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'Ethnic cleansing' is a euphemism used to deny genocide

[Source Credit: Genocide Watch]

Genocide has been the highest-ranking cause of preventable violent death in the 20th and 21st centuries, outranking all international and civil wars, combined.

In 2008 Blum, Stanton, Sagi, and Richter, published our paper: "‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Bleaches the Atrocities of Genocide." [1]

The term "Ethnic Cleansing" first appeared and became common during the civil war in former Yugoslavia. It was invented and used by Slobodan Milošević and Serbian military officers to describe their forced deportations, mass murders, torture, mass rapes, and other crimes against humanity carried out against civilians from 1992-1995. Since 1992, the term "Ethnic Cleansing" has become the dominant term used to describe genocide in the press, by governments, by the UN, and even among legal scholars.

The term "Ethnic Cleansing" is a euphemism for genocide and forced deportation. It is a propaganda term used to make genocide seem related to sanitation, hygiene, and public health. Nazi medicine used the term "Rassenhygiene’" (race hygiene) to justify mass murder, especially of Jews, but of other ethnic, national, and gender groups as well. Getting rid of Jews was seen as essential to protecting the health of the master race.

Epidemiological metaphors such as tubercle, typhus, cancer, filth, vermin, and disease, were used to describe Jews and the diseases they supposedly conveyed. The metaphors were used to justify mass extermination. The term "Judenrein’" (Jew-free) was meant to describe the mass extermination of Jews as an accomplishment in public health.

The term "Ethnic Cleansing", like "Judenrein" and "Rassenhygiene", expropriates pseudo-public health language to describe genocide. "Ethnic Cleansing" has penetrated the vocabularies of mass media, politics, diplomacy, law, medicine, and epidemiology.

Perpetrators of genocide use the term to motivate followers. Use of the term by governments and bystanders results in non-response, lack of will, and inaction in halting genocidal atrocities. The term "Ethnic Cleansing" corrupts observation, interpretation, ethical judgment, and decision-making, and counters the life-saving goal of public health. Epidemiologists should lead the way in expunging the term "Ethnic Cleansing" from official and popular use because it bleaches the mass atrocities of genocide. Its use has condoned inaction to prevent genocides.

[1] Blum, Rony, Gregory H. Stanton, Shira Sagi, and Elihu D. Richter. "‘Ethnic cleansing’ bleaches the atrocities of genocide." European journal of public health 18, no. 2 (2008): 204-209.

For a discussion on the term 'Ethnic Cleansing' between Dr. Gregory Stanton, and Burmese activists Dr. Maung Zarni, and Nay San Lwin see:

[Source Credit: Genocide Watch]


(c) 2023, Genocide Watch



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