Knowledge about Palestine/Israel has long been produced and recruited for multiple contradictory political struggles. The emergence of distinct, counterposed scholarly associations, centers, and publications for Palestine studies and Israel studies reflects a certain set of contemporary political logics and agendas. What is the meaning of this separation? What are its implications for our scholarly understanding of dynamics in Palestine/Israel? Could this separation be justified, and could we imagine an alternative way of organizing our knowledge?

Writing in his prison cell in fascist Italy, and hoping for the rise of communism, Antonio Gramsci wrote: “The old world is dying and the new one is late to appear. This is the time when monsters are born.”1 The time of monsters is liminal, a time of chaos. In Palestine/Israel, the old world of steady but slow dispossession and unshakeable oppression, locked in an iron grid of international constraints and local stalemate, is dead. While we cannot see the new world yet, it is evident that the inseparability of Palestinian and Israeli existence, which is the intellectual raison d’être of this journal, is gaining now its most macabre expression, when anxiety over being annihilated by the other side eclipses the possibility of imagining a common future.

This Introduction was originally written in a different era, in a different universe. As it is going for publication, the death toll in Palestine/Israel is still rising and is gaining apocalyptic dimensions. Thus, we are writing from within the calamity, not warning against it, not looking back mourning. The mass atrocities that have taken place since October 2023 have caused so much destruction, pain, rage, and fear, that our original text seems to be, at least at first glance, detached from cruel reality. Or is it?

Scholarship about Palestine/Israel has long been produced and recruited for multiple contradictory political struggles. The emergence of distinct, counterposed scholarly associations, centers, and publications for Palestine studies and Israel studies reflects a certain set of contemporary political logics and agendas. What is the meaning of this separation? What are its implications for our scholarly understanding of dynamics in Palestine/Israel? Could this separation be justified, and could we imagine an alternative way of organizing our knowledge?

In this Introduction we argue that this separated study of Palestinians and Israelis obscures an emerging cross-disciplinary understanding that Palestinian and Israeli societies are both intertwined and interdependent and that, in many cases, our analysis of social, political, and cultural processes suffers when we examine them separately. The establishment of a new peer-reviewed journal titled Palestine/Israel ­Review, grows out of—and in response to—this sense of unease. In what follows, we would like to explain the need for this journal and the way we intend to situate it vis-à-vis the existing fields of Palestine studies and Israel studies and outline the challenges that we face as we embark on this new journey.

The Emergence of a Bifurcated Field

Let us begin with a few preliminary remarks about the institutionalization of the fields of Israel studies and Palestine/Palestinian studies. The origins of both can be traced back to the scholarship produced in the Middle East by Zionist settlers and Palestinians. Jewish settlers in Palestine had produced scholarship about their own community even before 1948,2 and so did Palestinian ethnographers such as Tawfiq Canaan and his colleagues in their own society.3 Israeli universities extended this scholarship after the establishment of the state. The scholarly study of modern Palestine gained its institutional form with the establishment of the Institute of Palestine Studies in Beirut in 1963.

In this essay, though, we focus on the fields as they have been shaped later in Western, and especially in U.S. academia. From a sociology of knowledge point of view, it is evident that the two fields emerged out of exclusive political agendas. Palestine studies was born as a defensive mode to tell a story that had been eclipsed and silenced. Israel studies emerged as part of an effort to mobilize American public opinion for supporting Israel.

When Israel studies and Palestine studies emerged in their embryonic stage in the United States in the 1960s and the 1970s, many major U.S. universities already had or were developing centers for Jewish studies and for Middle Eastern studies. The former were typically privately funded; the latter, part of the rise of “area studies” more generally, were motivated by the needs of—and funded by—U.S. government bodies. In the U.S. context, Palestine studies and Israel studies each emerged, albeit in different ways, out of the perceived limitations of such centers, often as an extension of lobbying and “soft diplomacy” efforts directed at influencing Western public opinion.

As early as 1957, the Zionist revisionist historian Benzion Netanyahu, father of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, suggested to then Prime Minister David Ben Gurion that a propaganda apparatus be established in the United States, which would not be officially associated with Israel. He suggested that he himself serve as head of the operation, in the role of a university professor.4 Five years later, Netanyahu was appointed as a professor at Cornell University, but it is unknown whether Ben Gurion ever considered the suggestion. Still, his letter from 1957 is evidence for a certain state of mind about the desired relations between academia and political advocacy.

