Website policy

We provide links to articles we think will be of interest to our supporters. We are sympathetic to much of the content of what we post, but not to everything. The fact that something has been linked to here does not necessarily mean that we endorse the views expressed in it.


BSST is the leading charity focusing on small-scale grass roots cross community, anti poverty and humanitarian projects in Israel/Palestine

JfJfP comments


06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics


23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo


15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014


29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011




Was 1948 a genocide?

forwardTop Genocide Scholars Battle Over How To Characterize Israel’s Actions

Gal Beckerman, 16 February 2011

See also Debate with Omer Bartov on Palestine and genocide

Did Jews commit genocide in 1948?

The question is provocative, and the answer for most people is an unequivocal no. But a debate over this idea has formed the crux of a heated argument among the most eminent genocide scholars in the world, and led recently to the censure of an Israeli professor by the field’s leading academic association.

It’s also one more reminder of the growing divide between European scholars and their American and Israeli counterparts when it comes to how they view Israel, both historically and in the present moment.

The debate began in the pages of a scholarly publication, the Winter 2010 issue of the Journal of Genocide Research. Two specialists in genocide, Omer Bartov of Brown University and Martin Shaw of Roehampton University, in London, engaged in a back-and-forth exchange about whether the word “genocide” could be applied to the expulsion and killing of Arabs in Palestine during Israel’s War of Independence. During the course of the war, more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes and were later prevented from returning, creating what would become one of the world’s most enduring refugee crises.

Both Bartov and Shaw agreed that some form of what is now called “ethnic cleansing” did occur. But where Bartov was not willing to think of this as genocide, Shaw confidently argued that any policies meant to destroy a group, even if not outright murder, should be seen as genocide.

With this more expansive reading, he sees genocide victims everywhere, from the Aborigines in Australia to the Albanians uprooted from Kosovo. And Shaw goes further, claiming that the entire Zionist enterprise had “an incipiently genocidal mentality” toward the Arabs. Due to what he views as Israel’s original sin, Shaw argues that the state’s policies toward Palestinians and its Arab citizens since “can be seen as a ‘slow-motion’ extension and consolidation of the genocide of 1948.”

In the exchange, Bartov described Shaw’s ultimate purpose as “delegitimizing” Israel, and offered plenty of evidence for why calling what Jews did in 1948 “genocide” would only serve to render the term “meaningless.”

But it didn’t end there. Israel Charny, an American-born scholar who immigrated to Israel and who directs the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem and edited the Encyclopedia of Genocide, was offended by the exchange. He wrote a response that was posted on the discussion board of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, a 16-year-old organization that is considered the pre-eminent association of its kind.

Charny did not mince words. He referred to Shaw’s argument as the “delusional projection of an angry soul,” and accused Shaw of attacks on Israel and Zionism that were “blind and rampaging.”

Shaw complained that Charny’s criticism amounted to an ad hominem assault, and the president of IAGS, William Schabas, apologized to Shaw, admitting that the offending message shouldn’t have been posted. Schabas then took the unprecedented step of formally censuring Charny.

“My only concern is that we have a debate in which the tone is between civilized academics, discussing things in an appropriate way,” Schabas, a professor of international law at the National University of Ireland in Galway, told the Forward. “Charny’s comments were too intemperate. So we apologized to Shaw and let the debate continue.”

But to Charny, this was one more sign that a field that was started as “a civilizational response to the horror of the Holocaust” has been turned against the Jewish state. “This is ultimately a story of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, including among genocide scholars,” Charny told the Forward.

Charny makes it clear that he does think Jews committed what he calls “genocidal massacres” during the war of 1948, like the infamous shooting of civilians in the village of Deir Yassin, in which more than 100 unarmed people were killed in a brutal raid. But he does not consider the “ethnic cleansing” that took place as constituting genocide, nor does he think, as Shaw contends, that the Zionists had any genocidal objective.

