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? (more…)