Genocidal Irony 

The crime of genocide is surrounded by multiple ironies and contradictions. One of these involves the political and moral problem of the nation-state itself. For not only does the nation-state privilege, and claim to protect, one nation by warring against and destroying others; to paraphrase Balzac’s quip about there being a great crime behind every great fortune, there is a genocide behind every nation-state. And yet it is this institution, with this conflict of interests, that is supposed to prevent genocides.

Another, more recent irony, is that while the crime of genocide involves (in the words of Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term and drafted the Convention) the intentional destruction, in whole or in part, of either the body or the spirit of a people (the Genocide Convention seeks to protect both the physical bodies of people and the language and culture of a people), the very word genocide, which is a piece of language, and an aspect of a culture of victims of genocide, is being vanished by algorithmic censors — in service of a culture of domination currently shamelessly perpetrating genocide against the Palestinian people. This amounts to a type of genocide of genocide (not the destruction of the act, but the destruction of the means by which to identify and fight it). Just one of the reasons why you may not see this.

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at and on twitter @elliot_sperber