|Bell-Fialkoff’s book is expanding the thesis from his 1993 article “A brief history of ethnic cleansing”, published in Foreign Affaris. Bell-Fialkoff has reconceptualised the term ethnic cleansing, drawing it out of the exclusive context of wars in former Yugoslavia, in a way which has enraged the most of the scholarly community. By positioning the phenomenon of ethnic (and population) cleansing within the wider range of population removals, ranging from genocide, deportation, and transfer, until exchange and emigration, he attempted to differentiate cleansing as a state policy from the biblical times. Giving a broad historical overview led him to differentiation between the premodern and modern ethnic cleansing. The modern one, from the XVI century onwards is divided into three stages, characterized with an increased efficiency, determination ad violence, which reached the peak in the 20th century ethnic cleansing ventures. The last phase corresponds with the collapse of multiethnic empires and formation of national states. Author maintains that this development is to be connected to the perversion of liberal ideas in the direction of self-determination and group rights.
Historical introduction is followed by a structural analysis based on a number of case studies – Bosnia, Cyprus, Karabah, Kosovo, Palestine, postsoviet republics, Rwanda and Burundi, Shri Lanka, Transylvania and Ulster. Extrapolating on those examples, author defines their common characteristics and offers sets of indexed solutions of ethnic conflicts which he labels as irreconcilable. Arguing for the pervasiveness of the irreconcilable ethnic conflicts and for occasional necessity of involuntary population transfer as the only resolution made the book highly controversial and opened for attacks.