Passage of France’s Armenian Genocide Denial Law is an Opportunity for Education

January 24, 2012

According to the organization Genocide Watch, the last stage of genocide is denial. Seen through the prism of any Southern Poverty Law Center newsletter, yesterday’s passage of the Armenian Genocide Denial law by France’s Senate is easier to understand. Holocaust denial and genocide denial laws are not a new concept. Similar laws to the one passed yesterday in France already exist in several European countries (including France) and Israel. 

As I was seeking answers to address the multitude of questions raised by France’s historic genocide denial vote, I came across this paper, “Holocaust Denial Laws and Other Legislation Criminalizing Promotion of Nazism“, written by Michael J. Bazyler. Professor Bazyler is a von Oppenheim Research Fellow International Institute for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem, and Professor of Law, Whittier Law School. Jerusalem-based Yad Vashem is committed to four pillars of remembrance:

  1. Commemoration
  2. Documentation
  3. Research
  4. Education

Unfortunately, the Turkish Government is the primary perpetrator of Armenian Genocide denial. Its intense and emotional reaction to yesterday’s vote in France includes lashing out at France’s leaders with accusations of racism and being ‘anti-Islam’. Once again, Turkey’s elected leaders are inciting Turkish nationalist sentiment, rather than doing what is necessary as a nation to make amends for the crimes against humanity committed almost a century ago. This counterproductive behavior ensures that Turkey’s shameful Armenian Genocide history remains very much alive in the present and in our collective consciousness.

Within Turkey, a major obstacle to real solutions for moving forward is Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which is used to prosecute individuals who “insult Turkishness”. In Turkey, acknowledging and discussing the Armenian Genocide is grounds for imprisonment and large fines. Nobel Prize winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted for a statement he made in an interview, which referenced the Armenian Genocide.

While it remains a challenge for Turkey to acknowledge and apologize for the Armenian Genocide, the time must come. This is necessary for Turkey to take the place it aspires to have on the world stage, and as a member of the European Union. After reading about last week’s groundswell of Turkish outrage at the outcome of Hrant Dink murder trial in Istanbul, I do believe such a time is not far off. It is also not fanciful thinking to imagine the day when Turkey passes a law forbidding Armenian Genocide denial.

France, Germany, and Spain are among the countries that have apologized for their countries’ past atrocities. They are also setting an example for Turkey to follow regarding how to educate the world about the evils of genocide, hate speech, racism, and xenophobia. In a past blog post, Armenian Genocide denial doesn’t make it go away, I mentioned seeing the topic of slavery incorporated into the educational displays at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall historical sites in Philadelphia, which are part of the U.S. National park service.

Sadly, I do not hold out hope that Holocaust or Genocide denial will be outlawed in the United States, because the right to free speech is a value which Americans cherish more than safeguarding the rights of victims of hate speech, as the US Supreme Court 8-1 decision in the matter of Snyder v. Phelps clarified.

 

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Yes Turkey, it was Genocide — Vive la France!

December 23, 2011

Yesterday, we received the news from around the world that France’s lower house of Parliament voted to criminalize denial of the Armenian Genocide. Of course, Turkey’s Prime Minister went ballistic. In his tirade against France, Erdogan accused the French of stifling free speech. Ironically (of course), as the New York Times correctly noted, “Turkey’s own penal code makes affirming the genocide a crime on the grounds that it is an insult to Turkish identity. In March, Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel Prize winner, was fined 7,000 lira, about $3,700, for his statement in a Swiss newspaper that ‘we have killed 30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians’.”

As new information concerning the Armenian Genocide occurs, I do my best to report it in this blog in a timely manner. However, yesterday, I was increasingly frustrated as I read articles published in the world’s leading newspapers, most using language which obfuscate the truth about the history of the first genocide occuring in the 20th century. There are official volumes (archives full) of the facts of Turkey’s systematic killing of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians under the cover of World War I.

Turkish historian Taner Akcam has documented the motivation for this genocide in his master work, “A Shameful Act“. Basically, in addition to racial hatred of the non-Turkish, non-Muslim Armenian Christian minority, Turkey coveted the land the Armenians occupied for thousands of years. The Turkish government also saw an opportunity to create an instant Muslim, middleclass by taking all of the Armenians’ properties and belongings and redistributing the ‘bootie’ (including houses) to its Muslim population.

During the genocide, the United States Ambassador to Turkey was Henry Morgenthau. In his first-person account of the Armenian Genocide, he recalls a conversation with one of the masterminds of the genocide, Talaat Pasha:

One day Talaat made what was perhaps the most astonishing request I had ever heard.  The New York Life Insurance Company and the Equitable Life of New York had for years done considerable business among the Armenians.  The extent to which this people insured their lives was merely another indication of their thrifty habits.  “I wish,” Talaat now said, “that you would get the American Life insurance companies to send us a complete list of their Armenian policy holders.  They are practically dead now and have left no heirs to collect the money.  If … all escheats to the State, the Government is the beneficiary now. Will you do so?”