Shortly before the 1967 War, though, the alliance between pro-Israel advocacy and academia was realized. Following the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran in May 1967, 3,700 U.S. professors signed a petition condemning the blockade, hinting that it has a genocidal dimension: “our generation has witnessed the monstrous results of silence.” When the petition was published in the New York Times on 8 June, the war was already taking place. However, once the war was over, some of the organizers of the petition decided to continue the momentum by establishing American Professors for Peace in the Middle East (APPME), identifying “a need for continuing work both within the academic world and in the community at large.”5 In its statement of purpose, approved by its national council in April 1968, APPME took upon itself to “encourage, if not organize studies carried out with scholarly detachment” in order to promote “a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Arab states.”6 Palestine and Palestinians are not mentioned in the statement.

According to Chaim Waxman, an American sociologist who was involved in the APPME initiative, the main purpose of this organization was “to fight what was perceived as anti-Israel propaganda” on American campuses, and it drew support from “official and quasi-official Israeli sources.”7 In 1970, the organization developed an academic association, the American Academic Association for Peace in the Middle East (AAAPME), which adopted a political line similar to that of its parent organization. In 1974 the AAAPME established its scholarly journal, Middle East Review, which was published until 1990.

In 1985, a group of scholars concerned about the AAAPME’s lack of a clear distinction between the study of Israel and pro-Israel advocacy established the Association for Israel Studies (AIS).8 Over the last nearly four decades, the AIS has become the major hub of the emerging field of Israel studies. Until the end of the millennium, AIS publications (under different titles) had mainly a liberal Zionist orientation with sporadic post-Zionist voices. Items published by Palestinian authors were extremely rare. In the mid-1990s, the London-based journal Israel Affairs (founded by the Israeli international relations specialist Efraim Karsh) joined the AIS journals and provided an additional platform for publications about Israel, in which the advocacy line was even more pronounced.

The AIS emerged at a time of relative openness in Israeli academia (archival transparency and the rise of more critical sociology and historiography), which legitimized a more critical academic approach to Israel in Western academia. Since the collapse of the Oslo process and the eruption of the second Intifada, the process of growing self-criticism in Israel has been interrupted and, in some respects, even reversed. Pro-Israel advocates, on the other hand, faced the intensification of criticism of Israel in Western academia. As a result, especially since the beginning of the twenty-first century, donors have reshaped the field by flooding it with resources to establish posts, fellowships, and grants to support teaching.

As a result of the above-mentioned intense efforts, today there are more than thirty units, centers, institutes, and endowed chairs (without a center) in Israel studies worldwide, not including two units inside Palestine/Israel.9 There are also four English-language academic journals dedicated to Israel (Israel Studies Review, Israel Studies, Israel Affairs, and Journal of Israeli History). While the field is politically diverse, the financial incentives that have enabled its prosperity dictated growing alignment with pro-Israel advocacy, and this has implications for various methodological choices. While this surely does not represent every work in the field, the strand of Israel studies that has become dominant was described by Arie Dubnov as one “that insists on applying a statist lens which detaches Israeli history from broader regional and global politics, and a scholarship divorcing itself from neighboring area studies.”10

The tendency toward academic isolation is directly related to the aligning of AIS with Israeli advocacy. In summer of 2022 it became ­evident when the association decided to withdraw its membership from the Middle East Studies Association following the latter’s decision to support the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. With other academic associations growingly adopting a determined critical line toward Israel, the AIS pro-advocacy line is likely to further isolate it.

The case of the AIS in the U.S. academy seems to represent a broader phenomenon. In 2011, the European Association for Israel Studies (EAIS), which explicitly highlights its commitment to the values of “non-partisanship, non-advocacy,” was founded.11 While the association did adopt public stances on several issues (it strongly condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and expressed concerns about the ongoing Israeli judicial reform), it has never adopted a public statement condemning Israel’s policy toward Palestinians.

The history of the academic field of Palestine studies in American academia is directly related to the efforts of the Palestinian national movement to gain international recognition. The Institute of Palestine Studies (IPS) launched the Journal of Palestine Studies in 1971. Although it was published initially in Beirut, the choice to publish in English indicates an unmistakable intention to play on the ground of Western academia and gain Western attention for Palestinian rights and predicaments. JPS has played an important role in putting the name of Palestine back on the map, and it signified an important step in Palestinian efforts to gain what Edward Said called the “permission to narrate.” Since 1998, IPS has been publishing another peer-reviewed journal in English, Jerusalem Quarterly, and it was followed by the Journal of Holy Land Studies (later to be called the Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies), a United Kingdom-based journal published since 2002. Especially until the end of the twentieth century, though, the efforts to develop Palestine studies have been an uphill battle, particularly in American academia, where the default lens for discussing Zionism, Israel, or Palestine was the Zionist perspective.

