Friday, February 19, 2010

Turkey: A Family Erased

Robert Fisk’s World: Israel can no longer ignore the existence of the first Holocaust

Recognition of the Armenian genocide is a paramount moral and educational act
Saturday, 30 January 2010

While Israelis commemorated the second Holocaust of the 20th century this week, I was in the Gulbenkian library in Jerusalem, holding the printed and handwritten records of the victims of the century's first Holocaust. It was a strange sensation.
The Armenians were not participating in Israel's official ceremonies to remember the six million Jewish dead, murdered by the Germans between 1939 and 1945, perhaps because Israel officially refuses to acknowledge that Armenia's million and a half dead of 1915-1923 were victims of a Turkish Holocaust. Israeli-Turkish diplomatic and military relations are more important than genocide. Or were.
George Hintlian, historian and prominent member of Jerusalem's 2,000-strong Armenian community in Jerusalem, pointed out the posters a few metres from the 1,500-year old Armenian monastery. They advertised Armenia's 24 April commemorations. All but one had been defaced, torn from the ancient walls or, in at least one case, spraypainted with graffiti in Hebrew. "Maybe they don't like it that there was another genocide," George told me. "These are things we can't explain." More than 70 members of George's family were murdered in the butchery and death marches of 1915 – when German officers witnessed the system of executions, rail-car deportations to cholera camps and asphyxiation by smoke in caves – the world's first "gas" chambers. One witness, the German vice-consul in Erzurum, Max von Scheubner-Richter, ended up as one of Hitler's closest friends and advisers. It's not as if there's no connection between the first and second Holocausts.
But the times, they are a-changing. For ever since Turkey began shouting about Israel's slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza a year ago, prominent Israeli figures have suddenly rediscovered the Armenian genocide. Who are the Turks to talk about mass murder? Has anyone forgotten 1915? For George and his compatriots – there are in all 10,000 Armenians in Israel and the occupied West Bank, 4,000 of them holding Israeli passports – they had indeed been forgotten until the Gaza war. "In 1982, the Armenians were left out of a Holocaust conference in Jerusalem," he said. "For three decades, no documentary on the Armenian genocide could be shown on Israeli television because it would offend the Turks. Then suddenly last year, important Israelis demanded that a documentary be shown. Thirty Knesset members supported us. We always had Yossi Sarid of Peace Now but now we've got right-wing Israelis."
Maariv and Yediot Ahronot began to mention the Armenian genocide and George Hintlian turned up on Israeli television with Danny Ayalon – the foreign office minister who humiliated the Turkish ambassador by forcing him to sit on a sofa below him – and Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin who said that Israel should commemorate the Armenian genocide "every year". The Israeli press now calls the Armenian genocide a "Shoah" – the same word all Israelis use for the Jewish Holocaust. As George put it with withering accuracy: "We have been upgraded!!!"
This piece of brash hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed by Yossi Sarid who has described how, a few months after Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the Gaza war, "an important Israeli personality telephoned me and said the following: 'Now you have to hit back at the Turks, to denounce them for the crimes they committed against the Armenians You, Yossi, have the right to do so...'" Sarid was appalled. "I was filled with revulsion and my soul wanted to puke," he wrote in Haaretz. "The person who telephoned me was an example of the ugly Israeli who had disgracefully been at the forefront of those who denied the Armenian Holocaust." So now "new tunes" – Sarid's phrase – are being heard in Jerusalem: "The Turks are the last ones who have the right to teach us ethics."
The bright side to this anguished debate is that one of Israel's top Holocaust experts bravely insisted – to the fury of then-foreign minister (now president) Shimon Peres – that the Armenian massacres were undoubtedly a genocide. Tens of thousands of Israelis have always believed the same; several hundred are expected to turn up at the Armenian commemoration on 24 April, and most Israelis refer to the Armenian genocide as a "Shoah" rather than the tame "massacres" hitherto favoured by the political elite.
Yet the most extraordinary irony of all occurred when the Armenian and Turkish governments last year agreed to reopen diplomatic relations and consign the Armenian Holocaust to a joint academic enquiry which would decide "if" there had been a genocide. As Israeli Professor Yair Oron of the Open University of Israel said, "I am afraid that countries will now hesitate to recognise the (Armenian) genocide. They will say: 'Why should we grant recognition if the Armenians yielded?' Recognition of the Armenian genocide is a paramount moral and educational act. We in Israel are obliged to recognise it." And American-Armenian UCLA Professor Richard Hovannisian asked: "Would the Jewish people be willing to forgo the memory of the Holocaust for the sake of good relations with Germany, if Germany were to make that demand?" George Hintlian described the Armenian-Turkish agreement – which in fact may not now be ratified by either side – as "like an earthquake".
We walked together in the cold afternoon through the darkened interior of the great Armenian monastery of Jerusalem with its icons and candles. George opened a cabinet to reveal a hidden staircase up which priests would creep for a secret week when invaders passed through Jerusalem. In this dank, pious place, Ronald Henry Amhurst Storrs, governor of British Mandate Jerusalem, would often sit to ponder what he called "the glory and the misery of a people".
Miserable it has been for thousands of Armenians here. Up to 15,000 lived in Palestine until 1948, many of them survivors of the first Holocaust. But 10,000 of these Armenians shared the same fate as the Palestinian Arabs, fleeing or driven from their homes by the army of the new Israeli state. Most lost their businesses in Haifa and Jaffa, many of them seeking refuge – for the second time – in Jerusalem. A few set out for Cyprus where they were dispossessed for the third time by the 1974 Turkish invasion. As George put it bleakly, "Today, 6,000 Armenians are residents of Jerusalem and the West Bank. They cannot travel and they are counted as Armenian Palestinians. For Israeli bureaucracy, they are Palestinians."
George himself is the son of Garbis Hintlian who, as a 17-year-old, survived the death march from his home at Talas in Cappadocia. "We lost my uncle – my grandfather was axed to death in front of him." After the 1918 armistice, he worked for the British, carrying files of evidence to the initial (but quickly abandoned) Constantinople trials of Turkish war criminals. To no avail.
And glory be, if the tables haven't changed again! Turkey and Israel have made up and become good friends again. Yossi Sarid anticipated this. "Let us assume that Turkey will renew its ties with Israel. Then what? What then? Will we also renew our contribution to the denial of the Armenian Holocaust?"

