Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Genocide Controversy at Harvard

The following message was submitted to the mailing list of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), and in slightly different form to the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS) listserv. It may be freely republished and reposted with credit to the author. - AJ

March 17, 2010

IAGS members should be aware of a controversy that has erupted at Harvard over the university's relationship with Martin Kramer, Visiting Scholar at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and Kramer's views on "superfluous" Palestinians. Kramer has explicitly and repeatedly called for anti-natal measures against the Palestinian population of Gaza, specifically the withdrawal of food aid and other humanitarian assistance rendered by UNRWA, the UN refugee authority. I do not need to remind IAGS members that the UN Genocide Convention cites "Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group" as a strategy of genocide, and also outlaws "Direct and public incitement to commit genocide."

The most recent op-ed in the Harvard Crimson (March 11, is a forceful call to action from representative groups in the Harvard student body: "first, we ask that the Weatherhead Center not renew Mr. Kramer's fellowship or affiliation with the NSSP. Second, we call on the center to establish a committee of faculty and students to recommend the adoption of a set of vetting practices for incoming fellows that uphold a set of principles unified on non-racism, in concert with Harvard University's own commitment to non-discriminatory practices and diversity of viewpoints. We are concerned that the defence of Mr. Kramer's statement reflects a violation of basic principles to which the Weatherhead Center and Harvard University claim to adhere. The above measures are an effective way for the center and the University to make amends."

Harvard professor Stephen Walt, also cited in the op-ed, has added his voice to concerns over Kramer's remarks. In a post on his blog, he asks: "What if a prominent academic at Harvard declared that the United States had to make food scarcer for Hispanics so that they would have fewer children? Or what if someone at a prominent think tank noted that black Americans have higher crime rates than some other groups, and therefore it made good sense to put an end to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other welfare programs, because that would discourage African Americans from reproducing and thus constitute an effective anti-crime program?" (

A March 11 opinion piece in the Harvard Law Record, written by Jessica Corsi, is highly critical of the response thus far from the Weatherhead Centre: "For a Center founded on the interconnectedness of ideas and their relevance and impact on the world, it is perplexing to say the least that they would take the position that Kramer's statements were merely an opinion, denying the broader impact such opinions have. The influence of such statements is particularly enhanced when made by someone with the clout of the Harvard name behind him and who has self-reported on the Center's website that his research interests are 'U.S. policy options in the Middle East.'" (

Kramer's views are typical of an "eliminationist" rhetoric toward Palestinians (Daniel Goldhagen's term) that is evident also in the pseudo-scholarship of German professor Gunnar Heinsohn, who propounds a theory of a "youth bulge" of Palestinian males and a resulting generation of "superfluous sons." See, e.g., Heinsohn's January 2009 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal at, and the interview posted at (The fact that such proposals can be aired on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal is itself revealing.) Remarkably, Heinsohn claims to head something called the Raphael-Lemkin Institut for Comparative Genocide Research (; Could there be a more obscene appropriation of Raphael Lemkin's name than to promote measures that Lemkin might well have considered genocidal, and which seem to run counter as well to the Genocide Convention?

This eliminationist trend is present in our own field, in a widely cited work, Andrew Bell-Fialkoff's "Ethnic Cleansing" (1999). After surveying ethnic cleansing throughout history, Bell-Fialkoff considers the case of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories, and proposes -- ethnic cleansing! ("... All fundamentals suggest the transfer of the Palestinian Arabs from western Palestine [i.e. the West Bank]" and their "resettling ... in Gaza" (p. 264)).

If we are to be attuned to genocidal ideologies and potential outbreaks, Israel/Palestine should command our attention -- and not just with Palestinians as possible victims, obviously. What action, if any, might the IAGS take in the present instance? For example, would a statement of protest to the Weatherhead Centre, issued by the executive, be appropriate? Might Heinsohn and the broader pseudo-scholarly trend also be condemned in such a statement?




Adam Jones, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Political Science
University of British Columbia Okanagan
3333 University Way
Kelowna, B.C., Canada V1V 1V7
"Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction," Second Edition
Forthcoming August 2010 -- see

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Please be constructive in your comments. - AJ