Informit article: Reviewing the Middle East

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I was profoundly honoured when Arena asked me to review its contributions on the Middle East. No other independent publisher has been so committed to the task of both (re-)describing our geopolitical situation and offering prescriptions for redress that are neither shrill nor doctrinaire. Admirably, Arena has resisted the professionalized peer-reviewed journal’s drift towards specialization and coterie discussion; it has taken no notice of the niche journal’s fetish for theoretical shadow-boxing, the narcissism of small differences that has increasingly depoliticized academic discussion. Instead, in Arena’s pages, sober analysis of current affairs shares space with philosophical meditation, expansive cultural criticism and utopian speculation. For Arena the only remit that matters is that of urgent and robust critique. Still, I have to confess to approaching the task of reviewing Arena’s commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a degree of dread. Arena’s record of unflinching analysis of Israel’s colonial dispossession of the Palestinians, a project that continues unabated despite sporadic and often disingenuous protests from the international community, and its incisive discussion of the failings of the Arab state system, promised to be little more than an accurate but over familiar record of human misery, failed aspirations and the various ruses by which the US-Israeli alliance has sought to subjugate and remake the Middle East according to its own interests. However, what I discovered in Arena’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the Oslo peace process of the early 1990s – my focus in this short essay – is a testament to the enlarged sympathies and reconstructive imagination of dissident intellectuals who have found a ready home in Arena’s pages. In this short review I will focus on just a few contributors who have articulated transformative possibilities.

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