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Turks are freaking out because Obama appointed Samantha Power to be senior Director

Samantha Power gets a top White House job, backs Armenian claims

Hurriyet Daily News Online,
31 January 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Samantha Power to a senior foreign policy job at the White House. Power supports the Armenian claims regarding the 1915 incidents, a move likely to create concern in Turkey.Officials familiar with the decision told the Associated Press that Obama has tapped Power to be senior director for multilateral affairs at the National Security Council. Power has resigned from the Obama campaign after calling Hillary Clinton a "monster" and made some pro-Israel activists unhappy with her past criticism of Israel. Her new post will require close contact and potential travel with the Secretary of State Clinton.Power is an expert on human rights and foreign policy. She is currently a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.She also known as a fierce supporter of the Armenian claims regarding the 1915 incidents.The issue of 1915 incidents is highly sensitive for Turkey as well as Armenia. Around 300,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks, died in civil strife that emerged when Armenians took up arms, backed by Russia, for independence in eastern Anatolia.However Armenia, with the backing of the diaspora, claims up to 1.5 million of their kin were slaughtered in orchestrated killings in 1915. The issue remains unsolved as Armenia drags its feet in accepting Turkey's proposal of forming a commission to investigate the claims.MOST PRO-ARMENIA ADMINISTRATIONThe new US administration became the most pro-Armenian claims administration in the history with the appointment of Power, Hurriyet daily reported on Saturday.Obama had pledged to recognize the Armenian claims regarding the 1915 incidents during the election campaign. Vice President Joseph Biden, Clinton and the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi also support Armenian claims.Also the new director of CIA, Leon Panetta, also backs the Armenian claims on this highly controversial issue on which the historians and experts are divided.Hurriyet said it is worried that Obama will use the term "genocide" in his statement on April 24 or a new legislation will be pushed to the Congress to recognize the Armenian claims, such moves likely to spark crisis between Ankara and Washington.