The knowledge production of the institute and the journals has increased the visibility of the Palestinian issue within and beyond academic circles. While in its initial steps JPS conveyed a strong pan-Arabist orientation,12 in the long term it has created a Palestinian-centered field: Palestinian voices have gained prominence, in a way that countered the imbalance of political power in Western academia.13 Together with the accumulated impact of various channels of activism, the endurance of Palestinian oppression, and certain global processes, the Palestinian narrative has gained a certain legitimacy and today it is “more firmly anchored and more globally accepted than at any time in the past century.”14

The strengthening of Palestinian perspectives in Western academia led to a backlash: Pro-Israel media have tried to delegitimize Palestine studies, and JPS in particular, portraying it as “pseudointellectual.”15 An even more crucial manifestation of this backlash has been the flourishing of Israel studies centers and chairs. Compared with the resources invested in Israel studies, Palestine studies has less to offer, with no more than four centers or endowed positions in U.S. and ­British universities dedicated to Palestine studies. Because we consider our journal as extending the field of Palestine studies, the above-­mentioned institutional weakness of the field, by itself, is a good reason for establishing another platform for publication in the field.

Another significant expression of the perceived threat among pro-Israel advocates is the tangible pressure by donors and legislatures to silence and intimidate faculty and students. Too frequently, university administrations have not provided adequate protection for those who are harassed, and this dynamic has been disproportionately harmful to Palestinian faculty and students. This situation emphasizes the importance of protecting the field of Palestine studies and its institutional autonomy.

A Palestine-centered perspective, though, means that some scholarly tasks are beyond the mandate of journals affiliated with Palestine studies. First and foremost, by its nature, Palestine studies is interested in the study of Palestinians. Thus, the study of Israelis remained at the margin of Palestine studies, and they are an object of study mainly in the context of their interaction with Palestinians as a colonizing force. When Zionism and Israel are analyzed in Palestine studies, they are mostly, and understandably, interpreted as structures of power exercised against Palestinians.

Major intra-Israeli tensions, such as the Mizrahi–Ashkenazi and religious–secular divides, the Israeli economy, or the Israeli education system, are covered much more thoroughly in the field of Israel studies, where it is common to find a more granular attention to the complexity, diversity, and nuances of Jewish Israeli society. Scholars in Israel studies are also more likely to adopt a phenomenological approach to Jewish Israeli society, aspiring to understand the meaning of an action from the actors’ point of view. While the study of these dynamics is crucial for understanding Jewish–Israeli society (including its oppressive mechanisms), the current institutional and financial arrangement of Israel studies as a field put significant constraints on a critical study of the above-mentioned topics in that field.

Frequently, the discussion of intra-Jewish tensions in the field of Israel studies ignores their implications for Palestinians, and they are discussed with a vocabulary that normalizes oppression. For example, in Israel studies, a scholarly study of how the interpretation of the Law of Return affects Reform and Conservative Jewish converts ignores the role this law has played in the Judaization of the country and the dispossession of Palestinians.16 The omission of these aspects not only normalizes them and tacitly legitimizes dispossession, but also misses the broader matrix of power within which these intra-Jewish struggles are taking place. Similarly, a recently published ethnography-based study of religionization in the Israeli army ignores the actual oppressive mission of this army.17 These blind spots miss the relation between the army’s mission and religion as a legitimizing power, as well as the broader historical role that religion has played in legitimizing settler-colonial projects.

There are also elements in Israeli society that are only indirectly or ambiguously related to Palestinian oppression, and not every element participates directly in the oppressive structures. These seemingly “less political” topics, such as Israel’s high-tech industry, Israeli sports, ­Israel’s relation with Jewish communities worldwide, internal dynamics within ultra-Orthodox communities in Palestine/Israel, or the status of conservative and reform Judaism in Israel, are covered directly today in Israel studies journals but rarely in Palestine studies journals. Directing our attention to these aspects of Israeli society without a critical perspective entails a risk of normalizing oppression. Even the mere vocabulary used is relevant. For example, the adoption of a reference to Israel as a “Start-Up” nation in some scholarly works on Israeli high-tech industry echoes Israel’s branding efforts.18Palestine/Israel Review will be a platform for a critical examination of these topics, which aspires to expose their relevance to Palestinian oppression or resistance.

Clearly, the bifocal methodological stance, which ascribes importance to both Palestinian and Israeli phenomenologies, is not easy for the victims of Zionism to adopt. Inviting a Palestinian to see social reality from the point view of the Israeli actor might amount to emotional violence. A crucial element in mitigating this risk is appropriate historical and sociological contextualization of this perspective. Adoption of a phenomenological approach to the study of Israel is required if we want to deepen our understanding of processes taking place within Israeli society, and the Palestinian perspective on this phenomenology is frequently missing.

