In Traces of Racial Exception, Ronit Lentin prefaces her book with a list of crimes that the Israeli settler-state committed against the indigenous peoples of Palestine. After each crime, Lentin concludes with but that’s not who we are, we are better than this (vii–viii). This stylistic and sarcastic approach not only introduces the readers into the overarching argument of the book but also functions as the author’s firm declaration of positionality as a member of the colonising collectivity (7). Therefore, this book is not about Palestine — since Lentin cannot speak for or on behalf of the Palestinians — but, rather, it is about Israel or the perpetrators and the permanent war against the Palestinians. Lentin’s book particularly focuses on the centrality of race to the Israeli rule of Palestine (3). To illustrate and support this overarching claim, the book initiates each chapter with an example of the daily crimes of the Israel state, that are racially motivated, against the Palestinians and Arab-Jews. Then, Lentin moves to theoretical debates and conversations that connect the lived experiences of the Palestinians with the academic efforts to theorise this case of colonisation. Her book becomes an attempt to understand the puzzle of the Zionists’ rule over Palestine that is only comprehensible, she concludes, through the lens of race.
In Enforcing Silence: Academic Freedom, Palestine and the Criticism of Israel, eds. David Landy, Ronit Lentin, Conor McCarthy (Zed Books/Bloomsbury 2020)
In January 2018 the Israeli Knesset approved a bill bringing academic institutes in the occupied West Bank under the jurisdiction of Israel’s Higher Education Authority. According to Haaretz, the legislation is “one of a series of laws designed to enact creeping annexation of the West Bank and apply Israeli law to the settlements” (Zur 2018). The bill was enacted despite opposition by leading Israeli academics who warned that it would damage the agreement reached between Israel and the European Union to maintain the separation between institutions within the state of Israel and in the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, and that it would lead to demands that Israel be removed from scientific cooperation programmes such as the prestigious EU Horizon 2020 programme (Zur 2018).
EDITED BY: DAVID LANDY, RONIT LENTIN AND CONOR MCCARTHY
ZED BOOKS / BLOOMSBURY 2020
“Criticism of Israel has become the litmus test of ‘academic freedom.’ Anyone believing that this is, at bottom, a straightforward and unquestionable notion will change their mind after reading this very stimulating and useful book” (Prof. Gilbert Ashcar, SOAS)
As global support for Palestinian justice grows steadily, the silencing of criticism of Israel takes new aggressive forms. To understand why this is the case, and how the politics of Israel-Palestine has become indelibly connected to academic freedom, read this valuable and wide-ranging collection (Prof Bashir Abu-Manneh, University of Kent)