramids with his father; and wearing his double-breasted Gezira Preparatory School blazer, neatly pressed shorts, and knee socks.Said was quite the liar and inciter for many years, and thankfully, his fabrications were exposed. For this, we should all be grateful to Weiner, for doing a good service for Israel to expose lies by its enemies.
As Justus discovered during his meticulous research, the Said family “home” (“my beautiful old house”) in the elegant Talbieh neighborhood of Jerusalem never was “his” house nor was it owned by his parents. Title, Justus found, had passed from Edward’s grandfather to his aunt and her children. (Ironically, the philosopher Martin Buber, who rented an apartment in the Said house, had been evicted by Said’s aunt.) Said’s lament, Justus wrote, was belied by the reality that his affluent family enjoyed annual three-month summer respites in the hills of Lebanon, where his mother was born and grew up.
Although Said would claim that “I lost — and my family lost its property and rights in 1948” in Jerusalem, his lament more accurately described the family plight in Cairo, where revolutionary supporters of Gamal Abdel Nasser destroyed the family business in 1952 and nationalized Said family property. In sum, Justus concluded, Edward Said’s “parable of Palestinian identity,” forged in the suffering inflicted by Israelis on his family, was “an artful lie; a skillful lie; above all a very useful and by now widely accepted lie — but a lie.” It was nothing more than myth shading into mendacity.