“I do not believe the war was undertaken by us with a genocidal intent at all — it was in self-defense for the establishment of Israel per the U.N. mandate and our cherished Zionist dream,” Charny said. “And I do not at all believe that we had any grand genocidal plan in our warfare or in the collective mind-culture in which the Yishuv [pre-state government] was operating.”

According to the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted at the end of 1948, genocide is legally defined as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Nowhere does it specifically mention what we would think of today as ethnic cleansing, but there are those scholars, like Shaw, who believe that ethnic cleansing does indeed fall within the convention’s initial meaning.

Shaw thinks Charny’s reaction is indicative of those scholars he calls “pro-Israel,” those who he thinks are incapable of applying the same critical eye to Israel and its past that they do to other peoples’ histories.

“He’s an American Jew who’s gone to Israel, and he has invested a lot of his identity in Israel — whereas criticisms of the recent attack on Gaza don’t necessarily bring the whole existence of the state into question, this seems to him as an argument that strikes at the foundations,” Shaw said, speaking of Charny. “The other issue is that there is a problem with the language of genocide with anything having to do with Jews. For some Israeli and pro-Israeli scholars, genocide is something that happened to the Jews; it’s not something that Jews could ever really be involved in.”

This current conflict between the scholars in some ways cements what was already an ideological rift.

In 2005, a group of genocide researchers, many of whom had been part of IAGS, decided to start their own rival organization, calling it the International Network of Genocide Scholars. The reason they say they broke away was twofold: They felt that IAGS had become too American in its perspective, and that it had become too politically activist. Unofficially, according to Shaw, the feeling was that the association was “overtly pro-Israel.” Shaw cites the example of a resolution that the association issued in reaction to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments about destroying Israel. The resolution condemned this as a threat of genocide. Shaw did not believe it was the place of genocide scholars to make such a pronouncement.

The two groups have continued independently — though they share many of the same members — until this past year, when there was talk of a merger, initiated by Schabas. Recently, after a few meetings to negotiate what would have been a new organization, the INoGS leadership said it was no longer interested. Schabas thinks the timing was not coincidental.

“If you would ask them who would be representative of the things they don’t like in the association, probably Israel Charny would be at the top of the list,” Schabas said. “I suspect that the recent explosion between Charny and Shaw may have contributed to the fact that the discussions about merging the two associations have melted down.”

INoGS is led by Juergen Zimmerer, a professor at the University of Sheffield, in the United Kingdon. Zimmerer said that the decision not to merge had nothing to do with the flare-up between the two scholars.

“We simply felt that IAGS was too divided internally to proceed with the merger at the moment,” Zimmerer wrote in an e-mail to the Forward.

According to Charny, the crux of the problem is the issue of Israel. In a reversal of the criticism that the breakaway INoGS scholars had of IAGS, he thinks that hatred of the Jewish state has undermined their scholarship.

“While saying that they don’t take any political position, they are slowly but surely, insidiously, under a smokescreen of their good English manners and their supposedly dispassionate point of view, becoming a hotbed of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish sentiment, which they will of course deny vociferously,” Charny said.

For now, the two organizations seem to remain deeply divided. Schabas, who is nearing the end of his tenure, looked back at the volatility of presiding over an association of genocide scholars.

“It’s like riding a bucking bronco,” he said.

Contact Gal Beckerman at






Debate with Omer Bartov on Palestine and genocide

Posted 26 November 2010 by Martin Shaw

The genocidal character of the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 is discussed in the pages of the premier genocide journal, Journal of Genocide Research, in its new issue, where I debate the issue with the historian, Omer Bartov: ‘The question of genocide in Palestine, 1948: a debate between Martin Shaw and Omer Bartov’Journal of Genocide Research, Volume 12 Issue 3 & 4 2010, 243-259.

Here is the 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, No1, 2010, pp 1–25). [Readers of this blog can find a version of the full paper here.] Coincidentally, Shaw was asked to contribute to a conferenceorganized 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 isa 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 ofethnic 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.’

Print Friendly

Comments are closed.