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Hebrew University
[HUJ Amos Goldberg] Critical Studies Find Converts among Holocaust Studies Scholars: What do Taxpayers Pay For?

HUJ, Institute of Contemporary Jewry Dr. Amos Goldberg

Email: amog@mscc.huji.ac.il


Editorial Note

IAM has periodically reported on Israeli academics–activists using the critical, neo-Marxist approach to make political points.  Comparisons between the Holocaust and the Nakba are very popular in this genre, with Adi Ophir (TAU), Ariella Azoulay (TAU) and Moshe Zuckermann (TAU) leading the field.

Actual Holocaust scholars have been slower to join the ranks.  One prominent exception to the rule is Amos Goldberg from Hebrew University. Goldberg, whose doctoral dissertation was on diary writing during the Holocaust, has come under the influence of Dominic LeCapra, professor of intellectual history at Cornell University,  School of Theory and Criticism.  Less known than the French critical scholars such as Michele Foucault, Jack Derrida or Jean Leoytard, LeCapra adopted the critical approach to the study of historical trauma.   Like his more prominent peers, LeCpra denies the uniqueness of Holocaust - either in the moral sense or as a case of murder on a vast industrial scale .  He is also quick to accuse positivist scholars for using the label of uniqueness to push an ideological agenda. 

Goldberg who spent an year in at Cornell proved himself to be an adeptstudent of LaCapra.  As his paper below (co-authored with Bashir Bashir) indicates, the comparison of the Holocaust and the Nakba are never far from the surface. 

Scholars are, of course, free to adopt the critical, neo-Marxist approach in their research.  The question here - as with other academics profiled by IAM – is whether they engage in “mission creep” that transcends the bounds (liberally defined) of their departments.    Goldberg was evidently hired to do research and teach on the Holocaust rather than join the already growing number of scholars who study the Nakba in one guise or other. 

In an age of diminished resources in tertiary education, this is one more expense that the tax payer is asked to shoulder.


To see the article in full, click the link

Journal of Genocide Research

Volume 16Issue 1, 2014

Deliberating the Holocaust and the Nakba: disruptive empathy and binationalism in Israel/Palestine


Bashir Bashir* & Amos Goldberg

pages 77-99

Published online: 12 Feb 2014


This article develops a theoretical framework for shared and inclusive Jewish and Palestinian deliberation on the memories of the Holocaust and the Nakba. It argues that a joint Arab-Jewish public deliberation on the traumatic memories of these two events is not only possible, however challenging and disruptive it may be, but also fundamental for producing an egalitarian and inclusive ethics of binationalism in Israel/Palestine. In order to develop this conceptual framework, we first present some examples, most notably Elias Khoury's epic novel Gate of the sun (Bab al-Shams), which bring the memories of the Holocaust and the Nakba together in a fashion that disrupts the dominant, antagonistic and exclusionary Israeli and Palestinian national narratives. We then interpret Dominick LaCapra's notion of ‘empathic unsettlement’, which transforms ‘otherness’ from a problem to be disposed of into a moral and emotional challenge, as a political concept that best captures and explains the disruptive potential of a joint deliberation on these traumatic events. The figure of the refugee, constitutive of Palestinian and Jewish histories and identities, we suggest, serves as a herald of this binational and disruptive ethics. We conclude that ‘empathic unsettlement’ also has a productive and transformative potential which gives further (however partial and initial) meaning, shape and content to the ethics and democratic politics of binationalism heralded by the refugee.

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