Nehad Khader, our managing editor here at the Journal of Palestine Studies just returned from two weeks in Palestine, visiting her friends, family and our office in Ramallah. We sat down for a chat in the library of the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington, DC.
I know you’re an integral member of the Journal team now, but when did you first learn of the Journal of Palestine Studies?
I first found out about the Journal of Palestine Studies when I was in high school exploring a used bookstore in Philadelphia. Even as a young person I was drawn to these bound archives documenting the latest conversations and shifting fate of my homeland. My family is originally from Haifa, so growing up in Philadelphia I was ecstatic to discover a window into my own history through the Journal.
I kept these first few issues that I found in high school and they have a special spot in my office in DC today. One of them is Issue 41, from 1989, the 10th anniversary issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies.
When I brought them home my parents recognized the names of renowned Palestinian academics and scholars inside the cover—at the time, such as Professor Walid Khalidi and Hisham Sharabi. We sat around the kitchen table exploring this treasure that I happened upon. I couldn’t have imagined then that one day I’d get to work side by side with these incredible scholars to make the Journal possible.
What do you do here at the Journal of Palestine Studies?
Well, every day I receive submissions from around the world, articles, essays, and reports from the latest emerging scholars, as well as established scholars and experts. Sometimes I even receive eyewitness testimonies or interviews with world leaders or key Palestinian resistance leaders. As the managing editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, I’m the gatekeeper to the Journal.
I’m the first person to receive an article submission, and I start it on its journey towards publication. I review articles and send them to our prestigious Editorial Committee to read and offer their insight. After the Editorial Committee has agreed that an article should be pursued, I send it to be blind peer reviewed. A peer reviewer is a leading scholar or expert in that topic or field. For example, I would send an article about economics in Gaza to an economist or an article about law in Israel to a professor of law or Israeli law.
Our peer reviewers send me critiques and comments to be relayed to the author. One of the most important parts of my job is leading authors through this process, ensuring that authors address the peer reviewers’ relevant feedback. Authors take this feedback from their academic peers very seriously, so I walk them through it and encourage them to restructure, add to, or remove from their argument.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face during the peer reviewing process?
One of the biggest things that comes up in reviewing work from expert scholars is missing context. For people who have dedicated their careers to a subject, they can sometimes gloss over necessary background that another reader might not readily know. I try to ensure that a general reader can read and understand a complex article from an expert in that field. What is so special about the Journal of Palestine Studies is our commitment to academically rigorous content that is also accessible to non-academics, to anyone interested in Palestine. I want to make sure Palestinian non-academics who crave this information and history can enjoy the Journal as much as a scholar in Middle East studies.
The Journal is unique in this way—it is a prestigious and still readable academic journal. I want to make sure that Palestinians across the diaspora can learn about the history and latest events coming from Palestine without needing an advanced degree in history, Middle East studies, economics or law. The physician, mechanic, or chef who wants to know about the history of Palestine can depend on the Journal just as well as the Ph.D. student concentrating on Palestinian history, because we’re independent, accessible, and trustworthy.
Who is on the Journal of Palestine Studies Editorial Committee?
Our Editorial Committee is made up of top scholars who specialize in different fields and are located across the diaspora and in the occupied territories. Currently, they are all of Palestinian descent. I think this helps to shape the narrative of JPS. We have an all-Palestinian team who help curate the content of the Journal, and who are invested both personally and professionally in the accuracy and responsibility of the publication.
What do you like most about working at the Journal of Palestine Studies?
Working at the Journal of Palestine Studies is often exciting as well as rewarding. As someone passionate about film, one of my most memorable experiences at the Journal was having the opportunity to interview renowned Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman while he was giving lectures and master classes in New York City. That interview will be printed in the forthcoming issue of the Journal. I love having the opportunity to meet and work with these creative intellectuals whom I’ve always admired.
When Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, emailed me to compliment the Journal issue on Operation Protective Edge, I felt so grateful to work here. My professors and mentors from Georgetown University, where I completed my graduate degree, are now my colleagues. I’m working in a place where Edward Said and Mahmoud Darwish served on the board and walked in the halls.
The thing I value the most about the Journal is our independence, though. There’s no one who steps in at any point to tell us what content we can or cannot publish. We have full independence, and that’s rare. Unless it’s bad scholarship, at no point does anyone stop us and say “that topic is too controversial” or “this is unacceptable because it might upset so-and-so.” When I started working here, I was surprised to discover that nobody would be looking over the Journal team’s shoulder. Our articles are meticulously fact-checked, well researched, and peer reviewed by experts, but never censored. JPS is so trusted and highly regarded for a reason, and I know how important that legacy is.
As managing editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, I have a responsibility to other scholars and a responsibility to be true to the history of the Palestinian people.
Interview conducted by Paige Brownlow.
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