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Why Has President Sarkozy Revived Alleged Armenian Genocide? – OpEd

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Genocide is always ignored until the genocide is over. After its completion, eloquent and hypocritical words appear in defense of the murdered and departed. Genocide makes headlines, and people know how to use them for their own advantage.

France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy gains headlines, and mostly for appropriate reasons. He is in the news almost every day – marriage to a celebrity model, leading the charge against dispatched Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whom he befriended months earlier, scuffling with Germany’s Prime Minister Angela Merkel over how to save the Euro and French banks, camera shots with the new baby, and at an October 7, 2011 meeting in Armenia stating that “Turkey’s refusal to recognize the [Armenian] genocide would force France to make such denials a criminal offense.”

Peoples who suffered genocide have the right to solicit compensation for displaced survivors from the guilty government and to seek means to correct the wrong. Others have an obligation to help. Nevertheless, knowing that President Sarkozy’s statement would irritate Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and force him to reject the bill, there must be more to the French President’s actions and to the French National Assembly Dec 20, 2011 vote that proposed a year in jail and a fine of $58,000 to those publicly denying the alleged genocide.

Note: The expression ‘alleged genocide’ is used for impartiality. There is neither intention to deny genocide nor assent to a thesis that it did not occur.

What does the bill accomplish for France?

Is denial of an Armenian genocide a polarizing issue in France? Do citizens of La Patria openly debate Ottoman Empire responsibility for an alleged genocide that happened one hundred years ago? Does French jurisprudence need this bill to prevent a significant offense? The necessity to pass a law that makes it a crime to deny the alleged Armenian genocide is baffling. To whom is it directed and what is its purpose?

The bill will not help the victims; after all, they are gone. What happened in the Armenian part of Turkey almost a century ago is not a French issue, and therefore will neither resolve a present or future French problem nor change French life. It is doubtful that many citizens thought about the issue and argued a need for the bill.

The bill will create problems

Old wounds are opened, and with them renewed hatreds will occur. As the western world starts to overcome its prejudices and learns to appreciate the Turkish nation, Sarkozy shakes the world with accusations of criminal behavior by the almost ancient Ottoman government.

Just when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has embarked on reconciliation with Armenia and his own Armenian citizens, a challenge interrupts the peace-minded progress. After decades of hostility, Turkey and Armenia signed an agreement in October 2009 to establish diplomatic relations and open their borders. Unfortunately, neither government has ratified the agreement due to the lack of settlement of a dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory that was formally inside Azerbaijan and, since a 1990s war, is occupied by ethnic Armenians.

The bill, written one hundred years after an event, makes it illegal for people to rebut accusations that their ancestors initiated genocide and considers them complicit in the atrocities if they defend their elders. The Turks are probably asking themselves: “If this bill is necessary, why aren’t there bills concerning complicity of many western powers in the mass killings of Indian populations in the Western Hemisphere, African populations throughout Africa, which includes slavery in the United States, Asians, most prominently in China, India, and the Philippines, and their own populations in Europe?”

Not stopping atrocities, and then criminalizing words that question the extent of the atrocities, smacks of duplicity; an attempt to hide failures by achieving political correctness. Isn’t there something wrong in a democratic nation when opinions can be made illegal and illegal deeds are not prevented?

Why aren’t remaining effects of previous genocides not directly countered?

Existing effects of previous genocides require more attention than bills that punish people for denying genocide. In North, Central and South America, indigenous peoples who suffered genocide continue to struggle for cultural survival and to maintain their dignity. Inca and Mapuche from South America, Maya from Central America, and Indian tribes in North America remain helpless in trying to regain the land and resources stolen from them and find themselves slowly decimated and slipping into obscurity. Grief still inhabits their faces and squalor directs their lives.

Disadvantages arising from past actions have been, and always will, impede descendants of American slaves in their progress. While severe disadvantage is not easily overcome, advantage is capitalized and adds to advantage. African Americans deserve a compensation that enables them to overcome the disadvantages in order to achieve an equal status with White America.

Why are these victims of genocide not being properly helped? The answer is simple: the economic capital (a huge amount to right the wrongs done to the African Americans) will not return a positive political benefit. Note that these genocides are often denied with one statement – a natural course of history – and the detractors are not punished.

What motivated a bill that criminalizes denial of an alleged genocide?

Proving hidden motivations for passage of the bill cannot be easily justified or demonstrated. Frame the question in another context: Knowing that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan would disregard President Sarkozy’s statement and vehemently reject he bill, how will others benefit from a bill that criminalizes denial of an alleged Armenian genocide?

