On ‘The Nation’ and Palestinians

On ‘The Nation’ and Palestinians

A response to Rania Khalek. 


On December 19, independent journalist Rania Khalek posted an article at The Electronic Intifada titled “Does The Nation have a problem with Palestinians?” In it, Khalek criticizes The Nation for articles we published about the debate over BDS, the balance of Palestinian voices in that discussion and the lack of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim writers in our pages in general. “When it comes to Israel and Palestine,” Khalek writes, “The Nation habitually reinforces Israeli apartheid by privileging Jewish voices over Palestinian ones.” Shortly thereafter, Khalek, who has twice written for The Nation, tweeted:

Khalek’s claims circulated widely, and they have left the impression that with the exception of Omar Barghouti, who Khalek notes was twice published by The Nation on the subject of BDS, we have failed to include Palestinian writers in our coverage of the Israeli occupation. I wish Khalek had taken the time to search our archives or contacted me or any other Nation editor before making these assertions. Had she done so, I would have directed her to at least fourteen articles on Palestine by ten different Palestinian or Palestinian-American writers that we have published since the beginning of 2008 alone. In addition to those by Barghouti, these include, in no particular order:

Nadia Hijab, the director of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network:

The Rise of the Intifada Generation,” August 24, 2011

Palestinian Roads: Cementing Statehood, or Israeli Annexation?” April 30, 2010 (with Jesse Rosenfeld).

Obama’s Blindspot on Israel,” June 16, 2008.

Noura Erakat, human rights attorney and professor of law:

Rethinking Israel-Palestine: Beyond Bantustans, Beyond Reservations,” March 21, 2013.

Mohammed Omer, Palestinian journalist and winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize:

A Report from Gaza Under Seige,” March 18, 2012.

Truth and Consequences Under the Israeli Occupation,” July 31, 2008.

Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement and former chair of the Free Gaza Movement:

Free Gaza—And Palestine,” July 17, 2009.

Palestine’s Peaceful Struggle,” September 11, 2009.

Mouin Rabbani, independent journalist and fellow with the Institute for Palestine Studies:

The Fatah-Hamas Accord,” May 12, 2011.

Plus three articles published before 2008.

Palestine: Liberation Deferred,” May 8, 2008.

Plus one article on the Arab Spring and two articles written before 2008.

Laila Al-Arian, Producer for Al Jazeera English and former Nation intern:

To Live and Die in Gaza,” January 2, 2009.

Plus four other articles on subjects other than Israel and Palestine.

Saree Makdisi, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UCLA:

The Strangulation of Gaza,” February 1, 2008.

Plus two articles written before 2008.

It is ironic that Khalek’s article, which purports to document the absence of Palestinian voices has, itself, rendered so many Palestinian writers invisible. But contrary to her characterization, our archive in this regard is a rich and varied one. It includes contributions by some of the most prominent Palestinian activists, scholars and journalists in the world, including the founders of ISM and BDS. There are on-the-ground dispatches from the occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza, analyses of US and Israeli policies and coverage of debates internal to Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora, a genre rarely seen in the US press. Moreover, our coverage of Israel and Palestine extends deep into our history and includes other Palestinian writers like Bashir Abu-Manneh and the late Edward Said. Our list of Arab and Muslim writers is, of course, much longer still.

On a final note, it seems that Khalek conflates coverage of BDS with coverage of the Israeli occupation of Palestine in general. This is a disservice all around. BDS is one particular strategy to end the occupation. While it emanates from within Palestinian civil society, it is directed at people of conscience around the world. Citizens of the United States, Israel’s staunchest ally, have a particular burden to wrestle with this call for solidarity, which is exactly what has happened at institutions like the Park Slope Food Co-Op and the American Studies Association.

Our forums on BDS took place in the midst of those discussion, and while they included the co-founder of the BDS movement, they were weighted towards an American audience—because those were the moral agents being asked to make a choice. Should they have included more Palestinian voices? That is a perfectly fair—and quite interesting—subject for discussion. But it is difficult to have that conversation when it comes wrapped in such a willful and facile distortion of our larger record.

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