Portrayal of Scholars’ Group Is Misleading

Letters to the Editor

Published March 02, 2011, issue of March 11, 2011.
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Your February 25 article, “Top Genocide Scholars Battle Over How To Characterize Israel’s Actions,” refers to the establishment of the International Network of Genocide Scholars as a “rival” organization to International Association of Genocide Scholars that in 2005 “broke away” from the latter. This is misleading. There was never a “split” from IAGS, as INoGS was never part of IAGS. They are simply two different organizations in the same field — genocide studies. What happened is that in 2005, during a conference in Berlin, some 120 scholars founded a network of genocide scholars, because they felt that a truly transnational representation of genocide scholars was needed in a rapidly globalizing world.

Most of the INoGS members at the time of its establishment, including the current leadership of the network, had not been members of IAGS. INoGS is simply a different organization, formed in its own right, dealing with related issues in the same field. We are not a European organization, which could be put against an American or Israeli one. At present, INoGS has more than 300 members from all continents and many countries, including the United States and Israel, which seems to suggest that it resonates with scholars in this field.

The founding of INoGS had nothing to do with IAGS being pro-Israel, if indeed it is, a characterization for which I would have no evidence. The fundamental difference between the two groups would seem to be that INoGS does not believe that endorsing political resolutions should be the task of a scholarly organization. Thus, when we were approached in 2009 to pass a resolution condemning Israel for the Gaza war, we refused to even discuss the matter.

International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS)
Hamburg, Germany

Your February 23 story “Top Genocide Scholars Battle Over How To Characterize Israel’s Actions” noted the personal attack that Israel Charny launched on me on the listserv of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, for which the IAGS has fully apologized to me.

I was therefore surprised to find Charny quoted in your article now saying of the International Network of Genocide Scholars, of which I am a member, “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.”

INoGS is a reputable academic organization that is outrageously defamed by this comment. However, it is very clear from statements by Charny about me earlier in the article that he specifically intends this wholly unfounded allegation to refer to me. Moreover, the sneering reference to Englishness (reminiscent of how anti-Semites refer to Jewishness) could only refer to me, the only English scholar involved in this controversy.

I do not take the charge of “anti-Jewish sentiment” or anti-Semitism lightly. Millions have died because of such prejudices, and many still suffer from them today. For Charny to use anti-Semitism as a cheap political weapon, against a fellow scholar with whose historical interpretation he disagrees, trivializes the charge, insulting the real victims of anti-Semitism as well as me and INoGS. Nor do I accept his charge of “anti-Israel sentiment”: While criticizing Israeli policies, I defend the continuing existence of Israel.

In repeating unfounded allegations against me, I believe in this case the Forward has not upheld the standards of responsible journalism.

Professorial Fellow in International Relations and Human Rights
Roehampton University
London, U.K.

Editor’s Note: Professor Shaw criticizes our article as implicitly conveying an accusation of anti-Semitism against him. We do not agree that the article conveyed such an accusation, and it was certainly not our intention to do so.

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