A protest letter to the Israel Studies journal

On 6 May 2019, a letter was sent to the editors and editorial board of the Israel Studies journal. This letter, similar to the one sent to the Association for Israel Studies, which is affiliated with the journal, attracted 121 signatures, including key historians of Zionism, sociologists of Israeli society, professors of literature and other disciplines.


To the editors of the Israel Studies Journal and current and recent members of the editorial board,

Israel Studies is a much respected scholarly journal which is affiliated to and sponsored by the Association for Israel Studies (AIS). Since its establishment in 1996, Israel Studies has published numerous important contributions from hundreds of scholars. The journal has done much to advance knowledge, understanding, and discussion of contemporary Israel. It has long established its reputation for publishing excellent scholarship in the field.

For this reason, we were dismayed by the journal’s last special issue (volume 24, no. 2), which fell far short of standards expected of academic journals. As scholars involved in Israel Studies through teaching, research, and professional affiliation, we are writing to voice our concerns about this issue, which we believe has done serious damage to the reputation of the journal, and could reflect badly on the field.

The issue, titled “Word Crimes: Reclaiming The Language of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”, featured essays on key terms in current critical scholarship of Israel/Palestine. The castigation of intellectual categories as “word crimes” is not a starting point for a good-faith discussion: it is a call to arms. By describing terms as “linguistic transgressions” and scholarship as lacking in “sanity”, the issue made clear that its aim was not to contribute to vigorous debate, but rather to police and shut down this debate. Passionate discussion on the adequacy of terminology and theoretical frameworks is the bread and butter of our profession, and should be welcomed, not “criminalised”.

The declared intention of the guest editors was to “restore academic integrity” to the field. But barely a third of the 17 contributors to the issue could claim academic expertise in the subject they were writing on. Disciplinary boundaries are not sacred, but the selection of so many non-specialists (including non-academics) requires justification, which was not provided. It is not clear why an archaeologist was chosen to write on “Human Rights”, and a Communication Professor as an expert on “Apartheid”. The essays made minimal and inadequate reference to relevant scholarship. The pieces on “Anti-Zionism” and “Occupation” did not have a single footnote. The essay on “Arab-Palestinian Refugees” failed to refer to key works by Benny Morris, Yoav Gelber, Walid Khalidi, and other scholars. The essay on “Colonialism” did not engage the rich literature on settler-colonialism from the last 15 years. These are few examples of the numerous and pervasive failings of the issue. Overall the special issue read as a partisan and polemical exercise in advocacy rather than serious scholarship.

Academic discussion of Israel/Palestine is already, and inevitably, politicized. The field is characterized by deep engagement on the one hand, and deep disagreement and contentions on the other hand. This is what makes it so interesting, relevant and worthwhile. However, for the discussion to be meaningful and scholarly, basic academic standards need to be maintained. Adherence to academic rules of discussion is key to make it possible to have a discussion at all. Otherwise, we are in the realm of advocacy and polemics. Inability to make the distinction between advocacy and scholarship could threaten the future of the journal as a vital scholarly space for research and discussion of contemporary Israel.

The journal Israel Studies must undergo a serious overhaul to address these concerns in order to save its reputation and prevent such failures in the future. It should communicate in clear terms and in action that it is devoted to critical academic reflection; that it stands against the policing of discourse, and is committed to encouraging free and open debate.


David Abraham, Prof. Em. of Law, Unversity of Miami

Gadi Algazi, Professor, Dept of History, Tel Aviv University

Marco Allegra, Principal Researcher, Institute for Social Sciences, University of Lisbon

Gal Amir, Research fellow, University of Haifa, Jeiwsh-Arab Center

Meir Amor, Associate Professor, Sociology, Concordia University

Seth Anziska, Mohamed S. Farsi-Polonsky Lecturer in Jewish-Muslim Relations, University College London

Lauren Banko, Lecturer, Yale University

Moshe Behar, U of Manchester

Nimrod Ben Zeev, PhD Candidate, University of Pennsylvania

Avner Ben-Amos, Tel-Aviv University

Ronnen Ben-Arie, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Haifa

Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, Professor of History, NYU

Naor Ben-Yehoyada, Assistant Professor, Columbia University

Yaara Benger Alaluf, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin

Yael Berda, Assistant prof sociology HUJI

Jerome Bourdon, Professor, Department of Communication, Tel Aviv University

Robert Boyce, Emeritus Reader in International History

Rachel Brenner, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Haim Bresheeth, SOAS

Daniel Breslau, Associate Professor, Virginia Tech

Raz Chen-Morris, Chair of the Department of History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Hillel Cohen, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Joyce Dalsheim, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Assaf David, Head of the Manarat Center, the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

Hilla Dayan, Lecturer, Amsterdam University College, The Netherlands

Daniel DeMalach, Lecturerer, Department of Administration and Public Policy, Sapir Academic College Sapir Academic College

Tamar Drukker, SOAS University of London

Stanley Dubinsky, Professor, University of South Carolina

Arie Dubnov, Associate Professor of history and Max Ticktin Chair of Israel Studies, The George Washington University.

