Posts Tagged ‘Ottoman Empire’

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…)

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Jews, Muslims, history, and the mosque “at” ground Zero

August 9, 2010

I came home from my tenth grade history class and announced, “Today we learned about the fall of Christian Constantinople to the Muslim Ottomans, and what a tragedy it was.” My father corrected me; “Not for the Jews, it wasn’t.” He went on to explain that the Ottoman Sultan, Beyazit I, in 1492 invited all the Jews of Spain, just expelled by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, to come live in peace in the Ottoman Empire, then the world’s most powerful. Thousands did, and lived peacefully and prosperously there for centuries, to this day.

Jews and Muslims have gotten on well for most of the time since the days of Mohammed, who honored Jews as “people of the book.” It’s easy today, looking at the enmity between Israel and some of her neighbors, to forget that Jewish culture thrived as never before or since in the “golden age of Jewish culture” in Muslim-ruled Spain, or that the Muslim Beyazit rescued the Jews of Spain and Portugal. Even the Jewish-Muslim conflict in the Middle East is over land, not religion.

So it’s nice to see so many Jews standing up for the rights of American Muslims to build Cordoba House, a community center with prayer area, 2-1/2 blocks from New York’s Ground Zero. NBC News reported, “Jewish Leaders Gather to Support Ground Zero Mosque.”

And Washington’s Jewish Week criticized the position of the Anti-Defamation League (more…)

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…)