Efraim Zuroff says mass killing at Srebrenica was a war crime but not genocide because women were spared; Menachem Rosensaft disagrees.” Who’s right?

It is a mistake to think that, because women were spared, this was not genocide. I’ll explain.

No doubt, the mistake by the esteemed Nazi fighter must find its origin in his over-familiarity with the Nazi definition of race, which rooted in genetics. The Nazis were eugeneticists. They assumed that Jews were a genetic entity and anyone with one Jewish grandparent was inferior.

So he must have conclude that if they killed the boys and the men and let girls and women live, they were not out to exterminate the whole group. With all due respect, the fault lies in misunderstanding genocide.

Genocide is an attempt to end a culture, identity. That could be a tradition with religion embedded, as with the Jews, or one of a common history or language or dialect. It has nothing to do with DNA per se.

Immigration policy for the State of Israel is also based on genetics, because the Home State of the Jewish Nation wants to be a safe haven for Jews fleeing anti-Semitism like the Nazis.

But there is a second pillar defining Jews, one carried by the Jewish religion. A Jew is someone born from Jews or who converted to Judaism. In the end of the day, Jews are not a race but a cultural conglomeration.

True, the Jewish tradition explains that us “lying under a Jewish heart,” Jewish mothers, is more important than stemming from Jewish fathers, for passing on the right character traits for a Jew – another analogy that may have tripped up the distinguished Nazi researcher and hunter. Yet, such inheritance only seems hereditary. In the final analysis, character traits and knowledge can be worked for, as our proselytes prove so well.

Since in Muslim life, men clearly form the learned heads of the family and the scholarly leaders of the community, separating the females and killing the males is not “just” mass murder and a war crime but genocide too; an attempt to stop the passing on of Islam to a next generation. Just like Pharaoh found it sufficient to only kill the boys (Exodus 1:22).

This was mass murder, a war crime and also, if not especially, genocide.

Disclaimer: My four grandparents were gassed in Auschwitz as part of the Holocaust. My two parents survived the Dutch Camp Westerbork.