Genocide against Armenians, the "Great Catastrophe" of 1915-1922

"There are times, young fellah, when every one of us must make a stand for human right and justice, or you never feel clean again." Lord John Roxton in The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

1915 to 1922


Muslim government

Armenian and other Christians

Number of victims
1.5 million Armenian Christians; unknown number of Greek Christians and Assyrians

The Genocide:
"The [Christian] Armenian genocide of 1915-1916 effectively wiped out the Armenian population of Turkey, claiming some 1.5 million victims. Perhaps 75,000 Armenians endure in Turkey today, most of them in Istanbul." 1
"The Armenian Genocide occurred in a systematic fashion, which proves that it was directed by the Turkish government." This was the Ittihat ve Terakki government -- also known as the "Young Turks" -- of the Ottoman Empire.
"First the Armenians in the army were disarmed, placed into labor battalions, and then killed. Then the Armenian political and intellectual leaders were rounded up on [1915-]April 24 and killed. Finally, the remaining Armenians were rounded up, told they would be relocated, and then marched off to concentration camps in the desert between Jerablus and Deir ez-Zor where they would starve and thirst to death in the burning sun...The authorities in Trebizond, on the Black Sea coast, did vary this routine: they loaded Armenians on barges and sank them far out at sea." 2
Although the main victims of this genocide were Armenian Christians, the approximately five million Greek Christians living in Turkey at the start of World War I were also targeted for programs of deportation, forced marches leading to extermination, and ethnic cleansing. These victims have been almost entirely forgotten. They include Greek Orthodox victims living along the Anatolian coast in 1914, at Adrianople, Constatinople and Smyra during 1916, in Ordou in 1918, etc.
By 1923, Greece had received about a million refugees - mostly elderly and children Christians. Able-bodied adults did not make it to safety.
Mustafa Kemel, the founder of modern Turkey in 1923 , who later took the name of Ataturk, spoke openly about the genocide, calling it an "abomination of the past." However, the history books of current and past governments of Turkey have either denied that the genocide actually happened, or suggested that typhoid, the Russians and the Germans were responsible for massive loss of life. The use of the term "genocide" is "categorically unacceptable," according to Yüksel Söylemez, the chairman of a group of former Turkish ambassadors. Turkish president Ahmet Necdet Sezer said the accusations of genocide are baseless and that they "upset and hurt the feelings of the Turkish nation."
Recent acknowledgments of the genocide:
Some have suggested that Turkish government's unwillingness to admit to the past atrocity by its predecessor may threaten its prospects for its future membership in the European Union. French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said:
"I believe that when the time comes, Turkey should come to terms with its past, be reconciled with its own history and recognize this tragedy. This is an issue that we will raise during the negotiation process. We will have about 10 years to do so and the Turks will have about 10 years to ponder their answer." 7
Developments 2001-now:
2001-JAN-18: France passed a law branding as genocide the mass murder of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.
2005-JUN: Another resolution will be voted upon in 2005-JUN in the German Bundestag.
2005-APR-24: The 90th anniversary of the genocide was observed. All survivors of the genocide will probably have died by the time of the next decennial remembrance.
2005-MAR: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and opposition leader Deniz Baykal agreed to address the past. The Prime Minister noted that the state archives in Ankara and Istanbul are open to everyone. He said that an independent entity -- like UNESCO -- might participate in an historical fact-finding mission.
2008-SEP: In a dramatic move President Sargsyan of Armenia invited President Gul of Turkey to Armenia to watch a World Cup qualifier between their two soccer teams. This was followed by representatives of the two states meeting to discuss opening their border, establishing diplomatic relations, and generally improving tensions between the countries.
2008-DEC-07: CNN presented a special program anchored by their Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour called "Scream Bloody Murder." It described various genocides thorough history with an emphasis on those who witnessed the atrocities, tried to stop them, and were ignored by the world. Ara Khachatourian of Armenia was critical of the relative lack of coverage of the Armenian genocide, and commented:
"Amanpour’s 'Scream Bloody Murder' is an important piece of journalism as it asks the very critical questions that could have prevented so many acts of Genocide. In its reporting, Amanpour is also very adept at pointing to US complicity in all these events, much like Samantha Power was in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book 'A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide'." 8.9
2008-DEC-12: a group of about 200 Turkish academics, journalists, writers, artists, and other public figures sent an open letter to Abdullah Gul, the President of Turkey, urging him to recognize the mass murder as a genocide. issued an apology via the Internet for the genocide. This event has been generally acknowledged by historians outside of Turkey The intellectuals described the event as the "Great Catastrophe" and acknowledged that it was a "genocide." The letter said, in part:
"The new situation formed in the South Caucasus as a result of the latest events, the bold step of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan to invite you to Yerevan and the meeting held reaffirm that establishing good-neighborly relations between Armenia and Turkey requires courageous and realistic solutions. First of all we face the knotty issue of the Armenian Genocide. ... The new situation formed in the South Caucasus as a result of the latest events, the bold step of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan to invite you to Yerevan and the meeting held reaffirm that establishing good-neighborly relations between Armenia and Turkey requires courageous and realistic solutions. First of all we face the knotty issue of the Armenian Genocide"According to Pakrat Estukian, editor of the Istanbul-based Armenian-Turkish newspaper, Agos, each of the signatories of the petition were not pressured to sign. They did it only after "... listening to the voice of their conscience." 10