This was almost too much, and I lost my temper.  “You will get no such list from me,” I said, and I got up and left him.

Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, p. 339. [Source]

In addition to the records in government archives in the U.S., France, Germany, and Great Britain, there was an unprecedented humanitarian relief effort spearheaded by Evangelical and Catholic missionaries, who went to heroic lengths to save the Armenians. Many relief workers documented what they witnessed in Turkey, in brutal detail. There are thousands of eyewitness accounts and so much scholarly work on this subject, that the veracity of the facts cannot be disputed.

However, the Turkish government spends millions of dollars each year to lobby lawmakers in the United States and countries all over the world to vote against recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Turkey has also infiltrated some of the world’s leading universities, ensuring books about the Armenian Genocide are not available in their libraries and endowing chairs. The effort and amount of disinformation Turkey continues to manufacture about the Armenian Genocide is astonishing.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the French government for standing up and saying no to Turkey. It is unlikely the United States and Israel will suddenly become enlightened with moral clarity, but one can always hope.


Turks killed 30,000 Armenians in Adana before the Armenian Genocide

September 15, 2011

Robert Fisk: New light on an old horror – and still there is no justice
Independent | September 10, 2011

Related Commentary:

Use Google News to search Erdogan and follow what is unfolding in Turkey and the Middle East today. The Islamist leader of Turkey is pursuing a neo-Ottoman path to quench his thirsty ego. 

Although Turkey is currently a democracy, much of Erdogan’s behavior and policies are reminescent of Turkey’s Ottoman rulers, as well as those seen from up-and-coming dictators. Here are just a few red flags which have gone up since Erdogan’s reelection:

  • Turkey’s senior military resigned en masse
  • Turkey is imposing stricter censoring of the press and the Internet
  • The Turkish military has killed large numbers of Kurds in Iraq

Now, Erdogan is using the pretext of the Palestinian cause and the Arab Spring as a platform to stir up anti-Israel/anti-Semitic sentiments, to position himself as a democratic visionary for the Middle East. Since Turkey’s poor human rights record within its borders remains an obstacle to its acceptance into the European Union, the Turkish Prime Minister’s credibility as a benevolent leader is more than questionable.

Also, consider the hypocrisy and manipulation of the Erdogan flotilla circus. It is a fact that Turkey has sustained an illegal and crippling blockade of Armenia for nearly two decades. For Erdogan, it is okay for Turkey to blockade the Republic of Armenia (which is not threatening Turkey’s safety), but it is not okay for Israel to blockade Gaza (to prevent trafficking of arms used for terror attacks against Israel).

Furthermore, recent news reports tell of the Turkish government’s plan to return the properties it appropriated from its country’s religious minorities. Yet, despite appeals to the government to return these properties (since these news reports), all ill-begotten lands remain in the hands of the Turkish government.

For Erdogan’s record and Turkey’s responses regarding the Turkish government’s shameful denial of the facts of the Armenian Genocide, search Google. This blog also offers extensive information about the Armenian Genocide and Turkey. (A word of caution: beware of sites hosted by genocide denial groups purporting to provide facts—you can spot one wherever you read the words ‘so-called genocide’).

Erdogan is a genocide denier with an Ottoman-inspired world view. He is exacerbating and exploiting the Middle East’s instability for his own gain. The citizens of the world and our leaders must be vigilant if we are dedicated to peace and a better life for all peoples in the Middle East. It is the responsibility of each and every individual to know our collective history. If we fail to understand the lessons of the past, we will no doubt repeat the pain and suffering of the generations who came before us. Education is empowerment. And, with knowledge we can speak truth to power.


The ugly politics of denying the Armenian Genocide

June 17, 2010

Suddenly, the Israel lobby discovers a genocide
Salon.com | June 16, 2010

Editor’s Note:

Prior to April 2010, several articles posted on this blog assailed the United States’ official foreign policy and President Obama’s decision to break his campaign promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide as genocide. It should be noted that Great Britain has also failed to stand up to Turkey. To attempt to understand the reasons why each of these democratic countries have historically placated Turkey rather than simply state the facts as they are clearly known by each government, requires a good deal of reading. Be assured that there is no shortage of official documentation in US and British government archives, as well as in Germany and France. It may surprise you to know that Turkey’s archives provided esteemed Turkish scholar Taner Akcam all of the information he needed to write , A Shameful Act, which is one of the definitive books about the Armenian Genocide and the political history of the time.

