Concerns regarding the “Word Crimes” Israel Studies special issue

To the members of the board of the Association for Israel Studies:

Israel Studies is a much respected scholarly journal which is affiliated to and sponsored by the Association for Israel Studies (AIS), as stated in the Association by-laws (article V.B).

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 a 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 cast a long shadow on the AIS and 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. It was particularly worrying to note that leading members of the AIS, including its current president, took part in the making of the issue.

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 AIS 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. If such effort is not undertaken, the AIS should end its sponsorship of the journal and disaffiliate from it.

We call upon the Association for Israel Studies, which according to its by-laws, is a sponsor of the journal Israel Studies, to take concrete actions to reassure scholars interested in Israel that it is not a platform for advocacy, and that it welcomes the work of scholars regardless of their identity, theoretical approach or political persuasion. The AIS should communicate in clear terms and in action that it is devoted to critical academic reflection and discussion; that it stands against the policing of discourse, and is committed to encouraging free and open debate.

Yours sincerely,

Noor Abo ras, Student

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

Sarai Aharoni, Assistant Proffesor, Gender Studies Program, Ben Gurion University

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

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

Shir Alon, Assistant Prof, University of Minnesota

Gal Amir, Research fellow, University of Haifa, Jewish-Arab center

Hila Amit, independent scholar and author

Meir Amor, Associate Professor, Concordia University

Yonathan (Jon) Anson, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Seth Anziska, Lecturer in Jewish-Muslim Relations at University College London

Avigail Arnheim, Musical director

Boaz Atzili, Associate Professor, School of International Service, American University

Lauren Banko, Lecturer, Yale University

Eliran Bar-El, University of Cambridge

Eitan Bar-Yosef, Associate Professor, Ben-Gurion University

Orit Bashkin, University of Chicago

Moshe Behar, U of Manchester

Yoav Beirach, Tel Aviv University

Nimrod Ben Zeev, Phd Candidate, University of Pennsylvania

Avner Ben-Amos, Tel-Aviv University

Ruth Ben-Artzi, Associate Professor of Political Science, Providence College

Uri Ben-Eliezer, Prof. Chair, Sociology, univ. of Haifa

Naor Ben-Yehoyada, Assistant Professor, Columbia University

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

Yael Berda, Assistant prof ( lecturer) dept of sociology HUJI

Ofer Berenstein, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Communication, Media and Film, University of Calgary, Canada

Hagit Borer, Professor, Queen Mary University of London

Daniel Boyarin, Prof. of Talmudic Culture, UC Berkeley

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

Rachel Brenner, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Michelle Campos, University of Florida

Yael Chaver, Lecturer, UC Berkeley

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

Hillel Cohen, Hebrew University

Yinon Cohen, Professor, Dept. of Sociology, Columbia University

Alon Confino, Pen Tishkach Chair of Holocaust Studies, Professor of History and Jewish Studies

Joyce Dalsheim, Associate Professor, UNC-Charlotte

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

Hilla Dayan, Lecturer, Amsterdam University College, The Netherlands

Arnon Degani, Ben-Gurion Center for the Study of Zionism and Israel

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

Tamar Drukker, SOAS University of London

Stanley Dubinsky, Professor, University of South Carolina

Arie Dubnov, Associate Prof. of History & Max Ticktin Chair of Israel Studies, the George Washington University

Zvi Efrat, Professor of Architecture, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design

Ayala Emmett, Professor Emeritus of Anthroplogy, University of Rochester

Oded Erez, Assistant Proffesor, Bar Ilan University

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

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

Tovi Fenster, Full Professor Tel Aviv University

Louis Fishman, Assistant Professor, Brooklyn College

Michal Frenkel, Professor of sociology Hebrew University

Yoni Furas, Postdoc, Haifa Uni

Yoav Galai, Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London

Olga Gershenson, Professor, UMass Amherst

Michael Gluzman, Professor, Tel Aviv University

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

Amos Goldberg, Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University

Rebecca Ruth Gould, Professor, University of Birmingham

Erella Grassiani, University of Amsterdam

Rachel Green, Assistant Professor, UMass-Amherst

Udi Greenberg, Associate Professor, Dartmouth College

Lev Grinberg, Full Professor, Ben Gurion University

Liora Halperin, Associate Professor, University of Washington

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

Itamar Haritan, PhD Student, Cornell University

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

Shay Hazkani, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

Daniel Heller, Senior Lecturer, Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation, Monash University

Sara Helman, Senior lecturer Ben Gurion University

Roni Henig, Columbia University

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, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Abigail Jacobson, Senior Lecturer, Islamic and MES, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Cliff Jones, Honorary Senior Fellow University of Liverpool

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

Matan Kaminer, University of Michigan

Ruti Kantor, Senior Lecturer, Bezalel

Yoav Kapshuk, Lecturer, Kinneret Academic College

Tamar Katriel, Professor (Emerita) University of Haifa

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

Menachem Klein, Professor Bar Ilan University

Hagar Kotef, Senior Lecturer SOAS, university of London

Chana Kronfeld, Professor, University of California, Berkeley

Nathan Kurz, Independent Scholar

Ron Kuzar, Professor (Emeritus), University of Haifa

Derek Laffan, Researcher at Dublin City University

Ishay Landa, Associate professor, The Open University Israel

Nitzan Lebovic, Association Professor, Lehigh University

Ronit Lentin, Associate Professor (ret) Trinity College Dublin

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

Gal Levy, Teacher and Researcher The Open University Israel

Amit Levy, PhD student, Department of History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Lital Levy, Associate Professor, Princeton University

