“Israel Studies Editor’s Response Fails to Address Criticism, Claims “misrepresentations” Instead.”

On 10 May, the editor of Israel Studies wrote to SOAS professor, Yair Wallach, in response to the expressions of deep concern that the group of 182 scholars sent to the Association of Israel Studies and to the editorial board of the journal Israel Studies following the publication of its “Word Crimes” issue. (The email is appended below)

The editor’s message offered no substantive answers to the questions raised. Instead, it suggests that the letters sent ‘misrepresent’ the case, without stipulating what these misrepresentations might be. In another context, the editors of “Word Crimes” labeled signatories to the letters as “anti-Israel” and/or “anti-Semitic” activists. This, despite the fact that the group of signatories to the letter to the Israel Studies journal included no fewer than two Israel Prize recipients, three former presidents of the AIS, three current AIS board members, nine winners/honorable mentions of the AIS best book award, and four AIS dissertation award winners. Seven Israel Studies lecturers/professors and two Israel/Palestine Studies lecturers were also among its numbers. This group has an interest in the “Word Crimes” journal issue precisely because its members have a stake in the legitimacy of Israel Studies as an academic field of inquiry.

This group has an interest in the “Word Crimes” journal issue precisely because its members have a stake in the legitimacy of Israel Studies as an academic field of inquiry.

The responses received so far give rise to concerns that Israel Studies’ present governance structure may hinder its ability to produce and sponsor scholarly knowledge about Israel, particularly when the journal touches upon highly contested issues. The de-facto contiguities between the AIS and the journal also raise significant questions about proper governance in the field. (The fact that Israel Studies’ response to our original letter challenges the standing of some interlocutors by reviewing their membership status in AIS is significant and chilling in this regard).

The two letters sent to Israel Studies and the AIS, respectively, represented the consensus of a large number of scholars that “Word Crimes” was worthy of concern, and that serious answers would need to be presented to the scholarly community in order to repair both the journal and the association’s standing in this academic field. We are mindful of the fact that the letters you have each signed do not represent consensus about next steps, however. On one hand, many of us are aware of debates and processes at work ‘within’ the journal and the AIS, and we have sought to present information on them via “The Israel Studies Conversation” on Medium.com. On the other hand, it is also clear that the letters this group has signed have had an effect from the outside, and that further efforts of this kind may be necessary. To that end, we promise to be in contact quite soon. After consulting with many of you, we hope to present the scholarly community with a clear agenda for action, to which we hope you will lend your support. In the interim, we encourage you to express your views to colleagues and in the public sphere, and to take an active part in this urgent conversation about Israel Studies scholarship.

Troen to Wallach, 10 May 2019
“Thank you, Yair, we have already received numerous postings of this letter.
Please be assured that your concerns, as are those who have signed it, are being seriously considered. Important steps are being taken even if there is not total agreement or submission to your views and demands. As you may know, there have attempts to clarify where your text misrepresents.
I would hope that your concerns are sufficiently serious that you will join the AIS. I understand that since records were kept (2009), you have not been a member or attended a conference. Much the same applies to many of the signatories.
Sincerely yours,
Ilan “