Links to related blog posts:

Armenian Genocide recognition a reality or fantasy in US, GB and Israel

Another call for the US to right its wrong foreign policy and recognize the Armenian Genocide

The White House and State Department have once again shown their fear of Turkey

Video of Obama referring to Armenian Genocide (2007)


The Armenian Genocide as political football

June 14, 2010

Turkey, Israel and the moment of truth
The Jerusalem Post | June 14, 2010


I’ve been silent about Turkey’s Erdogan’s hypocrisy and hatefulness long enough

June 4, 2010

In today’s news (see Reuters link below), Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan commands Israel, “Thou Shalt Not Kill”—in English and in Hebrew.

Three questions:

  1. Did you ever wonder why Mr. Erdogan never hesitates to use the words ‘massacre’ and ‘genocide’ when accusing other governments?
  2. Why is Erdogan so outspoken when it comes to the human rights of peoples outside of his country, yet deaf, dumb and blind to human rights violations committed in his own country?
  3. How many times has he used the “G” word freely when accusing the Armenians of such acts in Nagorno-Karabakh and Israel in Gaza?

Turkey clearly set a trap for Israel and unfortunately Israel fell into the trap. Regardless of your politics concerning the Palestinians, it is unconscionable for the world to allow Turkey’s leadership to stir up antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments within Turkey and throughout the Moslem world for political gain. I guess Erdogan is tired of denying Turkey’s past (the Armenian Genocide), so he’s shifting the world’s focus to a tried and true political formula:  Pick on the Jews.

He emphatically denies the Armenian Genocide, which killed 1.5 million Christian Armenians, including babies and elderly women and men. The majority of those who managed to live were driven out of their native homeland (Turkey) to the desert, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Jordan and Israel (then Palestine), Europe, the Americas and Australia.

Most of the Armenians who remained in Turkey were either forced to convert to Islam or enslaved. Armenians living in Turkey today (as well as all non-Moslem minorities) do not have the same rights as Moslem Turks. Furthermore, Turkey continues to blockade Armenia (don’t even get me started on the trap of the protocols)!

A few months ago, while loudly denying the Armenian Genocide from wherever he was in the world, he embraced Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir (who has committed crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur, as determined by the International Criminal Court). Defending al-Bashir as a Moslem, Erdogan said a Moslem would never be guilty of such crimes. I have news for Mr. Erdogan, acts of genocide and crimes against humanity are perpetrated by men of all faiths—and, often in the name of God.

To this day, Turkey has a poor human rights record. Shouldn’t the country’s leadership champion the rights of its own citizens, rather than shouting about the human rights of those outside Turkey?

New Articles:

[Revised 12:29AM – June 5, 2010]

Turkey’s Erdogan bears responsibility in flotilla fiasco | Washington Post | June 5, 2010

Erdogan and the Decline of the Turks | Wall Street Journal | June 3, 2010

Link to Erdogan telling American journalist Charlie Rose ‘Armenian Genocide is complete a lie’ (Transcript and Video)

(If you didn’t see yesterday’s post, click here for the link to the video of a television broadcast of Turkish scholar Taner Akcam discussing the facts of the Armenian Genocide and his book, A Shameful Act.)

The Reuters link that was originally the first link provided here, was changed by Reuters to another news story. I found the content I originally read in the US version on Reuters’ India world news site. The content was cut and pasted in its entirety because of my concern the story will disappear again:

Angry Turkish PM tells Israel “thou shalt not kill”
Reuters | Saturday, June 5, 2010

By Ibon Villelabeitia

ANKARA (Reuters) – Israel’s only Muslim ally Turkey accused the Jewish state on Friday of betraying its own biblical law, escalating its furious rhetoric since the killing of nine Turkish activists on board a Gaza-bound aid ship.

Despite fierce international criticism from friends as well as enemies, Israel said it would block another vessel sent by pro-Palestinian activists, the Rachel Corrie, from attempting to reach the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s words towards Israel were his harshest yet since Israeli commandos raided the Mavi Marmara on Monday, plunging into a melee with activists on board and opening fire.

“I am speaking to them in their own language. The sixth commandment says ‘thou shalt not kill’. Did you not understand?” Erdogan said in a televised speech to supporters of his Islamist-leaning AK Party.

“I’ll say again. I say in English ‘you shall not kill’. Did you still not understand?. So I’ll say to you in your own language. I say in Hebrew ‘Lo Tirtzakh’.”

As relations plunged to their lowest point since the two countries forged a strategic relationship in the 1990s, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said military and economic agreements with Israel were now on the table for discussion.

“We are serious about this subject,” Arinc told the Turkish NTV news channel.

