The French and Israeli parliaments should govern their own countries, and leave it to people without sin to conclude whether Turks are guilty of genocide

 

It’s much more satisfying to point out somebody else’s sins than own up to our own. Thus a year ago the US House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a non-binding resolution calling on US policy and President Barack Obama to refer formally to the World War I mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a “genocide.” No need to bother about American treatment of native Americans or of enslaved black Africans. The bill never went further, as sensible heads prevailed.

But Russia, France, and a dozen other nations have labeled the mass killing of Armenians a genocide. It’s more comfortable to fling the label at Turkey than to consider, for example France’s war on Algerians or Russia’s slaughter of Jews, Ukrainians, Chechnians, and even Russian serfs. And it plays well with ethnic Armenian voters in the Armenian diaspora, who outnumber actual Armenians by three to one.

Now the lower house of the French parliament has voted to make it a crime, punishable by one-year imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros ($60,000), to deny the so-called “Armenian genocide.” The French Senate is likely to take up the bill next year.

Israel too is getting into the act, now that its relations with Turkey have chilled. The Israeli Parliament just today held its first public debate on whether to declare Turkey guilty of genocide. (Actually the killings were perpetrated under the Ottoman Empire in 1915, prior to the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923.) The Israeli National Security Council is trying to stop the Parliament from debating the issue in hopes that ties with Turkey can still be salvaged.

An ethicist who is also a Turkophile is conflicted. Was it genocide? This Fourth Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary defines genocide as “the systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group.” Armenian-Americans say yes, passionately. Some Turks agree, although the Turkish government’s position rejects just about every word of the definition: not systematic, not planned, not extermination, and not entire.

The Turkish government’s position is compromised, however, by its reluctance to open its archives and to permit open debate in Turkey.

So I can’t say—any more than the legislative bodies of the US, France, Israel, or Russia—whether or not it was genocide. I turn to a foreign policy expert and a respected ethicist.

The foreign policy expert is Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. national security adviser, who said,

I never realized that the House of Representatives was some sort of an academy of learning that passes judgment on historical events. History’s full of terrible crimes, and there is no doubt that many Armenians were massacred in World War I. But whether the House of Representatives should be passing resolutions whether that should be classified as genocide or a huge massacre is I don’t think any of its business. It has nothing to do with passing laws, how to run the United States. That’s where the constitution created the House of Representatives for.

And the ethicist is Jesus. His advice is in John, Chapter 8:

8:3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
8:4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
8:5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
8:7 [Jesus] lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8:9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
8:11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

So let the legislatures pass laws to govern their own countries. And let him that is without sin first cast a stone

 

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