Posts Tagged ‘genocide’

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

December 26, 2011


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…)


Both Turkey and the Armenian diaspora should look for ways of rewriting a familiar script

March 13, 2010

That’s the headline in this week’s sensible editorial in The Economist about the controversy over what to name the events that led to the deaths of so many Armenians in 1915.

Their conclusion: “There is room for scholarly inquiry into the working of the murky state machinery that led to that outcome—to determine whether the tragedy was principally the result of murderous design or culpable neglect. By inviting all scholars to peruse its archives (something it has done only patchily), Turkey could disarm its critics.

Highly recommended reading.

Genocide vote harms US-Turkey ties—by Steven Kinzer

March 5, 2010

Steven Kinzer understands Turkey as well as anybody. While NY Times bureau chief there he even moonlighted as a disc-jockey on Turkish radio. His excellent piece is in today’s Guardian.

Memo to Congress: Leave the Turks and Armenians alone to bury old enmities

March 4, 2010

Old hatreds die hard. Many Serbs still burn with hate for Muslims over the lost battle of Blackbird’s Field in Kosovo on June 15, 1389. In Great Britain there remains mutual hatred between Catholics and Protestants dating from atrocities of the 17th century. And many Armenian Americans still burn over the massacres and other deaths of 1,500,000 Armenians by the forces of the collapsing Ottoman Empire—the predecessor to modern Turkey in 1915. Turks dispute the number, claiming that 300,000 Armenians were killed and at least as many Turks as the empire descended into chaos and war.

It seems that civilization depends on our ability to put such horrors aside, to consign them to the ash heap of history. That ability is (more…)