PW on the Resignation of Guernica’s Editor-in-Chief


Palestine Writes, the only North American literature festival dedicated to celebrating Palestinian literature, welcomes the resignation of Jina Moore, Guernica’s editor-in-chief, in the wake of the fallout from her unilateral decision to publish a deeply problematic essay by Joanna Chen. 

The piece, “From the Edges of a Broken World,” in Guernica’s March issue, rightfully drew sharp criticism from Palestinian authors and their allies.

The outcry over Chen’s essay, and subsequent revelation that it was published without customary review or approval by Guernica’s staff, led to its retraction.  Meanwhile, several staff, including the entirety of the fiction department at Guernica, announced their resignations in protest over its publication, and many Palestinian authors withdrew their work from Guernica

Even in this moment when the genocide of Palestinians is being livestreamed for the world to witness, Palestinian views were dismissed. Worse, mainstream publications and organizations came out angrily against the retraction of Chen’s essay. 

While publishing diverse viewpoints is a laudable mission, Chen’s essay reduced Israel’s unrelenting genocidal bombing and purposeful starvation of 2.4 million defenseless civilians in Gaza, as well as Israel’s ongoing violent colonization of Palestine, to a mere sad situation with no real solution. 

Chen focused on personal relationships to perpetuate the “two-sideism” colonial narrative of a “complicated conflict” with no acknowledgement of the extraordinary power imbalance between a nuclear power whose openly stated aims since 1948 have been the elimination or removal of indigenous Palestinians to replace them with an imported Jewish population. 

Her essay reeked of the colonizer’s benevolence and saviorism. What was touted as “nuance” is just the age-old dilemma faced by settlers who must eventually confront native agency.  

The essay recycled the outrageous trope that Palestinian discontent emerges from anti-Semitism rather than the result of a violent 75-year military occupation that has brutalized and terrorized Palestinians since Israel’s inception. 

Palestine Writes also notes the same publications and literary organizations who vehemently criticized the magazine’s retraction of Chen’s piece have been silent on the ongoing censorship and attempted bullying of Palestinian writers and their allies, such Adania Shibli, Samia Halaby, and Viet Thanh Nguyen.

They have likewise been silent on the wholesale denigration and vilification of the first in-person Palestine Writes Literature Festival, which took place at the University of Pennsylvania in September 2023. 

This is to say nothing of their persistent silence on the targeted murders and arrests of countless Palestinian writers, journalists, poets, artists, and other cultural workers in Gaza and the West Bank. 

The literary establishment’s selective decisions about when to be outraged is revealing and disappointing, but not surprising to any Palestinian, any writer of color, or anyone who has been paying attention. It is another layer of the violence to which we are accustomed and yet another reason why organizations like Palestine Writes exist to provide a safe space from the industry’s pervasive marginalization, denigration, or tokenization of Palestinian authors.  

Palestine remains the singular issue about which progressive and so-called liberal writers cannot stand firmly on the side of the oppressed, or worse, actively defend genocidal colonizers. 

However, that is changing, and we are heartened and grateful not only by the solidarity from Guernica’s staff and others, but also by the global awakening to Palestinian suffering under the weight of Israel’s unrelenting settler-colonial violence. 

We take this moment to reiterate our urgent call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire.  The situation on the ground is incomprehensibly dire, with at least 6% of Gaza’s population either killed or maimed by Israel, 25% facing Israeli-engineered famine conditions, 100% facing severe food insecurity, 91% displaced from their homes, and 100% terrorized, traumatized, and facing spreading communicable diseases that will continue to kill them by the tens of thousands after the bombs finally stop falling. 

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