“We are Fighting Nazis”: Genocidal Fashionings of Gaza(ns) After 7 October

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Scholarly responses to the ongoing war have been mired in competing historical and socio-legal interpretations of the very concept of genocide, and these fundamental disagreements are partially owed to deep divisions within the field of Genocide Studies itself. On one hand, some claim that Hamas’ massacres and hostage-taking of Israeli civilians constitute genocidal acts in themselves: violences that are inextricably linked to a global rise in antisemitism and the ongoing denial of both Jewish people’s and the state of Israel’s right to existence. While rightfully expressing horror at the brutality of Hamas’ attack, others still situate the enduring armed struggle within an ongoing process of settler colonial violence that has structured Palestinian life since the massacres and mass expulsions of 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Even as Genocide Studies is meant to exist as a transdisciplinary field accounting for a global scope of genocidal atrocities, its disciplinary core remains the Holocaust as an exemplar sine qua non of genocide following relatively conservative interpretations of Raphael Lemkin’s conception and its translation into the United Nations Genocide Convention.

These divergent epistemic structures–a divergence in which orthodox interpretations of genocide proceeding from the exceptionality of Nazi crimes are challenged by more troubled considerations of genocide within histories of colonial race-making and more multidirectional memory politics–represent an overdue disciplinary engagement of the so-called “Palestine Question.” This, in turn, bears implications for the overwhelming limitations of international law in questions of genocide and our overreliance on its narrow interpretive power.

Publication Title

Journal of Genocide Research

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Gaza, Israel, Palestine, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, genocide studies