shaw versus bartov on the question of genocide in palestine


Martin Shaw and Omer Bartov, ‘The question of genocide in Palestine, 1948: an exchange between Martin Shaw and Omer Bartov’, Journal of Genocide Research 12, 3 (2010)

Editors introduction:

The historical sociologist Martin Shaw was asked, as a genocide scholar rather than a specialist on Israel-Palestine, to contribute to an edited book that examined that conflict in a perspective based on the growing awareness of settler colonialism as a context of genocide. He drafted his chapter but the book, for various reasons, did not appear. However, one of its editors, Nur Masalha, asked him to submit the paper to the interdisciplinary journal that he edits: it appeared as ‘Palestine in an international historical perspective on genocide’ in Holy Land Studies (Vol 9, No 1, 2010, pp 1–25). Coincidentally, Shaw was asked to contribute to a conference organized by the Wiener Library in London in June 2010, on ‘The Holocaust and other genocides’, at which the main speaker was Omer Bartov. It turned out that Bartov’s paper, among other criticisms of genocide scholarship (directed principally against Dirk Moses and Donald Bloxham), attacked ‘the idea that there is a link between assertions of the Holocaust’s centrality and uniqueness and the legitimization of the State of Israel as a colonial entity with its own history of ethnic cleansing and genocidal potential’. He also commented that ‘statements by historians of genocide about Zionist ideology and Israeli policies are mostly rhetorical expressions of opinion, not scholarly analyses of the politics and practices of nation-building and ethnic displacement’. In the light of this, Shaw thought Bartov might be interested in his own take in the issues involved in relating the genocide perspective to the Palestine situation, and sent him his article. In what follows, Shaw first summarizes his article for readers of Journal of Genocide Research; after this, we publish the email exchange in which Bartov criticizes Shaw’s approach, Shaw replies, and Bartov concludes the discussion.

and a bit of Bartov’s conclusion:

while it is true that some countries such as Australia or the US have begun to look back at genocidal aspects of their past, the fact remains that their various ‘sorries’ have never in any way been seen as delegitimizing their exist- ence and sovereignty, even in the case of Germany and many other European states that were involved in the Holocaust.

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