References used:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Genocide history brief," at:
"The Armenian Genocide," at:
Sofia Kontogeorge Kostos, "Before the Silence," at:
"Memories from Smyrni - 1900 - 1922," at:
Roberto Lopes, "The Hellenic Genocide," at:
Bernhard Zand, "Armenian Genocide Plagues Ankara 90 Years On," Der Spiegel, 2005-APR-25. at:
"Turkey 'must admit Armenia dead;," BBC News, 2004-DEC-13, at:
Ara Khachatourian, "Documented omission: CNN special report ignores Armenian history on genocide," Armenia, 2008-DEC-05, at:
Samantha Power "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," Harper Perennial, (2007). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book review by Shawn Carkonen:
"During the three years (1993-1996) Samantha Power spent covering the grisly events in Bosnia and Srebrenica, she became increasingly frustrated with how little the United States was willing to do to counteract the genocide occurring there. After much research, she discovered a pattern: "The United States had never in its history intervened to stop genocide and had in fact rarely even made a point of condemning it as it occurred," she writes in this impressive book. Debunking the notion that U.S. leaders were unaware of the horrors as they were occurring against Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Iraqi Kurds, Rwandan Tutsis, and Bosnians during the past century, Power discusses how much was known and when, and argues that much human suffering could have been alleviated through a greater effort by the U.S. She does not claim that the U.S. alone could have prevented such horrors, but does make a convincing case that even a modest effort would have had significant impact. Based on declassified information, private papers, and interviews with more than 300 American policymakers, Power makes it clear that a lack of political will was the most significant factor for this failure to intervene. Some courageous U.S. leaders did work to combat and call attention to ethnic cleansing as it occurred, but the vast majority of politicians and diplomats ignored the issue, as did the American public, leading Power to note that "no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on." This powerful book is a call to make such indifference a thing of the past."
Gayane Mkrtchyan, "Appeals for Genocide recognition: Intellectuals in Armenia, Turkey address 1915 events," Armenia Now, 2008-DEC-12, at:

