- Editors’ Note
CR: The New Centennial Review is devoted to comparative studies of the Americas. The journal’s primary emphasis is on opening up the possibilities for a future Americas that does not amount to a mere reiteration of its past. We seek interventions, provocations, and indeed, insurgencies that release futures for the Americas. In general, CR welcomes work that is inflected, informed, and driven by theoretical and philosophical concerns at the limits of the potentialities for the Americas.
Such work may be explicitly concerned with the Americas, or it may be broader, global and/or genealogical scholarship with implications for the Americas. CR recognizes that the language of the Americas is translation, and that therefore questions of translation, dialogue, and border crossings (linguistic, cultural, national, and the like) are necessary for rethinking the foundations and limits of the Americas.
For 45 years, CR has been a journal committed to interdisciplinarity, and we continue to encourage work that goes beyond a simple performance of the strategies of various disciplines and interdisciplines, and that therefore [End Page vii] interrogates them. This special issue of CR is entitled The Palestine Issue and was edited by Salah D. Hassan.
The Palestine Issue was originally conceived in connection with a 2007 American Studies Association panel that I organized on the topic of “Palestine and the U.S. Public Sphere” at which Nadia Hijab, Sanaina Maira, Hilton Obenzinger, and Magid Shihade presented. The ASA panel and this special issue aimed at analyzing debates within the academy, the media, and public policy about representation of Palestine in the context of the U.S. “War on Terror.” The Habermasian notion of the public sphere in the title of the ASA panel was initially conceptualized primarily in terms of the university as a site of public discussion and political organizing. At the same ASA meeting, Marcy Knopf-Newman organized a related panel on the topic of the “New McCarthyism,” which addressed explicit efforts to silence academic scrutiny and critiques of the United States’ Middle East policies. The papers presented at these two panels, and the very existence of the panels within the ASA program, confirms the central place of the U.S. academy in both defining and contesting the U.S. role in the Middle East, particularly in relation to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
One of the main features of this role is the U.S.-Israeli special relationship, which has produced a distortion and erasure of Palestinian narratives, even as the United States embarked in the 1990s on the promotion of a peace process. The original aim of the ASA panel and subsequently of this issue was, therefore, to analyze the various complex ways that Palestine figures in public debates in the academy—particularly in connection with tenure cases, the academic boycott of Israel, student activism, and so forth—and how those debates take shape in other contexts nationally and internationally. The point is to bring into focus the contradictions that have appeared as the Bush administration, while engaged in the Iraq War, reinforces an unwavering commitment to Israeli security, ostensibly threatened by Arab and Islamic terrorism, and at the same time gingerly endorses the notion of a Palestinian mini-state as part of its broader ambition to reorganize the region around an unrivaled U.S. hegemony.
Although the Oslo Accords and the subsequent Israeli-Palestinian negotiations did not produce a settlement, they did inaugurate the era of a [End Page viii] fractured Palestinian politics, which can now be observed in the Palestinian Authority–Hamas rivalry. The shift is marked by the U.S. position that Palestinian national politics as it is represented by Fatah (the formerly dominant party within the PLO and the party that controls the Palestinian Authority) is no longer classified as a terrorist organization, which paved the way to a strategic alliance between the current Palestinian Authority leadership and the Bush administration.
Until the 1990s, in the United States, Palestinians (that is, Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization) were associated almost exclusively with “terrorism.” The 1970s and 1980s might be considered the era of the first “war on terror,” as was documented by Edward Herman in The Real Terror Network (1982) and...