BDS and Our Movements for Justice: The Academic Boycott at the American Anthropological Association on Jadaliyya


Sarah Ihmoud: “BDS is one such opportunity for feminist praxis. As Israel’s ongoing settler project remains an enactment of genocidal violence against an indigenous people, through technologies of war, capture, and militarized dispossession… Feminist organizing in Palestine has been deeply invested in dismantling structures of settler colonialism and apartheid that place women and queer folk disproportionately in marginal positions. Like in other colonial and genocidal contexts, Israel has targeted the bodies and sexualities of Palestinian women, as symbolic peripheries of the Palestinian nation.”

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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


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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Mohammed Abu-Khdeir and the Politics of Racial Terror in Occupied Jerusalem by Sarah Ihmoud 

Please TAKE ACTION RIGHT NOW and send your letter to the UN Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the International Criminal Court Prosecutor.

In Genocide and Settler Society, Dirk Moses argues that in colonial contexts, genocide is a dynamic process that has the potential to be released in ‘circumstances of crisis’ (2004, p. 33). Flashpoints of exterminatory violence released by colonial agents and social hysteria among settler communities on the frontier, what Moses terms ‘genocidal moments’ (ibid. p. 34), reveal not only the complex relationship between settler communities and the state in its various forms, but also the deep structure of settler society. Shalhoub Kevorkian has argued that the Israeli settler colonial project is energized by a structure of genocidal dispossession, a structure predicated on a racial schema that evicts Palestinians from the realm of the human, relegating them to zones of non-being and death (2015b).
What interests me here is not only the creation of a genocidal moment that gave way to Mohammed’s murder, one that further evidences Israel’s structure of genocidal dispossession, but also the resurgence of a discourse of colonial sexual violence in conjunction with the creation of this genocidal moment.

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Sexual Violence, Women’s Bodies, and Israeli Settler Colonialism by Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Sarah Ihmoud and Suhad Dahir-Nashif

Sexual Violence and Palestinian Genocide Since the Nakba

Understanding the intensified attacks on Palestinian women’s bodies in times of heightened attacks by the settler colonial regime requires a feminist analysis. Such an analysis takes the Nakba as its analytical point of departure. Israel was built on the ruins of the Palestinian homeland, on its land, pain, and displacement.  It was built on the destruction of our communal social ties, the violation and invasion of our homes and bodies.

Rape and killing of Palestinian women was a central aspect of Israeli troops’ systematic massacres and evictions during the destruction of Palestinian villages in 1948. During the Deir Yassin massacre, for instance:

All the inhabitants were ordered into the village square. Here, they were lined up against a wall and shot.  One eyewitness said her sister, who was nine months pregnant, was shot in the back of the neck. Her assailants then cut open her stomach with a butcher’s knife and extracted the unborn baby. When an Arab woman tried to take the baby, she was shot…Women were raped before the eyes of their children before being murdered and dumped down the well…

Thus our struggle for indigenous sovereignty within anti-colonial activism as feminists is necessarily situated in the protection of Palestinian women’s bodily safety and sexuality, family, and communal right to life. It is a struggle against the hypermasculine Zionist military and settler apparatuses that frame Palestinian women as inherently threatening racialized Others whose bodies must be violated and destroyed as the internal enemy and “reproducers of Palestinians.” This logic is inseparable from the settler colonial logic of elimination.

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