Beyond the Settler State: Anticolonial Pasts and Futures in Palestine/Israel on The Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity

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Sarah Ihmoud: My question is my first question, why has holocaust and genocide studies been so reluctant to call what is happening in Palestine a genocide? And what do you see as the intellectual and ethical task of scholars of mass violence in this moment?

Raz Segal: Actually, I think that I see significant change in the treatment of Israeli state violence. Apartheid policies and settler colonialism within Holocaust and Genocide Studies. This change has taken a long time and many- I think- will continue to push back, but our conversation today, for instance, organized by a center in this field of study, seems to me a part of this shift.

There’s also clear indications of this shift in scholarly journals and Holocaust and Genocide Studies. I can mention here two book forms published in recent years in the Journal of Genocide Research; one on the co-edited volume by Dr. Amos Goldberg and Dr. Bashir Bashir on the intertwined histories and memories of the Holocaust and the Nakaba, and another one- Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s last book on the Structural Everyday Brutalities of Israeli authorities against Palestinian children and youth, which she calls dechilding.

I think it was very significant that in both forms, in the Journal of Genocide Research, we saw multiple perspectives that demonstrate the great extent to which discussions about Israel, about Palestine, offer opportunities to delve into key issues in questions in holocaust and genocide studies. 

… And with Palestinians- as a group that has faced and is facing the longest ever experience of forced displacement, the refusal of return to their villages, their towns, their cities, their homeland- Palestinian history is indeed central, I think, in holocaust and genocide studies, and becoming more and more so.

Finally, I want to mention that the fact that some institutes of global holocaust memory- and I’m thinking particularly here about the International Holocaust Rememberence Alliance, the IHRA- that these institutes have weaponized the discourse around antisemitism to shift the focus of the struggle against antisemitism away from Jews around the world, and only on to Israel. This effort, I think, has backfired and actually contributed to the centering of Israel and Palestine in holocaust and genocide studies.

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