Literary magazine editor quits after Israeli writer's essay removed from website

Jina Moore has resigned from Guernica magazine over the retraction


Anti-Israel demonstrators march through the streets in Washington, DC (Photo: Getty)

The editor-in-chief of a US literary magazine that last month retracted an essay about the war in Gaza by a British-Israeli author has resigned, saying she did not agree with the decision to withdraw the piece.

Jina Moore said in a blog post she had stood down from her role at Guernica, an online publication centring on the arts and politics, because “the magazine stands by its retraction of the work; I do not”.

The piece, a personal essay on coexistence entitled “From the Edges of a Broken World,” by writer and translator Joanna Chen and reflects on how, for the author, in the aftermath of October 7, “it [was] not easy to tread the line of empathy, to feel passion for both sides”.

Chen, whose “heart was in turmoil” described how “as the days went by, the shock turned into a dull pain in my heart and a heaviness in my legs”. The British-born writer went on: “I wondered if the Israeli hostages underground, the children and women, had any way of knowing the weather had turned cold, and I thought of the people of Gaza, the children and women, huddled inside tents supplied by the UN or looking for shelter.”

The essay was published on Guernica on 4 March, but days later it was pulled down, with visitors to the webpage informed: “Guernica regrets having published this piece, and has retracted it. A more fulsome explanation will follow.” No further explanation has been forthcoming, and in the meantime Chen’s essay was re-published by The Washington Monthly, a bimonthly magazine covering politics and government. It can also be viewed on an archived version of the Guernica webpage stored by digital archive Wayback Machine

The essay was removed from Guernica after multiple volunteer members of staff resigned, citing the piece. Among their number was Madhuri Sastry, who quit as co-publisher after branding the piece “a hand-wringing apologia for Zionism and the ongoing genocide in Palestine.” She also publicly called for Moore to resign as editor-in-chief due to her role as “the senior most person responsible for overseeing the processes” that led to the essay’s publication.

Another colleague, Ishita Marwah, formerly a fiction editor at Guernica, declared that running the piece made the magazine “a pillar of eugenicist white colonialism masquerading as goodness”.

On Sunday, issuing her own resignation statement, Moore, who also volunteered at the publication and has worked for the likes of the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Boston Globe, said: “In the March issue of Guernica, I published ‘From the Edges of a Broken World’, a personal essay by Joanna Chen. Many critics have said the essay normalised the violence Israel has unleashed in Gaza. I disagree. I saw the piece as an example of the difficult work that Guernica is known for: capturing, with complexity and nuance, how such violence is normalised, and how a violent state extracts complicity from its citizens.”

While she had anticipated “different, even opposing, interpretations of Chen’s essay”, Moore had also expected that the magazine, which she noted had “a long history of publishing Palestinian writers”, would “be able to hold space for such conversations”.

She added: “[I]t has become clear to me that Guernica’s commitment to writing on war, injustice, and oppression has evolved. The magazine stands by its retraction of the work; I do not. Guernica will continue, but I am no longer the right leader for its work.”

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