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

Shlomit Lir, Postdoc the Center for Israel Studies Ben Gurion University of the Negev

Roi Livne, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan

Adi Livny, Phd Student, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Karin Loevy, NYU School of Law, IILJ Research Scholar

Ian Lustick, Professor of Political Science. University of Pennsylvania

Nimrod Luz, Faculty, Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee

Shaul Magid, Distinguished Fellow in Jewish Studies — Dartmouth College

Rawda Makhoul, Ph.d. student BGU

Charles Manekin, Professor of Philosophy, University of Maryland

Barbara Mann, Professor, Jewish Theological Seminary

Abraham Mansbach, Prof.Em. Ben Gurion University

Anat Matar, Tel Aviv University

Una McGahern, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University

Yoav Mehozay, University of Haifa

Philipp Messner, Archivist, University of Zurich

Kobi Metzer, Professor (emeritus) of Economics, The Hebrew University of Jerudalem

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

Chen Misgav, Post doctoral scholar at the Open University of Israel

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

Chana Morgenstern, University Lecturer in Postcolonial and Middle East Literatures, Cambridge University

Dirk Moses, Professor of Modern History, University of Sydney

David Myers, Professor, UCLA

Isaac Nevo, Philosophy Dept. Ben-Gurion University

Tamar Novick, senior research scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Amos Noy, The Folklore Research Center, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Ranen Omer-Sherman, Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence Endowed Chair, University of Louisville

Eli Osheroff, PhD candidate, The Hebrew University

Yael Padan, Research Fellow, University College London

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

Nurit Peled Elhanan, Lecturer in Language Education, Hebrew University; Head of Communications Department, David Yellin Academic College

Ilan Peleg, C.A.Dana Professor of Government & Law, Lafayette College

Shachar Pinsker, Professor, University of Michigan

Halleli Pinson, Senior lecturer, Dep. of Education, Ben-Gurion University

Moriel Ram, Postdoc research Israel Studies, SOAS

Uri Ram, Professor

Haggai Ram, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, Professor

Ron Reichman, Stanford University

Tal Rippa, PhD candidate, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Shira Robinson, Associate Professor of History and International Affairs, GWU

Avery Robinson, Researcher, University of Michigan

Bryan Roby, Assistant Professor — University of Michigan

Noa Roei, Assistant Professor UVA

Na’ama Rokem, Associate Professor, University of Chicago; Director, The Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies

Ishay Rosen-Zvi, Full Professor, Tel-Aviv University

Lee Rotbart, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

E. Natalie Rothman, Associate Professor of History, University of Toronto

Diego Rotman, Hebrew University

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

Shafik SayidAhmad, lecturer — Alqasimy -BaqaAlgharbiya

Allison Schachter, Associate Professor, Vanderbilt University

Gershon Shafir, Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego

Michael Shalev, Professor, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Ran Shauli, Research fellow, the Truman Institute, the Hebrew University, and Bar Ilan University

Yael Shenker, Faculty member Sapir

Nathaniel Shils, PhD Candidate, University of Pennsylvania

Avi Shilon, Post-Doc, Ben Gurion University

Oren Shlomo, Postdoc

Marik Shtern, Post doctorate, Sociology Department , UCSD

Zeev Sternhell, Prof.emeritus, The Hebrew University,

Dmitry Shumsky, Senior Lecturer, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Noa Shuval, Tel Aviv university

Marcella Simoni, Lecturer, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy

Eyal Sivan, Professor — Amsterdam Universsity of the Arts

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

Tamir Sorek, Professor of Sociology, University of Florida

Michael Stanislawski, Columbia University

Oded Steinberg, Dr . Hebrew University

Lior Sternfeld, Assistsnt Professor of History and Jewish Studies, Penn State

David Tal, Yossi Harel Chair in Modern Israel Studies, University of Sussex

Mark Tessler, Professor, University of Michigan

Hamutal Tsamir, Dept. of Hebrew Literature, Ben Gurion University

Hamutal Tsamir, dept. of Hebrew Literature, Ben Gurion University

Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Marc Volovici, Postdoc, Birkbeck, University of London

Yair Wallach, Senior Lecturer in Israeli Studies, SOAS, University 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

Ori Yehudai, University of Toronto

Oren Yiftachel, Professor, Ben-Gurion University

Yuval Yonay, Associate Prof., University of Haifa

Hila Zaban, Research Fellow, University of Warwick

Ruvi Ziegler, Associate Professor in International Refugee Law, University of Reading (UK)




The future of Israel Studies, in view of the “Word Crimes” journal

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Yair Wallach

Yair Wallach

Author of “A City in Fragments: Urban Text in Modern Jerusalem” (Stanford University Press, 2020).

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