In 1984, Edward Said argued that Palestinians had not yet gained “permission to narrate,” that is, a Palestinian national narrative of exile and colonization remained unintelligible in the Euro-American world. Forty years hence, much has changed. And yet, this essay asks, with what political consequences? What if the epistemological-qua-political ground has changed such that this “permission to narrate” turns out to be far less consequential than Said once believed? Tracing a shift in Israeli historical scholarship, and among the Israeli public, vis-à-vis the expulsion of Palestinians during the war of 1948, this essay queries a long-standing anti- and post-colonial commitment to the political salience of counter-histories, of revisiting the archive. Other forms of (epistemological) power have emerged and they do not require the kinds of ideological closures (denial, official or unofficial censorship) that were central to Said’s analysis. Israeli settler-nationhood no longer depends on the suppression of the historical trace, the state secret—on denial. It can just as easily operate through the embrace of a far more brazen and explicit seizure of power: I know very well, but nevertheless.

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