Passion and Book Sales: 'Israeli Apartheid Week' Meets Palgrave

Several academics emailed me yesterday about an email from Palgrave Macmillian Publishers titled "Debating Israeli Apartheid Week" and then listing a number of books representing the Palestinian side of the argument, all published by publishing houses that Palgrave MacMillan distributes.

As noted in the box above, Palgrave MacMillan writes:

Debating Israeli Apartheid Week

In conjunction with the 9th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week, take a look at our featured titles from our distribution partners Pluto Press, I.B. Tauris Publishers and Zed Books, bringing attention to this moment of the Palestinian struggle.

Learn more about the IAW here and join the debate!

One of the emails to me referencing this book roster said "Boy, after Hagel won confirmation, guess the dam broke and things are changing fast."

Listed among the books were Generation Palestine: Voices from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement; Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy; Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propoganda in Education; and Narrating Conflict in the Middle East: Discourse, Image and Communications Practices in Lebanon and Palestine.

Several thoughts: First, Senator Chuck Hagel's confirmation as President Obama's new Secretary of Defense is more disconnected from the Israel-Palestine ball field than most want to admit, but his confirmation gives pragmatic policy thinking a bit of a boost -- but it doesn't come at the cost of the turbo-charged pro-Israel community. I offer that modifier to distinguish between the ultra-pro-Israel crowd and the less-hyperventilating pro-Israel crowd a la J Street.

Second, things haven't changed at Palgrave MacMillan. Received this email today from them:

In response to our earlier email

Palgrave Macmillan would like to express our regrets for the e-mail sent in error on Monday morning.

While many of our authors have published seminal works debating various aspects of the Israeli/Palestine conflict, and Palgrave Macmillan is committed to promoting scholarship, research and debate on this difficult topic, we would never endorse one particular political point of view. The wording used in the e-mail is unacceptable, and the e-mail does not represent the views of Palgrave Macmillan, distribution partners or its employees.

The e-mail was sent without having gone through the usual checks and processes, for which we sincerely apologise. We are working with the team involved to find out how this happened, and to ensure it does not happen again.

Amy Bourke
Corporate Communications Manager
Palgrave Macmillan

The books that Palgrave highlighted are actually interesting and worthwhile books to read. They are academic, reality based, and thoughtful. I'm sure that there are equally constructive, probing books on the other side of the argument as well -- and some likely published by Palgrave.

It would have been useful of Palgrave MacMillan to modify its invalidation of the first email -- which it argued implied endorsement of Israeli Apartheid Week -- with books that argue that this is an unfair and incorrect framing of the Palestinian-Israel circumstance.

I wonder if in the time of Eisenhower of JFK, if a publisher had sent a list of books out highlighting American civil rights struggles if it would have been withdrawn in the way that Palgrave did. 

It's important for people to realize that the Israel-Palestine situation is not solved, remains tortured for people on both sides, that permanent displacement of people from their homes and land is not something most Americans or others around the world want to accept as a fait accompli.

The enthusiasm of the first Palgrave note was perhaps in poor taste -- but not the notion of marketing books to people who have an interest in this subject. 

I recommend that Palgrave find other books that it either distributes or those that even rival houses publish to show the other side of the argument, those who disagree strongly with the notion that Israel is evolving towards a racially, religiously and ethnically divided Apartheid state. I'd probably also add a roster of books that contain different future visions for Israel -- ranging from one that goes back to borders from 1947, or alternatively from 1967, or that essentially absorbs the Occupied Territories in a greater Israel with borders further out than those recognized today. 

Those kinds of rosters would promote smart and interesting policy discussion on an important and painful subject that should not be ignored.