In addition, under the existing power imbalance, Palestinians who study aspects of Israeli society that do not directly relate to Palestinians are commonly perceived as less reliable and less authorized to tell the Israeli story (the other way around is common and acceptable in the field of Israel studies). The result is that Palestinian subjectivity is frequently mediated by Israelis, but Israeli subjectivity is rarely mediated by Palestinians. This pattern both reproduces power relations and deprives us of a crucial perspective on Israeli subjectivity.

Carving out a new intellectual field that examines the Palestinian and Israeli societies with a common scholarly lens is not an original idea nor an innovative one. Over the past two decades, some scholars and institutions have already started responding to the challenge of the bifurcated field. Some edited volumes have already adopted the term Israel–Palestine or Palestine/Israel to define the domain of their study, while others have taken part in shaping the new field by embracing a clear relational and integrated approach, considering Palestine and ­Israel as one field of study.19 Derek Penslar even published an explicit call to establish an integrated Israel/Palestine studies field.20 Furthermore, two endowed chairs in Israel/Palestine studies have emerged at U.S. universities (neither is currently held by a Palestinian). Both emerged within the academic milieu of Israel studies (for example, in affiliation with Jewish studies), but they represent more pluralistic tendencies. Furthermore, articles reflecting the bifocal perspective are already being published in existing journals of Palestine studies and Israel studies, but they are marginal in the former and rare in the latter. It is relatively more common to find this perspective in items published in regional publications, such as the Journal of Levantine Studies, Mashriq and Mahjar, International Journal of Middle East Studies, and Jewish ­Social Studies. Within the context of these developments, our journal aspires to provide a Palestine/Israel-centered platform for scholarship that embodies these emerging trends.

What’s in a Name?

In hindsight, one could argue that the field of Israel studies rendered itself insular and irrelevant by its very name. Studying Israel without Palestine has proven to embody a denial of the colonial origins of the state of Israel and its contemporary settler–colonial practices—on both sides of the Green Line. Even today the field of Israel studies, dominated by a liberal-Zionist discourse, continues to function as if there is a separate independent unit called Israel, implicitly existing within the 1967 borders. The world beyond the wall might be perceived as an external world of oppression, occupation, colonialism, and Judaization, but it is perceived as a deviation, existing outside the borders of the “natural” state, which, even if its policies are criticized, remains to some extent the epistemological baseline. The issue of Palestine and the Palestinians is pushed and brushed aside, and it appears as one topic among many others without its foundational status for the very existence of Israel being realized.

The title Palestine/Israel is meant to awaken and draw out the fact that the issue of Palestine is not just one other issue, nor marginal or external, but is constitutive of the whole field. Our journal aims at offering an alternative way of producing knowledge about Israeli society and power structures, one that incorporates the colonial context into its own name by including the colonized. It is almost impossible to imagine U.S. history in the nineteenth century without recognizing the centrality of slavery as an organizing principle of law, economy, and society. Without equivalent recognition of the centrality of Palestine to the study of Israel, scholarship in this field would always remain handicapped.

The same sort of unproductive cognitive separation is impossible in the field of Palestine studies, where experience of subjugation, oppression, and resistance is central, and therefore Israel and Zionism are always present, even if sometimes in implicit ways, and even if Israel is not included in the field’s name. However, while we believe that Israel’s character as a settler-colonial society is relevant for understanding a variety of Palestine-related topics from popular culture to the nuclear family, for a more holistic understanding of this society we also need to examine aspects whose connection to the oppression of Palestinians is less direct or self-evident. The explicit inclusion of Israel within Palestine studies in the journal’s title reflects this insight.

That having been said, there are several interrelated dimensions of discomfort that might make it difficult for Palestinian scholars to accept a journal named Palestine/Israel Review. Effacing Palestinian identity and memory has been central to the Zionist political-cultural project. Within Palestine studies, Israel and Zionism have always been perceived as an external element imposed on Palestine. Many view the mere use of the name Israel as providing the state of Israel, the product of the Zionist movement, a post factum legitimization, as a normalization of Palestinian dispossession. A related concern is that the name Palestine/Israel conveys a latent message of symmetry, obscuring both the existing imbalance of power and the fact that one of the two components of the title emerged at the expense of the other.

While we understand the underlying approach, we do not share the ultimate practical conclusion. “Israel” not only is a political structure, but also has become a reference of collective identity for millions who live today in Palestine/Israel. Excluding this self-reference from our vocabulary as scholars would not change that. Furthermore, Israeliness is a product of social construction and invention,21 and as such its meaning could be contested. By bringing “Palestine” and “Israel” into the same epistemological field, we aspire to reshape meanings and open up the possibility of decolonization, rather than legitimizing the colonization of Palestine.

