David Stannard, Ward Churchill and the Holocaust

December 2004

Re: Guenter Lewy, “Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide,” Commentary, September 2004.

To the Editor:

Guenter Lewy’s superb essay on the radical interpreters of the American Indian catastrophe only begins to plumb the depths of their dishonesty. Straining against the fact that the huge majority of the Indians were victims of disease rather than massacre, pseudo-scholars such as David E. Stannard and Ward Churchill have attempted to make their case by falsifying the history of the Holocaust.

In his notorious essay, “Uniqueness as Denial: The Politics of Genocide Scholarship,” Stannard wrote that millions of Jewish deaths during the Holocaust were attributable to “the same so-called natural phenomena... that were also the immediate cause of death for many of the Americas’ indigenous people.” He maintained that “fully half the Jewish victims of the Holocaust… died from disease and destitution,” and not from gassing or shooting. He added that Jewish historians who distinguish the American Founding from the Final Solution are motivated by a theology of “chosenness” involving “the maintenance of blood purity” and by the need to justify the “territorial expansionism” of their “theocratic state,” namely Israel.

In his book, A Little Matter of Genocide, Ward Churchill asserted that the murder of Europe’s Jews was never a “fixed policy objective” for the Nazis. Instead, he discovered “a rather erratic and contradictory hodgepodge of anti-Jewish policies.” He claimed that Jewish academics are engaged in a conspiracy to suppress all other historical instances of genocide, including that of the American Indians. He accused these “Holocaust exclusivists” of seeking to maintain “the privileged political status of Israel,” to reinforce “Judaism’s theological belief in itself as comprising a ‘special’ or ‘chosen’ people,” and to conceal “Israel’s ongoing genocide” against Arabs.

In the light of these statements, it may be necessary to warn of a convergence between certain forms of radical left-wing “scholarship” and the views of far-right Holocaust deniers.

Paul Bogdanor

NB: The above reflects what was submitted, and not precisely what was published. For the published version, please check the relevant issue of the magazine.