Dr. Amal Elsana Alhjooj, Executive Director, ICAN- school of social work, McGill University

Ayala Emmett PhD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology University of Rochester

Oded Erez, Assistant Professor, Bar-Ilan University

Jacob Eriksson, Lecturer in the Department of Politics, University of York

Yuval Evri, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow King’s College London

Gil Eyal, Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

Yoav Galai, Lecturer, Royal Holloway, University of London

Leah Garrett, Professor, Hunter College

Snait Gissis, Cohn Institute Tel Aviv university

Motti Golani, Chair, The Chaim Weizmann Institute for the Study of Zionism and Israel University of Tel Aviv

Amos Goldberg, Jewish History dep. The HU

Erella Grassiani, Assistant Prof. University of Amsterdam

Lev Grinberg, Full Professor, Ben Gurion University

Liora Halperin, Associate Professor, Jack and Rebecca Benaroya Endowed Chair in Israel Studies, University of Washington

Ido Harari, Graduate student, the department of Jewish thought, Ben Gurion university of the Negev

Galit Hasan-Rokem, Professor Emerita The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Noa Hazan, City University of New York

Zeev Herzog, Tel Aviv University

Dafna Hirsch, Senior lecturer, Department of sociology, political science and communication, The Open University of Israel

Ariel Hirschfeld, Professor ,Dep. of Hebrew Literature, The Hebrew University

Uri Horesh, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Essex

Noah Hysler Rubin, Senior lecturer, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design

Jon Isacoff, Professor, Political Science, Gonzaga University

Piki Ish-Shalom, Hewbrew University of Jerusalem

Ferran Izquierdo, Professor — International Relations (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

Cliff Jones, Honorary Senior Fellow University of Liverpool

Hilary Kalisman, Assistant Professor of History/Endowed Professor of Israel/Palestine Studies, University of Colorado Boulder

Matan Kaminer, PhD

Alexandre (Sandy) Kedar, Associate Professor, Law School, University of Haifa

Adriana Kemp, Associate Professor, Dept. of Sociology, Tel Aviv University

Hagar Kotef, Senior Lecturer; SOAS, university of London

Nathan Kurz, Independent Scholar

Ishay Landa, Associate Professor, The Open University, Israel

Jamie Levin, Assistant Professor, St. Francis Xavier University

Daniel Levine, Assoc Professor of Political Science, University of Alabama

Gal Levy, The Open University

Lior Libman, Assistant Professor of Israel Studies, Binghamton University — SUNY

Ian Lustick, Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

Charles Manekin, Professor of Philosophy, University of Maryland

Barbara Mann, Professor, Jewish Theological Seminary, New York

Abraham Mansbach, Professor (Emeritus), Ben Gurion University

Anat Matar, Senior lecturer, Philosophy, Tel Aviv University

Una McGahern, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University

Avinoam Meir, Professor Emeritus Ben Gurion, University of the Negev

Kobi Metzer, Professor (emeritus) The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Norton Mezvinsky, Distinguished Professor of History (emeritus) Central Connecticut State University

Daniel Bertrand Monk, George R. and Myra T. Cooley Chair in Peace and Conflict Studies. Professor of Geography and Middle East Studies, Colgate University

Rawda Morkus-Makhoul, Phd student BGU

David Myers, Professor, UCLA

Tamar Novick, Senior Research Scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Ranen Omer-Sherman, JHFE Endowed Chair of Jewish Studies, University of Louisville

Adi Ophir, Professor Emeritus, Tel Aviv University, Brown University Visiting Professor

Yael Padan, Research Fellow, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London

Yoav Peled, Prof. Emeritus of Political Science, Tel Aviv University

Nurit Peled-Elhanan, Head of communication dep. David Yellin academic college. Lecturer inn Language Education Hebrew Univer.

Halleli Pinson, Ben Gurion University

Moriel Ram, Israel Studies Postdoc researcher SOAS

Uri Ram, Professor

Haggai Ram, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

Jorge Ramos Tolosa, PhD assistant professor, University of Valencia (Spain)

David Ranan, Birkbeck University of London

Shira Robinson, Associate Prof. of History, GWU

Na’ama Rokem, Associate Professor, University of Chicago

Bruce Rosenstock, Professor of Religion, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Natalie Rothman, Associate Professor of History, University of Toronto

Diego Rotman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Orit Rozin, Tel Aviv University

Gil Rubin, Israel Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

Ilan Saban, senior lecturer, faculty of Law, Univ. of Haifa

Yonatan Sagiv, Research Associate, Centre for Jewish Studies, SOAS

Benedetta Serapioni, PhD Candidate, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany

Gershon Shafir, Professor of Sociology, Univ. of Ca, San Diego

Michael Shalev, Professor, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Nathaniel Shils, PhD Candidate, University of Pennsylvania

Avi Shilon, Post-Doc, Ben Gurion University

Oren Shlomo, Postdoc IDC Herzliya

Dmitry Shumsky, Senior Lecturer, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Noa Shuval, Tel Aviv University

Marcella Simoni, Lecturer, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

Eyal Sivan, Professor at NFA Amsterdam Uni of the Arts (AhK)

Zachary Smith, University of Pennsylvania, Political Science, PhD Candidate

Sammy Smooha, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Haifa

Michael Stanislawski, Columbia University

David Tal, Yossi Harel Chair in Modern israel Studies

Andrea Teti, Associate Professor, University of Aberdeen

Emanuela Trevisan Semi, Professor Ca Foscari University Venice

Francesco Vacchiano, Researcher Institute of Social Sciences — Lisbon

Marc Volovici, Postdoc, Birkbeck, University of London

Yair Wallach, Senior Lecturer in Israel Studies, SOAS Uni. of London

Dov Waxman, Professor of Political Science, International Affairs and Israel Studies, Northeastern University

Shira Wilkof, Postdoctoral Fellow, Tel Aviv University

Sarah S. Willen, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Connecticut

Abigail Wood, Senior lecturer, University of Haifa

Haim Yacobi, Prof. UCL

Ori Yehudai, University of Toronto

Yuval Yonay, Associate Prof., University of Haifa

Hila Zaban, Research Fellow, University of Warwick

Rami Zeedan, Assistant Professor, the University of Kansas