Our insistence on naming the journal Palestine/Israel rather than Palestine–Israel is related to the same point. In 1994, the journalists Ziad Abu Zayyad and Victor Cygielman established the nonacademic Palestine–Israel Journal. A product of the Oslo era, it has aspired “to encourage dialogue between civil societies on both sides and broaden the base of support for the peace process.” The dash between Palestine and Israel conveyed the aspiration of its founders for a peaceful future based on a two-state solution, in which Palestine and Israel would formally become separate entities (even if they did not envision the rigid separation fantasied by contemporary Israeli political center). While our journal does not intend to advocate a particular type of “solution,” it relies on the assumption of intellectual inseparability, and it accepts the underlying argument that the people in Palestine/Israel live today in a one state reality, or at least in a reality of a single regime.22 While the dash implies the existence of two discrete units, and therefore obscures the colonial roots of Israel, the virgule implies that the history and existence of Israel are inseparable from those of Palestine. We also attempt to counter the existing imbalance of power by bringing Palestine to the front (Palestine/Israel), preferring this over the more common term in recent use, Israel/Palestine.

The Imbalance of Power

We should state up front that in our aspiration to develop a bifocal perspective, which recognizes the parallel existence of Palestinian and ­Israeli subjectivities, we do not assume any symmetry, equality, or moral equivalence between Zionism, as ideology and as a set of practices, and Palestinian experience. Israel is the one holding the steering wheel of power and setting the subjugating policies, but between resistance and oppression and between subjugation and confrontation, a network of relations and interaction has always existed. The bifocal perspective acknowledges the sociopolitical reality that has been created in Palestine/Israel, while aspiring to develop knowledge and ideas that would make it possible to change it.

The argument of inseparability might touch on a sensitive issue. Rashid Khalidi has indicated a structural discursive imbalance: “[P]ermission cannot be granted for a Palestinian voice to be heard—even on matters having absolutely nothing to do with Israel—without the reassuring presence of its Israeli echo. The opposite, of course, is not true: a Palestinian voice is not necessarily required when exclusively Israeli or Jewish concerns are aired.”23 Indeed, this imbalance means that too often Palestinian voices are contained within an Israeli script. As we explained earlier, however, this inseparability accurately reflects the sociopolitical reality on the ground, and therefore eliminating the imbalance through discursive separation is impossible. Rather, we should recognize the interdependency and avoid the study of Israel outside of the Palestinian context.

This brings us to the key issue of the identity of the authors in the field. While PIR invites scholars regardless of their national or ethnic affiliation, it is evident that in journals affiliated with both Palestine and Israel studies, there is an overrepresentation of Palestinian and Israeli scholars. However, Israeli academia is much more embedded in Western academia, and as a result, Israeli scholars, regardless of their political orientation and the extent to which they adopt critical perspectives, enjoy higher levels of cultural and social capital in this sphere.

In this regard, the new journal might interfere in the struggle over representation and ownership of the narrative in a way that some Palestinian scholars would consider detrimental. The field of Palestine studies has successfully highlighted Palestinian voices in the discussion of Palestine to counterbalance their marginalization in academia. Will Palestine/Israel Review undermine these efforts? “Can the subaltern speak” in a United States-based academic journal, in which intimate familiarity with the colonizer’s vocabulary (for example, knowing Hebrew or exposure to Israeli popular culture) is one of the criteria for success?

We do not take these concerns lightly, and our answers are both analytical and practical. First, as Raef Zreik argued, Spivak’s question “Can the subaltern speak?” assumes that somewhere, out there, there is an intellectual community whose boundaries are broader than the subaltern community, and whose members could potentially listen and engage in a conversation. The voice of the subaltern matters less if it remains confined to the subaltern community, and it has a special value if it is heard among the members of the community that subjugates Palestinians today and will be in their proximity even after the colonial relation is abolished. When we state that our journal extends the boundaries of Palestine studies, this is in part what we mean. Insights developed within the field of Palestine studies, relying on Palestinian voices, could be taken further, nurturing discussions about topics that were previously considered the domain of Israel studies. Because we recognize the imbalance in access to resources and other forms of academic capital, we intend as members of the editorial board to be proactive in initiating and encouraging contribution to the journal by Palestinian scholars (in Palestine/Israel or outside of it).

Building an Intellectual Community

One of the challenges in crafting a new field is that structural elements that have prevented its emergence will continue to burden it. For example, few scholars have developed intimate familiarity with both Palestinian and Israeli societies or possess the linguistic skills required for conducting original archival work, interviews, ethnography, or observation in both societies. Scholars who publish in Israel studies journals typically know Hebrew well, grew up as Israelis or lived among Israelis for extended periods, but usually “lack both academic expertise and intimate familiarity with the region in the midst of which the State of Israel is situated.”24 As a reflection of these biographical characteristics, most of them do not read or speak Arabic.

