Listserv of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) Publishes a Report on Polish Criminalization of References to the Holocaust, Allows Criticism of Israel as a Denier of Genocides and Seller of Arms, but Censors Critique of the Journal of Genocide Research.
On February 7, 2018, an article was posted on the IAGS Listserv about an interview with Israel Charny (on TV station i24 that broadcasts internationally in English from Israel). See on this website: Poland Seeks to Criminalize any Reference to Polish Participation in the Holocaust.
However, the editor of the Listserv chose to censor a sentence which referred to denials of the significance of the Holocaust in the Journal of Genocide Research (the post was subsequently published in full in the California Courier). In contrast, the Listserv left intact the strong critiques of the State of Israel as a denier of the Armenian Genocide as well as currently the genocide in Myanmar, and as a shameful exporter of arms to countries engaged – or seen as threatening to engage – in genocide. These comments were left on the post, but even a brief reference to the studies that refer to JGR publishing denials of the Holocaust such as that the Wannsee Conference in no way pertained to Jews was erased by the editor.
Charny filed an appeal of the IAGS censorship.
The following is the reply he received from the IAGS Advisory Board on April 11, 2018, followed by his response to the Advisory Board.
DECISION BY IAGS ON APPEAL TO CANCEL CENSORSHIP
April 11, 2018
Dear Dr. Charny,
We are writing with the decision of the IAGS Advisory Council regarding the appeal filed on February 13, 2018, in reference to a line that was removed from a post you submitted to the IAGS Listserv prior to this date (no date was given in the appeal documents). Here is the originally submitted message, as you presented it to us, with the text that the Listserv moderator removed in bold and highlighted:
When asked by the television interviewer, Tracy Alexander, whether denials were particularly common among right-wing bigots, Charny replied that regrettably denials are very widespread and are to be found in quite unbelievable places, such as Israel’s denials of several genocides including the Armenian Genocide and currently the genocide in Myanmar, as well as the shameful record of Israel’s sales of arms to several countries even as those countries were committing genocide. Denials are even to be found among bona fide genocide scholars and academic institutions such as the Journal of Genocide Research which published a series of articles minimizing the significance of the Holocaust, even including an article which denied that the Wannsee Conference in any way addressed a Final Solution specifically to the Jews.
On February 11, 2018, IAGS Listserv Moderator Geoff Hill apologized for not discussing with you removal of the sentence before posting the modified submission. While the rules do not strictly require that the Moderator communicate with the author regarding a post, the Advisory Council agrees that this is appropriate editorial practice and is in the process of developing revisions for Listserv Rules that would include this requirement.
As to your appeal that the submission should be published on the IAGS Listserv in its original form, our decision is not to grant your appeal. There are a number of factors that weighed in our decision.
(1) While the Listserv Moderator did fail to communicate with you about removing the line ultimately removed, this in itself does not warrant publication if his grounds against publication of the full post have merit, and we have found they have merit.
(2) Listserv Rule #2 prohibits Listserv posts that “include personal attacks or insults.” This terminology clearly refers to publications, organizations, etc., in addition to individual people. The 2015-17 IAGS Executive Board and Advisory Council found there existed too great a risk to the Association if our listserv were to act as a republisher of your article. Instead, they opted to allow you (through your editor) to announce the publication of the article and to direct interested readers to an external site. In absence of any further discussion of your article on the listserv, and after the initial conflict generated by its publication external to the listserv, including international publicity that was unflattering to the IAGS, the moderator elected to close further discussion of the matter. We see no compelling reason to reopen this debate now.
