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The Uproar over “Word Crimes”: A Political Not Scholarly Agenda
Donna Robinson Divine
Of all the changes that can be documented since the founding of Israel, none is as dramatic and surprising as the country’s status as a topic of intellectual inquiry. Once a trope for self-sacrifice and solidarity, a testament to the redemption of a bruised and battered people, the Jewish state, today, stands accused of practicing apartheid, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and of sustaining itself as a remnant of an outdated and thoroughly delegitimized colonial order. The Summer 2019 special issue of Israel Studies, “Word Crimes: Reclaiming the Language of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,”1 explores this lexical transformation and describes how and why it acquired its totemic standing in the academy. More than a sloganized language of politics, the terms interrogated comprise a poisonous distillation of history and politics that has hardened the conventional views of not only scholars who exercise increasing control over the corridors of academic power, but also of journalists and elected officials. As Cary Nelson put it, first these terms form opinions, then convictions, and finally they shape personal identity....
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