Similarly, most scholars who publish in Palestine studies journals do not read or speak Hebrew. We recognize that maintaining a certain distance from the colonizer might be a healthy practice for Palestinians. This practice, though, might be in tension with the aspiration to produce intimate but critical knowledge about Israel from a Palestinian perspective. Therefore, out of awareness of the price, we call on Palestinian scholars to make their own contribution and shape the bifocal perspective with their own voices.

As we worked to articulate the mission and scope of the journal and recruit members to the editorial board, we found that scholars with mastery of both Arabic and Hebrew, many of them Palestinian citizens of Israel, were most enthusiastic about the creation of what they considered a long-overdue new field. Unfortunately, such scholars represent a relatively small community. Though Arabic–Hebrew bilingualism is surely not a precondition for publishing in Palestine/Israel Review, we hope that the existience of this platform will encourage graduate students interested in Palestine/Israel to learn and master both languages, each of which is spoken by more than half of the population in the country.

The Content of the First Issue

The first issue of Palestine/Israel Review provides a sample of the scholarship we would like to encourage and publish. It features the work of senior and junior scholars from diverse disciplines, including archeology, cultural studies, history, political science, and sociology, and they all illustrate different aspects that reflect the journal’s vision.

In her opening article, “‘Judeo-Arabic’ and the Separation Thesis,” Ella Shohat develops her evolving undermining of the axiomatic ontology of the “Judeo-Arabic language” as a cohesive unit separate from ­Arabic.25 In this article, she highlights the historical role Zionist academic institutions played in shaping this axiomatic status. This politicized linguistic categorization took part in shaping the persistent ambivalence surrounding the conjoining of “the Jewish” and “the Arab.” The split between the “Arab” and the “Jew” as mutually exclusive categories has been a product of the combined Zionist aspiration to Judaize and de-Arabize Palestine.26 Shohat’s article, therefore, adopts a relational and integrative approach that allows her to analyze power dynamics without sidelining the phenomenology of the actors.

The erasure of the Arab within the Jew corresponds with the erasure of Arab-Palestinian identity from the Palestinian landscape. ­Tawfiq Da’adli’s article, “Walking with Ghosts along the Bazaar: Urban Life in Ludd, Palestine, at the Turn of the 20th Century,” reconstructs the urban fabric of three neighborhoods in the Palestinian town of Ludd. “The destruction of old Ludd left practically nothing on the surface,” he writes. “Whoever visits it today faces a void that does not bear witness to its recent past. Thus, a person born in Ludd, say in 1930, was exiled from it as a teenager and returned to visit after half a century, cannot reconcile Israeli Lod with their memories of old.” Da’adli takes the readers on a journey accompanied by ghosts from the past, assisting us to see beyond the visible contemporary “Israeli Lod.”

Dorit Naaman extends another invitation to “walking with ghosts,” albeit with a different approach. In her reflective essay, she discusses public walks she guided in Jerusalem’s former middle-class Palestinian neighborhoods as an artist and activist. It is an excellent example of what we mean by arguing that a phenomenological approach and a high-resolution study of Israeli practices and discourses are useful for deconstructing structures of power. Naaman designed the walks to make a deliberate intervention into the ways guided walking tours mostly participate in (and sometimes manufacture) Israeli dominant narratives about the politically contested space and troubled history of Jerusalem. In the article, she outlines and analyzes the strategies she used to disrupt Israeli denial and encourage accountability for the Nakba.

In the following article, Joel Beinin returns to Late Ottoman and Mandate Palestine to examine the reception of Egyptian popular culture by Palestinian Arabs and Jews alike, considering them two groups populating a single public sphere. Back then, Palestine was an integral component of the audience for the new forms of “colloquial mass culture” that emerged in Cairo. Early Egyptian recording artists, theater troupes, and famous musicians such as Umm Kulthum and Muhammad Abdel Wahhab regularly appeared and were warmly received in Palestine. Even today, both Palestinians and Jewish audiences follow Umm Kulthumm’s repertoire, even if the two communities ascribe different meanings to her music. Popular music, as analyzed in Beinin’s article, is one of many cases in the realm of popular culture in which the division between Palestine studies and Israel studies is unproductive.

Walid Habbas examines the role of Palestinian economic agency in overcoming the post-2005 spatial restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation in the West Bank. His article focuses on the agency Palestinians practice daily as they respond to or disavow the dictates of the Israeli occupation. The furniture case study shows that some producers formed partnerships with Israelis, including settlers, to export their products through Jewish settlements in the West Bank, avoiding the barrier restrictions. The article suggests that Palestinian agency has contributed to the emergence of alternative logistics infrastructures, such as Palestinian circumventing practices that demand further examination to contextualize them.

