Accusations of ethnic cleansing
As I said in a post yesterday on Cathy Kaveny’s thread about the meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics, Rev. Jeremiah Wright delivered a plenary address to the Society in which he referred to Israeli action in Gaza as ethnic cleansing. Today in the business meeting of the Society, Ron Green, a former president of both the Society of Christian Ethics and the Society of Jewish Ethics, read the following statement responding to that claim.
There was no discussion of Green’s response, which is too bad because his called for respectful and reasoned debate is exactly right. Here, then, is his statement.
“I stand before you as a member of the Society who is of Jewish background to report the distress and concern experienced by a number of Jewish members of the Society and the Society of Jewish Ethics following the use of the phrase “ethnic cleansing” by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in his plenary address yesterday. Reverend Wright used this phrase to characterize the current incursion by Israel into Gaza.
The formal United Nations definition of ethnic cleansing describes it as “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove from a given area persons of another ethnicity or religion.” There is widespread agreement that on a spectrum of practices ranging from forced emigration to genocide, the use of “ethnic cleansing” has become almost synonymous with genocide.
There are sharp ethical disagreements about Israel’s conduct in Gaza. These disagreements occur among Jewish members of our two societies. But there is a solid consensus among us, too, that it is misleading and morally offensive to characterize this conduct as ethnic cleansing, and to do so as a throwaway remark in a context that does not permit audience response. Such charged use of language might be appropriate in a political demonstration, but it has no place in the life of a scholarly society dedicated to respectful and reasoned debate.
We ask that our expression of distress and concern be recorded in the minutes of this meeting, and that these minutes, with this expression, be brought to the attention of Reverend Wright.
Ronald M. Green”