Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Franklin H. Littell's and Israel W. Charny's Early Warning Systems

Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Franklin H. Littell's and Israel W. Charny's Early Warning Systems

Article excerpt

Introduction

In her lead editorial for the "Special Issue on Early Warning on Refugee Migration," of Refuge: Canada's Periodical on Refugees, Dr. Susanne Schmeidl of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University, Toronto, wrote:

      This is not say that we have not thought about issues of conflict
   resolution or prevention, and the notion of the early warning of
   conflicts. Many of these ideas have been around both the academic
   and the non-academic communities for years. In addition, with the
   rising number of conflicts and the continuation of humanitarian
   emergencies in the form of long-standing refugee camps, such ideas
   have received significant attention since the early 1980s, and have
   been seriously considered by the United Nations, NGOs and
   governments since the beginning of the 1990s in particular. (2)

Thus, without success, scholars and nonscholars, persons inside and outside government have been for better than a quarter century discussing and debating the efficacy of early warning systems and their translations into pragmatic realities designed to eliminate the plight of victims before they become such, all obviously to no avail--or, perhaps somewhat charitably, to little avail. Wellknown scholars such as Helen Fein of the Institute for the Study of Genocide in New York, Ted Robert Gurr of the University of Maryland, and Barbara Harff of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD (the last two now retired), among others, have been at the forefront of such discussions. Indeed, the academic disciplines most associated with such work have been sociology and political science, which is, perhaps, as it should be; after all, the study of group behavior is properly the realm of sociology, and the implementation of that behavior into the realm of governmental action and communities (nation-states) is properly the realm of political science.

Interestingly, the founding director of the afore-mentioned Centre for Refugee Studies, Professor Howard Adelman, was neither a sociologist nor a political scientist but a philosopher, whose own definition of early warning still holds:

   The basic conception of early warning is based on a central system
   of indicators to provide guidance for independent specialized
   networks focused on crisis areas to gather and analyze data and
   develop response scenarios in a continuing system of monitoring.
   The linkage with emergency response has yet to be worked out. (3)

Two others whose attempts to address this concept of early warning as it pertains to genocide rather than humanitarian intervention or prevention are the late Franklin H. Littell, retired as Professor of Religious Studies, Temple University, Philadelphia; and Israel W. Charny, Executive Director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide, Jerusalem, and retired as Associate Professor of Psychology, Tel Aviv University. In the increasingly multitudinous literature regarding early warning, their contributions do not appear in this specific area, either individually or together--which in itself raises uncomfortable questions.

Littell is best known not so much for his work in the academic discipline of religious studies but, instead, for his profound contributions in bringing into the public arena the centrality of Christianity as a historical foundation upon which the Nazis could draw in their implementation of the Holocaust or Shoah. His important work, The Crucifixion of the Jews: The Failure of Christians to Understand the Jewish Experience, (4) remains a primary text. He cofounded the Annual Scholars' Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches (1970), together with retired professor Hubert Locke (Wayne State University, Detroit, MI; and University of Washington, Seattle, WA), the oldest such gathering in the United States, which continues to address this vitally important connection and has drawn scholars, survivors, and others for almost four decades. …

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