Today’s discussion about Israel is too often supercharged with emotion and underpowered in expertise and nuance. It is time to confront this challenge. We stand at a crossroad and in need of tough-minded and expert intellectual analysis.
First, there is a desperate need for a deeper understanding of Israeli society itself – complex and fast-changing, commanding global attention, yet often reduced to a mere caricature by parts of the mass media, civil society and intellectual culture. Fathom will present Israel in HD.
Second, the revolutionary changes in the Arab world have transformed Israel’s neighbourhood into a radically different and bitterly contested political terrain. Social movements with eyes fixed on democratic vistas have been overshadowed on the one hand by the possibility of chaos and on the other by new forms of authoritarianism, religious and secular. Fathom will map this historic contest and explore the profound implications it bears for both Israeli security and the Middle East peace process.
Third, the Israel-Palestinian peace process requires fresh thinking. Two states for two peoples remains the only way to balance Jewish and Palestinian demands for sovereign independence and national self-determination, but there has been a waning of support for this project, among intellectuals especially. Fathom will be a partisan and artisan of the two-state solution, helping to put some intellectual substance back into the project of mutual recognition and peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.
Though the significance of the obstacles to resolving the conflict cannot be ignored, we refuse to give in to the current vogue for pessimism. ‘The peace process is dead’ is one of Middle East journalism’s favourite clichés. But giving up is not an option for millions of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians who yearn for a better future. And there is no cause to give up: majorities on both sides want peace and a conflict-ending agreement has been glimpsed more than once in recent negotiations. Fathom will offer hard-headed realism about where we are in the peace process, but we will also open our pages to ambitious thinking about where we want to be and how to get there.
Fourth, Fathom will explore the current state and future prospects of the strategic relationship between Britain and Israel. The two countries share a history as well as many progressive values and a wide range of interests – not just strategic and political but in business and trade, culture and civil society, and science and technology.
Fathom will fuse the rigour and intellectual credibility of the old-school journal to the tremendous potential of new publishing technologies and social networks. The journal is published by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, an independent British organisation founded in 2001 to foster a more complete understanding of Israel. BICOM believes in the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security and in the rights of the Palestinians to statehood. We support a close relationship between Britain and Israel, based on shared values and interests.
Unusually, Fathom’s contributors and advisory editors will be drawn from across the political spectrum. Our goal is not to push a narrow party line but to build a global intellectual space for serious bi-partisan debate about Israel and the region. We intend to create a more interesting conversation about Israel – more knowledgeable, more nuanced and more challenging (for all parties) than the tired slogans that are shouted in the boring megaphone war. So beware: there will be at least one piece in every issue that you disagree with, perhaps vehemently! Our wager is that you will keep coming back because you value expert analysis, acute commentary and grown-up debate.
In that spirit we invite your submissions and your feedback.
Alan Johnson (Editor, London) [email protected], Toby Greene (Deputy Editor, Jerusalem) and Jules Robinson (Book Reviews Editor, London).