Prime Minister Erdogan has taken independent stances that lead many to regard him his courage. His stances and moral attitude have generated opposition and disturbed those who envy his popularity. The French bill shifts the moral compass from Erdogan to Sarkozy and reduces the impact from Erdogan’s independent positions.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has steered Turkey away from the severe nationalist polices of its militarist predecessors. The bill places Erdogan and his AKP Party in a difficult position. Accept the bill and lose favor with a great majority of the Turkish electorate. Reject the bill and give the appearance of following a renewed nationalist policy.

Those who view turkey as too independent, too large and too Muslim seek any excuse to keep Turkey out of the European Union. Add to the list Turkey’s unwillingness to recognize the Ottoman Empire’s culpability in the alleged Armenian genocide.

When friendly with Turkey, Israel rejected recognition of the alleged Armenian genocide. Now that the two nations are declared antagonists, is it possible that Israel, whose Knesset held a renewed discussion on recognizing the Armenian genocide, played a role in promoting the bill in order to embarrass Erdogan?

Armenia has an unresolved situation with Azerbaijan over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenian lobby consistently works to keep the atrocity alive and direct sympathy to Armenia.

France has a law that calls genocide denial a criminal offense. People are questioning why the law is applied to the World War II holocaust and not to other genocides.

An Armenian lobby and contributors can play a significant role in the coming French presidential election.

The bill might backfire on President Sarkozy and damage French interests

An injured Turkey, that has become dubious of a wounded European Union, might shift its allegiance and interchange from the western world to Russia, China and India. If that happens, NATO, who relies greatly on Turkey’s geo-strategic position, will find itself engaging a more difficult partner.

Preventing genocide and assisting its remaining victims has highest priority. However, perpetually aggravating hatred rather than pursuing reconciliation and using a genocide for enhancing a personal or national agenda create suspicion. Making criminals of those who recognize atrocities but deny that ancestors deserve to be included as purveyors of genocide is a controversial afterthought and an arm twister: “Say uncle or go to jail.”

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Dan Lieberman

Dan Lieberman is editor of Alternative Insight, www.alternativeinsight.com, a commentary on foreign policy and politics. He is author of the book A Third Party Can Succeed in America and a Kindle: The Artistry of a Dog.. Dan can be reached at [email protected]

6 thoughts on “Why Has President Sarkozy Revived Alleged Armenian Genocide? – OpEd

  • Avatar
    January 5, 2012 at 5:39 am
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    Dan,

    In reading your article am baffled by how you;

    1. Could use the word alleged to a fact of history. As a history professor and grandson of a Jewish holocaust survivor, I find that word “alleged” offending. Even it’s use as you would say “to stay impartial” is in bad taste. Either learn the history before you write an article or display some chutzpah and call it what it really is.
    2. Those who deny holocaust are bound to repeat it; the fact that those victims are no longer around is irrelevant. My grandparents are long passed but I would bolster to anyone who would call them liers by denying the holocaust or mocking their memory by the use of such words as alleged. The term “alleged holocaust” to stay impartial or otherwise is ignorant and should not be used under these circumstances. To that fact of histiry the definition for the word “alleged” is neither impartial or appropriate as moral responsibility is not a courtroom here where the guilty could afford a priced out attorney or dare I say an article columnist.
    3. I am glad France adopted the law, which by the way is misinterpreted as it condemns all genocide. This in fact is similar to the earlier adopted bill denying the Jewish holocaust.

  • Avatar
    January 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm
    Permalink

    Dan,

    In reading your article am baffled by how you;

    1. Could use the word alleged to a fact of history. As a history professor and grandson of a Jewish holocaust survivor, I find that word “alleged” offending. Even it’s use as you would say “to stay impartial” is in bad taste. Either learn the history before you write an article or display some chutzpah and call it what it really is.
    2. Those who deny holocaust are bound to repeat it; the fact that those victims are no longer around is irrelevant. My grandparents are long passed but I would bolster to anyone who would call them liers by denying the holocaust or mocking their memory by the use of such words as alleged. The term “alleged holocaust” to stay impartial or otherwise is ignorant and should not be used under these circumstances. To that fact of histiry the definition for the word “alleged” is neither impartial or appropriate as moral responsibility is not a courtroom, where the guilty could afford a priced out attorney or dare I say an article columnist.
    3. I am glad France adopted the law, which by the way is misinterpreted as it condemns all genocide. This in fact is similar to the earlier adopted bill denying the Jewish holocaust.

  • Avatar
    January 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm
    Permalink

    This is quite an insulting article to all victims of mass murder! Lieberman questions France’s motivation in criminalizing the denial of the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. I question Lieberman’s motivation in posting all together. As Daniel Katzenburg noted above, the term “alleged” does free one from staying ignorant of history, nor is it a cover for the neo-journalistic millstone of “neutrality”. Rather than to have actually researched the topic, striving for neutrality now places Lieberman in the category of denying historical fact, in this case of genocide. Lieberman could have easily googled “genocide scholars”. The first hit would have been The International Association of Genocide Scholars. They have clearly recognized the Turkish extermination of the Armenians as genocide.