In his essay about Zionist settler mimicry, Achia Anzi argues that Zionism harbors an internal tension between two opposing cultural apparatuses of mimicry and elimination, and that the former has a decolonizing potential. In his interpretation, Zionist historical adoption of Palestinian symbols and customs has a promise that goes beyond mere appropriation. If imitation is allowed to operate freely, he argues, it may transform the settler/native relation. The transformation of their epistemological horizon may release the settlers from their supremacy, which is the first step toward decolonization.

Although the journal will not publish conventional book reviews, we do encourage authors to submit proposals for book review essays at the length of a full article, attending to books treated as in conversation with one another about an important theme. The first such essay, written by Ian Lustick, discusses books by Amal Jamal (Reconstructing the Civic: Palestinian Activism in Israel), Hillel Cohen (Enemies: A Love Story, in Hebrew), and Shlomo Sand (The Bi-national Challenge: Israel–Palestine, in Hebrew). The essay illustrates the aspiration of the journal to encourage the understanding of Palestine/Israel as one political society. By highlighting this approach, Lustick is encouraging new thinking about how groups and ideas traditionally considered secondary or peripheral are now emerging as of decisive importance.

In addition, the journal invites authors to submit short position papers. In the first issue, Eyal Clyne and Assaf David question the ability of Israeli Middle East studies to “decolonize” and become an ally of critical intellectual forces in other countries, as claimed by some Israeli scholars. The authors argue that the selective adherence to ­“political neutrality,” coupled with overwhelming underrepresentation of Palestinians, effectively safeguards the “unity” of the field’s various ­Zionist elements against the possibility of solidarity and action, which results in persistent avoidance of explicit, meaningful, and concrete anti-­occupation and decolonization practices.

Looking Forward

The institutional separation between Palestine studies and Israel studies reflects a parallel existence of two diametrically opposed political goals. While the former produces knowledge that perpetuates, reproduces, and normalizes subjugation, the latter produces knowledge for liberation purposes. We aspire to carve out a new intellectual space by extending the field of Palestine studies, through including Israelis as an object of study with their own subjectivities.

Seven and a half decades since the inception of the Nakba, it is no longer possible to deal with Palestinian and Israeli societies as separate objects of knowledge. They have become intertwined, like conjoined twins; each domain is the other side of the coin of the opposite field, linked by complex, diverse, and multilayered relationships in which violence, conflict, contradiction, tension, erasure, substitution, exclusion, superiority and subjugation, resistance, steadfastness, destruction, construction, cooperation, and interaction are intermingled.

The occupation, the colonization, and the conflict have structured Zionism and Israel and permeated all levels of existence in them, just as they have completely structured Palestinian existence and fermented in its consciousness, values, and visions. It is not possible to understand the ongoing Israeli judicial overhaul, for example, without understanding the emergency law, the occupation, and the role of elites in shaping hierarchical citizenship. Nor is possible to understand and study the environmental transformations in Palestine in isolation from the afforestation policies of the Jewish National Fund. Similarly, it is impossible to understand current sociopolitical dynamics in Mizrahi development towns without a reference to the historical colonizing context of their establishment and their role in dispossessing Palestinians. The separate investigation of the above-mentioned topics, in distinct scholarly fields, would be at risk of being intellectually unproductive. The no man’s land separating the study of Palestinians and Israelis needs to be disturbed and rebuilt as a space for decolonization of academia.


The authors would like to thank colleagues who commented on previous versions of this introduction: Bashir Bashir, Joel Beinin, Sonia Boulos, Arie Dubnov, Awad Halabi, Liora Halperin, Ian Lustick, Salim Tamari, Yair Wallach, and Raef Zreik.


Antonio Gramsci, Quaderni del carcere, Vol.1 (Torino: G. Einaudi, 1975), 311. The original sentence in Italians said, “Il vecchio mondo sta morendo. Quello nuovo tarda a comparire. E in questo chiaroscuro nascono i mostri.” and its English translation had several versions. For a discussion of Gramsci’s original meaning see Gilbert Achcar, “Morbid Symptoms: What Did Gramsci Really Mean?” Notebooks: The Journal for Studies on Power 1, no. 2 (2022).


See Nahum Karlinsky, “Hirhurim ‘Al Tzmichat Limudei Medinat Yisarl [Hebrew: Paradigm Shift: The Emergence of the Field of Israel Studies?,” in ‘Am Ve-‘Olam: Shai Le-Yisrael Bartal [Am Ve-Olam: A Tribute to Israel Bartal], ed. Dimitry Shumsky, Jonatan Meir, and Gershon David Hundert (Merkaz Zalman Shazar, 2019); Uri Ram, Israeli Sociology: Text in Context (Springer, 2017).


