Genocide: Seeing Israel Where It Is Not
If hate for Israel is triggered whenever you hear or read certain trigger-words, such as genocide, then you might see things that are not really there. I can think of no other reason for the blooper I spotted in an academic journal than that. “Racialized Violence and the Churches’ Responsibility” is the title of a special issue of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies that was released in April 2020. In the introduction by Adam Ployd, apparently editor of this special issue, he briefly describes the purpose of the collection of articles and what readers can expect from each one. He writes:
We begin with Tony Kireopoulos’s essay. He asks a provocative question: Should the killing of Black persons in the U.S. be considered a slow genocide? Using the technical United Nations definition of the term and examining its use in the conflict over Palestine, Kireopoulos comes to the conclusion that genocide is, indeed, a helpful concept for understanding racialized violence in the U.S., even if it might not meet official definitions. [emphasis added]
Regarding the merits of a scholarly journal applying an official, internationally accepted definition of a term to a situation “even if it might not meet [the criteria of the] official definitions”, may certainly be considered problematic. Kireopoulos, however, does a valient job of explaining why current ongoing slow-boil “carnage” (his term) needs to be called genocide even though the accepted tradition is to apply the term only after all the killing is over.
Genocide in ‘Palestine’
Now, given that the editor tells us that the author examines the use of the term ‘genocide’ as applied to the “conflict over Palestine”, my hackles were raised and I am sure yours are too. I had to carefully read through the article in case my search function was not working because document searches returned zero instances of the word ‘Palestine’ or ‘Palestinian’, zero instances of the word ‘Israel’, and zero instances of ‘occupation’.
Kireopoulos mentions Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, South Sudan, Myanmar, Egypt, Syria, and Cambodia in his general discussion about genocides. Then, he goes to great length to discuss the massacres of Christians in the Middle East, most particularly Syria, asking if this can be considered genocide even though the killing is still going on. He takes the discussion back to the United States at this point, and the great numbers of racial killings of Black Americans and whether or not the term, genocide, can be applied in this case as well.
Palestine is never mentioned at all. Nor is Israel.
So how did Rev Dr Ployd, the editor, claim that Kireopoulos examines genocide with respect to the “conflict over Palestine”? Perhaps he just automatically associates the word ‘genocide’ with ‘Palestine’ as apparently many scholars, who have been infected with BDS mentality, do. But I found no evidence that he is a BDS supporter nor that he holds any ill-will toward Israel. So perhaps Rev Dr Ployd was just under the influence of another article in this special issue that is clearly anti-Israeli (my critique of that one here). Attentive editing should have taken care of that, if it was an innocent error.
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Post Script: I wrote an email to Rev Dr Ployd with a link to this article and here is his response:
I appreciate your reaching out. And I am embarrassed that you are quite right that I was careless in my introduction’s description of Dr. Kireopoulos’ essay. He nowhere engages Palestine and I regret suggesting that he did. I hope you can trust that I do not, as you suggest, immediately associate Israel or Palestine with genocide. It was, as you also suggest, a confusion with Dr. Thomas’ article which I had just submitted. I would not say I was under the “influence” of it, so much as mistaken at the moment about what article I was writing about, combining the two somehow in my head. …. I will see what I can do about changing that line in the introduction so that it does not associate Israel or Palestine with the term “genocide.”
Feature Image Credit: Image by Iyad Al Ghafari from Pixabay. The image shows a church in Maaloula, Syria.