    Mr. Lieberman, rather than to question France’s motivation in criminalizing the Armenian genocide, you should have perhaps addressed why is that France can engage in such international blackmail? However, in doing do, you would have had to assume the extermination of the Armenians as a fact. You would have actually taken a stand. The international community will hold the charge of genocide over the heads of the Turks whenever it is in their interest. Turkey can alleviate this sword if they admit committing genocide on the Armenians and others — even if monetary reparations and land claims follow.

    So let’s take this full circle, unless you feel that Raphael Lemkin also “allegedly” coined the term genocide. Lemkin stated, “I became interested in genocide because it happened to the Armenians; and after the Armenians got a very rough deal at the Versailles Conference because their criminals were guilty of genocide and were not punished.” You can watch his “alleged” statement on Youtube, in his 1949 CBS TV interview with Quincy Howe.

    Why is all this important? Because nobody cared about the fate of those exterminated in 1915 – some even calling it alleged! One person who didn’t was Adolf Hilter. He took inspiration when in a 1931 interview with Richard Breiting in _Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten_ , stated, “We intend to introduce a great resettlement policy; we do not wish to go on treading each others toes in Germany. In 1923 little Greece could re-settle a million men. Think of the biblical deportations and the massacres of the Middle Ages and remember the eradication of Armenia [oder erinnern Sie sich doch an die Ausrottung Armeniens].”

  • Avatar
    January 5, 2012 at 7:18 pm
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    What a dishonorable article by someone carrying a jewish name. You neglect to mention that the same law also applies to the jewish holocaust in France.

    Well who benefits by this law now that most of the jewish victims of the holocaust are gone? -just to spit your logic back at you!

    I don’t necessarily approve of making a law that forbids anyone from questionning history. However, the past one hundred years have been replete with examples of Turkish paid historians publishing pseudo historical works negating or even making outlandishly contradictory accounts of the Armenian genocide. So at some scale a measure such as the French law is welcome.

    It’s also truly time that the Turks faced up to this historical event, and prevented either the Americans or their lackeys the Israelis, from playing politics with this historical fact and use it to blackmail Turkey.

  • Avatar
    January 6, 2012 at 3:21 am
    Permalink

    Dan Lieberman, the alleged human being (note that the expression ‘alleged human being’ is used for impartiality as there is no evidence that it’s not a porkupine) really needs to stay off the bong and focus on reality based editorials.

  • Avatar
    January 9, 2012 at 2:23 am
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    I normally refrain from replying to un-called for offensive attacks, but those attacking have exposed a hypocrisy and inconsideration that must be revealed.

    Harping on one word rather than understanding the true import of the article makes one suspicious. You don’t seem to care about the use of the victims for political purposes or my highlighting the lack of attention to other victims. You only seem to want to defame and act as if you are “holier than others.” There is no truth to what you are saying. You are only bending your mind with subjective opinions rather than objective appraisals.

    Possibly, I made a poor choice of word. If you consult a dictionary, you will learn that alleged has many meanings, including “to assert to be true,” “affirm,” “declare.” I used the word in that context. You have used your own meaning to justify an unfair attack. I also clearly stated: “There is neither intention to deny genocide nor assent to a thesis that it did not occur.” Yet you write a deliberate mendacious accusation directed against me: “Those who deny holocaust are bound to repeat it…My grandparents are long passed but I would bolster to anyone who would call them liers by denying the holocaust or mocking their memory by the use of such words as alleged.”
    And my relatives who died in the World War II Holocaust would say: “We don’t need hypocrites and those who use others to defame someone to talk for us.
    Evidently, you did not read the article that I wrote, only the one you wanted written.
    The article exposes those who use the tragedy of others for personal and political gain and try to prevent reconciliation.
    Anyone reading your comments can conclude that:
    (1) You believe genocide should serve political purposes.
    (2) You don’t agree with my writing “Peoples who suffered genocide have the right to solicit compensation for displaced survivors from the guilty government and to seek means to correct the wrong. Others have an obligation to help.”
    (3) You don’t agree with my writing: “Why are these victims of genocide not being properly helped? The answer is simple: the economic capital (a huge amount will be required to right the wrongs done to the African Americans) will not return a positive political benefit. Note that these genocides are often denied with one statement – a natural course of history – and the detractors are not punished.”
    (4) You deny the genocide of the Native peoples of the Americas and the blacks from Africa.

    Please read the article again with an open mind, and refrain from vicious attacks.

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