The U.S. and Turkey: Honesty Is the Best Policy

By Samantha Power
Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007

Ninety-two years ago, the "Young Turk" regime ordered the executions of Armenian civic leaders and intellectuals, and Turkish soldiers and militia forced the Armenian population to march into the desert, where more than a million died by bayonet or starvation. That horror helped galvanize Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew, to invent the word genocide, which was defined not as the extermination of an entire group but rather as a systematic effort to destroy a group. Lemkin wanted the term — and the international legal convention that grew out of it — to encompass ethnic cleansing and the murdering of a substantial part of a group. Otherwise, he feared, the world would wait until an entire group had been wiped out before taking any action.
But this month in Washington these historical truths — about events carried out on another continent, in another century — are igniting controversy among politicians as if the harms were unsubstantiated, local and recent. At stake, of course, is the question of whether the U.S. House of Representatives should offend Turkey by passing a resolution condemning the "Armenian genocide" of 1915.
All actors in the debate are playing the roles they have played for decades. Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit warned that if the House proceeds with a vote, "our military ties with the U.S. will never be the same again." Having recognized the genocide while campaigning for the White House, President George W. Bush nevertheless followed in the footsteps of his Oval Office predecessors, bemoaning the euphemistic "tragic suffering" of Armenians and wheeling out men and women of diplomatic and military rank to argue that the resolution would harm the indispensable U.S.-Turkish relationship. In Congress, Representatives in districts populated by Armenians generally support the measure, while those well cudgeled or coddled by the President or Pentagon don't. Official pressure has led many sponsors of the resolution to withdraw their support.
One feature of the decades-old script is new: The Turkish threats have greater credibility today than in the past. Mainly this is because the U.S. war in Iraq has dramatically increased Turkish leverage over Washington. Some 70% of U.S. air cargo en route to Iraq passes through Turkey, as does about one-third of the fuel used by the U.S. military there. While Turkey may react negatively in the short term, recognition of the genocide is warranted for four reasons. First, the House resolution tells the truth, and the U.S. would be the 24th country to officially acknowledge it. In arguing against the resolution, Bush hasn't dared dispute the facts. An Administration that has shown little regard for the truth is openly urging Congress to join it in avoiding honesty. It is inconceivable that even back in the days when the U.S. prized West Germany as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, Washington would have refrained from condemning the Holocaust at Germany's behest.
Second, the passage of time is only going to increase the size of the thorn in the side of what is indeed a valuable relationship with Turkey. Many a U.S. official (and even the occasional senior Turkish official) admits in private to wishing the U.S. had recognized the genocide years ago. Armenian survivors are passing away, but their descendants have vowed to continue the struggle. The vehemence of the Armenian diaspora is increasing, not diminishing. Third, America's leverage over Turkey is far greater than Turkey's over the U.S. The U.S. brought Turkey into NATO, built up its military and backed its membership in the European Union. Washington granted most-favored-nation trading status to Turkey, resulting in some $7 billion in annual trade between the two countries and $2 billion in U.S. investments there. Only Israel and Egypt outrank Turkey as recipients of U.S. foreign assistance. And fourth, for all the help Turkey has given the U.S. concerning Iraq, Ankara turned down Washington's request to use Turkish bases to launch the Iraq invasion, and it ignored Washington's protests by massing 60,000 troops at the Iraq border this month as a prelude to a widely expected attack in Iraqi Kurdistan. In other words, while Turkey may invoke the genocide resolution as grounds for ignoring U.S. wishes, it has a longer history of snubbing Washington when it wants to.
Back in 1915, when Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, protested the atrocities to the Turkish Minister of the Interior, the Turk was puzzled. "Why are you so interested in the Armenians anyway?" Mehmed Talaat asked. "We treat the Americans all right." While it is essential to ensure that Turkey continues to "treat the Americans all right," a stable, fruitful, 21st century relationship cannot be built on a lie.,8599,1672790,00.html