“We may plan to reduce our relations with Israel to a minimum, but to assume everything involving another country is stopped in an instant, to say we have crossed you out of our address book, is not the custom of our state,” he said.

Turkey has already recalled its ambassador and cancelled joint military exercises.

A spokeswoman for activists aboard the Rachel Corrie — named after an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 — said they intended to press on. Israel says it will block the ship but expects no more violence.

“We will stop the ship, and also any other ship that will try to harm Israeli sovereignty. There is no chance the Rachel Corrie will reach the coast of Gaza,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Israel’s Channel 1 television.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered Israeli forces to exercise “caution and politeness” in handling the ship, expected near the waters off Gaza by Saturday.

Together with Egypt, Israel tightened its blockade on Gaza after Hamas took control of the coastal enclave in 2007.

Israel has defended the embargo, saying it stops Hamas from bringing in weapons to fight Israel. Officials said on Thursday Netanyahu was considering modifying the blockade, which would introduce some form of international role in enforcing an arms embargo, while letting in civilian goods.

U.S. CALLS FOR PEACE EFFORTS

President Barack Obama said the incident should be used as an opportunity to advance Middle East peace efforts.

U.S. envoy George Mitchell, mediating in indirect Palestinian-Israeli talks which many observers doubt will achieve a breakthrough, met Netanyahu on Friday.

He held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday which a Palestinian official said were dominated by the ship incident and the Gaza blockade.

The United States has been less critical of Israel than others, expressing sympathy for its security concerns while also saying the people of Gaza must get the supplies they need.

Erdogan, however, compared the Israeli actions to those of Kurdish militants in Turkey and stood up for Hamas, calling them “resistance fighters fighting for their land”.

“The fate of Jerusalem is not different from the fate of Istanbul,” he said, in language reflecting the significance of the holy city to Muslims throughout the world. “The fate of Gaza is not different from the fate of Ankara.”

Turkey, an officially secular state, recognised Israel soon after its establishment in 1948. In the 1990s it forged military and intelligence cooperation agreements with Israel when both had hostile relations with Syria.

Its tough position this week has been popular in the Muslim world. Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah praised Erdogan’s stance in a video-link speech to thousands of followers on Friday.

Organisers had placed nine coffins draped in Turkish flags to commemorate the Turkish victims.

“Israel miscalculated here. It thought after it attacks, kills, detains and commits terror against the Freedom Flotilla, that would make the Turkish leadership retreat, be confused, scared and look for any resolution,” Nasrallah said.

Tens of thousands of people protested across Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with the Jewish state.

About 20,000 people gathered in the port of Alexandria, waving Egyptian, Turkish and Palestinian flags, unusual in a country where public demonstrations are often swiftly suppressed.

“Turkey, a thousand salutations. Long live Erdogan and long live the Turkish people,” the protesters chanted.

Photo caption: A masked member of Hamas stands in front of a banner depicting Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during a protest in Central Gaza Strip June 4, 2010, against Israel’s interception of Gaza-bound ships.


Armenian Genocide recognition a reality or fantasy in US, GB and Israel?

April 29, 2010

This past weekend, there were commemorations in cities around the world honoring the memories of the 1.5 million souls who did not survive the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Turks 95 years ago. There seems to be an unprecedented groundswell concerning the issue of recognizing the Armenian Genocide over the past year. I believe this is directly related to the attention brought to this history as the world’s powers tried in vain to bring Armenia and Turkey together to talk peace.

Simplifying the matter, the issue of opening the borders between the two countries is in the interests of government and business leaders because they wish to run a pipeline through a less costly route than is possible at this moment in time (with Turkey and Armenia in a stalemate). At the time of the Genocide, the US, France, and Great Britain sent aid and intervened only up to a point. But, since it wasn’t in the Great Powers’ interests to do more, they withdrew. Last week, Armenia withdrew from participating in the Protocols and will not return until the terms of the deal truly serve Armenia’s interests as much as every other interested party.

Ironically, Great Britain and the US have not recognized the Armenian Genocide, because that would insult Turkey, and apparently, they clearly believe that is not in our best interests. Nor has Israel.  [See the related article links below.] But, it important to state that to France’s credit, the Armenian Genocide is recognized by their country.

Perhaps if everyone could look inside their hearts and stop listening to Turkey’s politicians and paid lobbyists, they might see that honoring the past (by calling it what it is), would free everyone to move forward, allowing us all to look toward the future in good faith with the beginning of at least a sense of mutual trust. Recognizing genocide is in everyone’s best interests.

Turkish Diplomat: US May Recognize Armenian Genocide in October
Huliq | April 27, 2010

Armenian Genocide issue on Knesset agenda
Public Radio of Armenia www.armradio.am | April 29, 2010


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