Dobkowski on Religion and Violence – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Dobkowski on Religion and Violence

Research isn’t always easy. Beyond the hours it takes, sometimes the subject matter itself is difficult. But in the face of trying topics, Professor of Religious Studies Michael Dobkowski addresses these issues head on. Most recently, Dobkowski – a Holocaust studies expert – is exploring the relationship between religion and violence in the centuries-old history of Judaism.

He just finished the first draft of a chapter on Judaism that will be included in a book on religion and violence. The book is going to be part of an important series published by the American Academy of Religion and Oxford University Press.

“In a way, I feel a sense of obligation more so with this project than with other things,” Dobkowski explained. “It’s a complicated issue, both in how it deals with subjective issues and historically, how it has been manifested. The project has provided lots of challenges: how do you talk about a tradition that’s over 3,000 years old in 40 to 50 pages within a topic that has a lot of interest and some controversy around it?”

With the article slated to be published a year from now, Dobkowski is also tackling these challenges in another book he’s writing with a colleague, Cambridge University faculty member, George Wilkes.

The focus of this book is on the Holocaust and military ethics. It will explore the lessons that can be derived from the Holocaust for military ethics. The aim is to examine the breakdown of normal limitations on armed conduct during the Holocaust, motivations for discarding limitations to the use of force and issues raised for the teaching of military ethics. Dobkowski hopes to have a draft of the book ready by the summer of 2010.

“When we look back to 1943 when the Allied nations understood that the Holocaust was happening, I still am interested in what would have been considered an ethical use of military force against civilian and nontraditional military targets?” Dobkowski asked.

“Can we think through the implications of the use of military force or not? I believe we can and when genocides are in process or imminent we should be able to develop a protocol that would allow for the use of force, even mandate it as an appropriate use of military force after all other means have been exhausted to stop the killing of innocents. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) approach that emerged from Canada several years ago and was discussed in the UN General Assembly in 2006, if followed, could lead us logically, ultimately to use military force to prevent genocide from happening or to end it quickly.”

A member of the HWS faculty since 1976, Dobkowski holds a bachelor’s, a master’s and his doctoral degrees from New York University.  A prolific writer, he has written “The Tarnished Dream: The Basis of American Anti-Semitism,” “The Politics of Indifference: Documentary History of Holocaust Victims in America,” “Jewish American Voluntary Organizations” and co-authored “Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear States & Terrorism,” and many more.  He has participated four times in the Goldner Holocaust Symposium at Wroxton College in England, and was a Fellow at the Institute for the Teaching of the Post-Biblical Foundations of Western Civilization at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He received the New York University Ferdinand Czernin Prize in History and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.