Saturday, January 31, 2009

U.S. Congress and Adolf Hitler on the Armenians

by United States Congress
Posted: Wednesday, January 07, 2004 at 12:26 PM CT

Experts from Congressional Speeches on the Armenians

SENATOR RUDY BOSCWITZ, R-Minn. (CR-Senate, 4/25/84, p. S4852): When Hitler first proposed his final solution, he was told that the world would never permit such a mass murder. Hitler silenced his advisers by asking, "Who remembers the Armenians?"
Today, I join my colleagues in answering Hitler by pledging the truth.
SENATOR CARL LEVIN, D-Mich. (CR-Senate, 4/24/84, p. S4703): But, regrettably it was soon forgotten, not by the surviving Armenians, but by most of the rest of the world. So that when Adolf Hitler planned his invasion of Poland and the destruction of the Jewish people, he was able to scornfully state, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
SENATOR HOWARD METZENBAUM, D-Ohio (CR-Senate, 4/24/84, p. S4719): Three years ago, in a speech given here in the Capital rotunda, Elie Wiesel, Chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, made a telling point.
Professor Wiesel said: "Before the planning of the final solution Hitler asked "Who remembers the Armenians?" He was right. No one remembered them, as no one remembered the Jews. Rejected by everyone, they felt expelled from history."
CONGRESSMAN LES ASPIN, D-Wis. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2977): Two decades later, when adolf Hitler was planning the elimination of the Jewish people, he is reported to save said, "Who remembers the Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN HOWARD BERMAN, D-Calif. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p.H2982): It should be a source of concern to all of us that to this day Turkey does not acknowledge, despite eyewitness accounts, either the facts or its historical responsibility; for the line from Armenia to Auschwitz is direct. The holocaust of European Jewry has its precedence in the events of 1915 to 1922. "Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians, " Hitler told his generals on the eve of the extermination of the Jews. The horrendous events of World War II overshadowed the Armenian genocide, and it is only recently, through the peaceful efforts of the Armenian groups, that the rest of the world has once again begun to recognize the collective agony of the Armenian people.
CONGRESSMAN THOMAS BLILEY, R-Va. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2979): Mr. Speaker, I know that the actions of the Ottoman Government did not lead directly to the forced starvation of the Ukraine by Josef Stalin, the gas chambers of Auschwitz, the gruesome slaughter of the Cambodians. Idi Amin's death campaign in Uganda, and the more recent actions in Matabeleland in Zimbabwe, but I know that human nature, even a warped and infamous human nature, needs the comfort of believing that it can get away with something before it proceeds. As an example I would cite Adolf Hitler's statement concerning the final solution for the Jews of Europe when he said, "Who now remembers the Armenians?" If more proof is needed then we can all look up Idi Amin's frequent statements of his adoration for Adolf Hitler as a man who knew how to handle a problem.
CONGRESSMAN EDWARD BOLAND, D-Mass. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2975): The silence with which the community of nations greeted the decimation of the Armenian people may have emboldened those who would later perpetrate similar acts. It certainly had an effect on Adolf Hitler who while planning the extermination of millions of Jews was asked how the world would respond a program of mass murder. In reply Hitler said, "Who remembers the Armenians?"
CONGRESSWOMAN BARBARA BOXER, D-Calif. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2977): The repeated denials of these well documented crimes of the Ottoman Turkish regime call to mind the Nazi maxim that a big lie if often repeated becomes truth. Hitler himself cited the Armenians massacres as evidence that humanity cares nothing for the murder of a people.
CONGRESSMAN JIM COURTER, R-N.J (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2977): But here can be no could that this ignorance of history's darker events aids those who perpetrate them, and those who would do son in the future. It is known that Hitler cited that fact that the Armenian genocide was little known, little discussed and little remembered in his time. We can only imagine the conclusions he drew from this fact.