(3) The IAGS Listserv is a moderated listserv. The moderator does have discretion regarding what is published on it, similar to the role of a newspaper or journal editor. What is more, the IAGS Listserv Moderator has a responsibility to ensure that what is published on the Listserv is consistent with the mission of IAGS. While clearly open debate and discussion among scholars is generally a positive thing for the organization, extending a discussion after all sides have had a fully adequate chance to state their cases not only does a disservice to IAGS members by adding repetitive posts to their email inboxes, but can actually chill discussion and debate, when members stop participating because of this repetition. You have had ample opportunity to post on this issue to the Listserv in the past, and the Moderator in fact made a decision to close debate on this issue as of a certain date, after which he has rejected numerous posts on this issue, the majority in support of those you have labelled deniers. Similarly, the Moderator has a responsibility to exclude attacking or insulting comments without proper scholarly foundations, because publishing (or even republishing) such comments opens IAGS to legal sanction and can contribute to a negative public image that reflects poorly on all members, not just the individual making such comments. Finally, an important goal of IAGS is to maintain respectful relations with all legitimate related organizations and publications. The insufficiently supported accusation of denial your submission included threatened to increase tensions with the editors of the Journal of Genocide Research and the membership of the International Network of Genocide Scholars that published it. While the leadership of IAGS is ready and willing to take clear stands against proven denial, your accusation of genocide denial is based on what experts consulting for IAGS have determined to be a flawed survey methodology.
We wish to add that the Advisory Council has tremendous regard and gratitude for your service to IAGS and founding role in our discipline. But, we must decide any appeal based solely on the evidence, without regard to the person or people involved.
With deepest respect,
The IAGS Advisory Board
REPLY BY ISRAEL CHARNY TO IAGS ADVISORY BOARD
April 17, 2018: Response to the IAGS Advisory Board via Henry Theriault
Thank you for your serious and hard work in response to my appeal of February 13, 2018, and the detailed and thoughtfully prepared reply from you of April 11.
I also certainly want to acknowledge with much appreciation your warm salute to me for my “service to IAGS and founding role in our discipline.”
I do understand, and respect, the stipulation that posts on the IAGS listserv must remain respectful to colleagues and colleague organizations – even and the more so in the context of controversy. Yet, I will ask does this mean that if a colleague organization of genocide scholars engages in out-and-out denials of genocide(s) that there should not and cannot be strong and persistent criticism of such denials? Thus I will ask hypothetically if Noam Chomsky were to be a member of a genocide study association, it would or would not be appropriate to criticize his positions and indeed him himself for his “serial denials” — or at least serial associations with deniers of genocides – including the Holocaust, Cambodia, and Rwanda! (Adam Jones: “Why on earth has Pilger – together with Chomsky – warmly endorsed a tract co-authored by none other than Edward Herman which brazenly denies the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994?”).
In the case of the Journal of Genocide Research (JGR), we are talking about a series of denials including categorical statements that the Holocaust played absolutely no role and had no influence on the proceedings of the United Nations in the development of the U.N. Convention on Genocide and somewhat later the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, and a ‘learned article’ devoted brazenly to the thesis that the Wannsee Conference in which the Nazis formulated their “Final Solution” and established their statistical quotas of victims was not intended towards the Jews.
Further, I resent very strongly the statements that my studies were on the face of it “without properly scholarly foundations” and based on “a flawed survey methodology.” These were the allegations that were spread immediately in response to the studies by authors of the JGR articles. I myself am a trained social science researcher and have published various empirical studies in the past as well as supervised research dissertations on the university level, and I really am quite capable of knowing what is a legitimate scientific study. In our case we are talking about the responses of 76 identified genocide scholars plus 30 students in a number of courses on Holocaust and genocide – the results were so consistent that we did not need to separate the groups for the analysis – and it is their voices that speak in repeated criticisms of each of 7 articles in JGR and then of the Journal as a whole. These are bona fide research findings. How would we feel if such a 106 were to identify publications of our IAGS as committed to basically wrong and prejudicial values?
Please note that I myself have carefully maintained my membership in INOGS from the outset to this very day and am committed to a maximum positive cooperation between the two organizations, but never at the expense of compromising with open and shut denials of genocide or any form of racism and prejudice.
A final note: The results of my studies, which were gathered by an outside independent survey company, are and always have been fully available to any and all researchers and to any re-analyses of data. The initial study of N=76 is publicly available at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-26BHWS3W/. The subsequent study of N=30 (students) which was handled by another survey company is available upon request.
We will post this correspondence exchange between us on the website of our Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem (www.ihgjlm.com) . I will also submit a brief note to our IAGS Listserv (smile) calling attention to this exchange.
In continuing commitment to genocide studies and to the basic values implicit in our professional commitment.