Salim Tamari, Mountain against the Sea: Essays on Palestinian Society and Culture (University of California Press, 2008).


Tom Segev, Medinaי be-khol mehir: Sipur hayav shel David ben-gurion (Keter, 2018).


Allen Polack, Secretary of American Professors for Peace in the Middle East, September 1967. In “American Academic Association for Peace in the Middle East (N.Y.) Collection,” I-321, Center for Jewish History.


American Professor for Peace in the Middle East, “Statement of Purpose,” 21 April 1968. In American Academic Association for Peace in the Middle East (N.Y.) Collection, I-321, Center for Jewish History.


Chaim I. Waxman, “AAAPME as a Precursor of AIS: A Response to Ian Lustick,” Israel Studies Bulletin 14, no. 2 (1999): 12.


See Ian S. Lustick, “From the Wilderness, a Small Start,” Israel Studies Bulletin 15, no. 1 (1999): 11.


The Department of Israel Studies at the University of Haifa and the Palestinian Forum for Israel Studies in Ramallah both emerged in very particular circumstances, which set them apart from other units worldwide.


Arie Dubnov, review of Uri Bialer, “Israeli Foreign Policy: A People Shall Not Dwell Alone,” H-Mideast Politics (July 18, 2022).


See Sherene Seikaly, “In the Shadow of War: The Journal of Palestine Studies as Archive,” Journal of Palestine Studies 51, no. 2 (2022): 5–26.


Rashid I. Khalidi, “The Journal of Palestine Studies in the Twenty-First Century: An Editor’s Reflections,” Journal of Palestine Studies 50, no. 3 (2021): 5–17.


Khalidi, “An Editor’s Reflections.”


Wolf Blitzer, “Undermining an Alliance,” Australian Jewish Times, 25 June 1981.


Nicole Maor and David Ellenson, “‘Who Is a Convert?’—The Law of Return and the Legality of Reform and Conservative Conversions in Israel,” Israel Studies 27, no. 2 (2022): 24–40.


Nehemia Stern, Uzi Ben-Shalom, Udi Lebel, and Batia Ben-Hador, “‘The Chain of Hebrew Soldiers’: Reconsidering ‘Religionization’ within an IDF Bible Seminar,” Israel Studies Review 37, no. 2 (01 Jun. 2022 2022), https://www.berghahnjournals.com/view/journals/israel-studies-review/37/2/isr370207.xml.


For example, Gilad Brand, “How Much Can the Israeli Start-Up Nation Continue to Grow?” in State of the Nation Report: Society, Economy and Policy in Israel, ed. Avi Weiss (New York: Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, 2018); Steven Fraiberg, “Start-Up Nation: Studying Transnational Entrepreneurial Practices in Israel’s Start-Up Ecosystem,” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 31, no. 3 (2017).


Sandy M. Sufian and Mark LeVine, Reapproaching Borders: New Perspectives on the Study of Israel-Palestine (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007), https://books.google.com/books?id=qNw9qRPHTScC; Tamir Sorek, ed., Culture and Conflict in Palestine/Israel (Taylor and Francis, 2022); Dafna Hirsch, ed., Entangled Histories in Palestine/Israel: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives (Routledge, 2024); R. L. Stein and T. Swedenburg, Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture (Duke University Press, 2005); Bashir Bashir and Amos Goldberg, The Holocaust and the Nakba: A New Grammar of Trauma and Hstory (Columbia University Press, 2018).


Derek Penslar, “Toward a Field of Israel/Palestine Studies,” in The Arab and Jewish Questions: Geographies of Engagement in Palestine and Beyond, ed. Bashir Bashir and Leila Farsakh (Columbia University Press, 2020).


Baruch Kimmerling, The Invention and Decline of Israeliness: State, Society, and the Military (University of California Press, 2001).


Ian S. Lustick, Paradigm Lost: From Two-State Solution to One-State Reality (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019).


Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (Columbia University Press, 1997), 146–7.


Penslar, “Toward a Field of Israel/Palestine Studies,” 174.


Ella Shohat, “The Invention of Judeo-Arabic: Nation, Partition and the Linguistic iImaginary,” Interventions 19, no. 2 (2017).


See a relevant discussion in Bashir Bashir and Leila Farsakh, “Introduction: Three Questions That Make One,” in The Arab and Jewish Questions: Geographies of Engagement in Palestine and Beyond, ed. Bashir Bashir and Leila Farsakh (Columbia University Press, 2020), 1–22.

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