CONGRESSMAN MERVYN DYMALLY, D-Calif. (CR-House, 4/12/84, p. H2924): Today, historians argue about the number of Armenians actually killed. Others claim that no genocide took place at all. This is a devastating conclusion to the survivors, whether they be Americans, Lebanese, Egyptians, French or citizens of any other country..... If we deny the Armenian Genocide - a historical event that has been well documented - we echo the words of Adolph [sic] Hitler who said, "Who still talks nowadays, of the extermination of Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN EDWARD FEIGHAN, D-Ohio (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2971): But only twenty years after the fact, the century's first genocide was the "forgotten genocide." As Hitler paused on the edge of his own reign of terror, he asked "Who remembers the Armenians?" And no one had. A world blind to the lessons of history saw them repeated on a wider scale.
CONGRESSWOMAN GERALDINE FERRARO, D-N.Y.(Quoted in the Armenian Reporter, July 26, 1984, p.2.) I have dwelled on the Armenian genocide not because it is unique as a flagrant abuse of human rights, but precisely because it is not unique. The world knew about the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews ñand failed to act. Those failures spread the shame of these unspeakable crimes against humanity far beyond those directly responsible for them.
The events in Turkey in 1915 and in Germany in World War II, and in Cambodia in the 1970's, are of course not directly related. The madness and brutality of the perpetrators of each genocide had their own tragic basis.
But there is a strong tie in the world's silence in the face of each of these horrors. We can only be haunted by the words of Adolph Hitler, who said, in embarking on his "crazed attack" on the Jews. "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
Now, today, years too late for the millions killed in the Nazi gas chambers and Khmer Rouge execution centers, we stand to say that we speak of the annihilation of the Armenians. And of the Jews, and of the Cambodians. We stand to remind the world of these crimes against humanity, that we may prevent future crimes.
CONGRESSMAN HAMILTON FISH, R-N.Y. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2982): In speaking of the consequences of the Jewish Holocaust, Adolf Hitler once remarked: "Who remembers the Armenians?" Indeed it is our responsibility to do just that; remember that which we would rather choose to forget.
CONGRESSMAN WILLIAM FORD, D-Mich (CR_House, 4/24/84, p. H2981): Even Adolf Hitler used past events to shape his own policies. In 1939 as he was beginning his invasion of Poland, Hitler ordered the mass extermination of its inhabitants, commenting, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" Humanity's failure to remember the genocide of an entire people scarcely 25 years earlier gave Hitler the go ahead to exterminate millions of innocent people.
CONGRESSMAN SAM GEJDENSON, D-Conn. (CR-House, 4/25/84, p. E1766): In the now infamous quote, Adolf Hitler, before beginning his Holocaust against the Jews, referred to international indifference in the face of the Armenian genocide, "Who," he asked, "remembers the Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN WILLIAM GREEN, R-N.Y. (CR-House, 4/2/84, p. H2972): When Hitler was about to begin the Holocaust and a member of his staff asked him what the world would think, Hitler is reported to have replied, "Who remembers the Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN RICHARD LEHMAN, D-Calif. (CR-House, 4/12/84, p.H2793): Questioned by an aide about his policy of Jewish genocide, Hitler said: "Who after all now remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN BRUCE MORRISON, Conn. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2979): Adolf Hitler took advantage of the world's amnesia, looking at the Armenian genocide as a precedent for his own Holocaust perpetrated against Europe's Jews. Hitler said, in a chilling remark made in 1939. "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN NICHOLAS MAVROULES, D-Mass. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2979): Sadly, however, the Armenian genocide would be surpassed by the Nazi holocaust in the 1930's and 1940's. Adolf Hitler, in an attempt to explain away his maniacal slaughter, would ask with a laugh: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2976): It is of paramount importance that we do not let this tragedy be forgotten with the passage of time. This act of inhumanity, based on religious and nationalistic grounds, was as terrible as any manmade catastrophe to that time yet only two decades later Hitler could ask, "Who remembers the Armenians?" Perhaps if the world had paid more attention to the plight of the Armenian massacre later tragedies could have been averted.
CONGRESSMAN JAMES SHANNON, D-Mass. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2973): This act of wholesale annihilation set the stage for Hitler's attempted extermination of the Jewish people. He justified his plan to doubting coconspirators with the reasoning that no one remembered the Armenian genocide which had taken pace only 15 years earlier.
