- A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America by Keith P. Feldman
A Shadow over Palestine presents an analysis that is at times revelatory, exasperating, and—ultimately—provocative. The work interrogates the Post-Civil Rights period, which the author delineates as spanning [End Page 444] from 1960 to 1985, and the ‘‘conjuncture’’ that emerged during these years ‘‘between struggles over hegemony in the United States’’ and the ‘‘transformed relations of rule in Israel and Palestine’’ (2). A Shadow over Palestine is a work of discourse analysis. Feldman, whose background is in Ethnic Studies, deconstructs American understandings of Palestine/Israel and its peoples, and deploys these perceptions to examine larger issues of power, international order, and race relations.
The book commences with a chapter that scrutinizes the United Nations’ 1963 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which avowed that Zionism represented a ‘‘form of racism and racial discrimination,’’ and the contested discourse that enveloped it. As Feldman reveals, the declaration’s explosive statement concerning Zionism opened a fracture between the US and representatives of the Third World, particularly the Palestinian Research Center (prc). The prc defended the declaration by advancing the notion that the Israeli state constituted a form of settler colonialism, which employed racial discrimination to advance and secure expanded settlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the US representative at the UN, countered the prc contentions. He posited that like the US, Israel constituted an exceptional pluralist democracy that assimilated minorities into a dominant sociality, which secured freedom and individual rights. The book uses this debate to frame a far more expansive argument. It asserts that the positions expressed by Moynihan reflected a hegemonic US order that delegitimized Third World perspectives and aspirations by equating them with movements within the US (such as the Black Power movement), which resisted the assimilationist paradigm by demanding equal outcomes. The comparison legitimized the use of racial security apparatuses at home by drawing parallels between US domestic race relations and Israeli settlement and normalized ‘‘Palestinian exclusion, dispossession, and dehumanization’’ (57).
If conceived of in Hegelian terms, the book is structured so that the first chapter delineates the thesis (the US sponsored order) and the majority of the remaining chapters elucidate several anti-theses, or what Feldman characterizes as (borrowing from Edward Said) contrapuntal narratives, which challenge this hegemonic thesis. The exception to this is the third chapter, which explains American Jewry’s increasing attachment to the state of Israel in the wake of ascendant threats to the Jewish community within the US and abroad. The remaining chapters, however, are devoted to elaborating upon these contrapuntal discourses. Chapter two examines how those within the Black Power movement drew linkages between the dispossession of Palestinians and the ghettoization of African Americans within the US. The fourth chapter details the emergence of the ‘‘Arab American awakening,’’ in which Arab American intellectuals, including most famously Edward Said, ‘‘made the cause for Palestinian presence’’ [End Page 445] (158) by identifying and challenging anti-Arab prejudice, documenting Arab Americans’ experiences, and by laying bare the forces that animated this prejudice. The final chapter explores the sense of relationality between Palestine/Palestinians and women of colour feminists, and how the latter group employed this connection to challenge global capitalism and its repression of women.
The first chapter contains Feldman’s most expansive and provocative argument and is also the least supported. Feldman substantiates his sprawling contentions by mobilizing the bookended words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and George H.W. Bush. He argues that the interrelation between domestic race relations, developments within Palestine/Israel, and American understandings of these developments supported an order that limited Third World aspirations, reified racial security forces, and legitimized the persecution and erasure of Palestine, Palestinians, and their perspectives between 1960 and 1985. The words of two American officials, separated by nearly twenty years of history, hardly substantiate the existence of such a sprawling and commanding order. Many historians will also bristle at Feldman’s overreliance on academic jargon and...