CONGRESSMAN HENRY WAXMAN, D-Caliph. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2981): This day server to remind us that this first genocide of our century served as a precedent for the holocaust of World War II when more than 6 million people were destroyed by a government leader who responded: "Whoever cared about the Armenians?" When it was suggested that world opinion would not allow the Nazis to get away with their attempt to eliminate the Jewish people.
APPENDIX II: Excerpts from the Lochner Version of the August 22, 1939, Obersalzberg Speech Dealing with the Planned Invasion of Poland Lochner, 1942, p.2: Our strength consists of our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter ñ with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It's matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me.
I have issued the command ñI'll have anybody who utter one word of criticism executed by a firing squad - that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy.
Accordingly, I have placed my death head formations in readiness ñ for the present only in the East ñ with orders to them do send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space [lebensraum] which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?
NCA, Volume VII, p. 753: Our strength is in our quickness and our brutality. Ghenghis Khan had millions of women and children killed by his own will and with a gay heart. History sees only in him a great state builder. What weak Western European civilization thinks about me does not matter.
I have given the order, and will have everyone shot who utters one word of criticism that the aim of the war is not to attain certain lines, but consist in the physical destruction of the opponent. Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only my "Death's Head units" with the order to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of the Polish race or language. Only in such a way will we win the vital space that we need. Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?
The Times, November 24, 1945, p. 4: Our strength is in our quickness and our brutality. Ghengis Khan had millions of women killed by his own will and with a gay heart. History sees in him only a great State-builder. What the weak European civilization thinks about me does not matter.
I have given the order, and will have everyone shot who utters one word of criticism...
Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only my Death's Head units, with the order to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of the Polish race or language. Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?
APPENDIX III: Excerpts from the Nuremberg Versions of the August 22, 1939, Obersalzberg Speech Dealing with the Planned Invasion of Poland Us-30 [1014-PS]
TMWC, Vol. II, pp. 290-291NCA, Vol. III, pp. 665-666DGFP, Vol. VII, pp. 205-206
Destruction of Poland in the foreground. The aim is elimination of living forces, not the arrival at a certain line: Even if war should break out in the West, the destruction of Poland shall be the primary objective. Quick decision because of the season.
I shall give a propagandistic cause for starting the war ñ never mind whether it bi plausible or not. The victor shall not be asked, later on, whether we told the truth or not. In starting and making a war, not be Right is what matters but Victory.
Have no pity. Brutal attitude. 80 million people shall get what is their right. Their existence has to be secured. The strongest has the right. Greatest severity.
Quick decision necessary. Un shakable faith in German soldier. A crisis may happen only if the nerves of the leaders give way.
First aim: advance to the Vistula and Narew. Our technical superiority will break the nerve of the Poles. Every newly created Polish force shall again be broken at once. Constant war of attrition.
New German frontier according to healthily principles. Possibly a protectorate as a buffer. Military operations shall not be influenced by these reflections. Complete destruction of Poland is a military aim. To be fast is the main thing. Pursuit until complete elimination.
Boehm, August 22, 1939 TMWC, Vol. XLI, p.25: The goal is the elimination and destruction of Poland's military power even if war should begin in the west. A swift, successful outcome in the east offers the best prospects for restricting the conflict.
A suitable propaganda cause will be advanced for the conflict. The credibility of this is unimportant. Right lies with the victor.
We must shut and harden our hearts. To whomever ponders the world order it is clear that what is important are the war ñlike accomplishments of the best....
We can and must believe in the value of the German soldier. In times of crisis he has generally retained his nerve, while the leadership has lost theirs....
Once again: the first priority is the swiftness of the operations. To adapt to each new situation to shatter the hostile forces, wherever they appear and to the last one.
This is the military goal which is the prerequisite for the narrower political foal of later drawing up new frontiers.
Halder, August 22, 1939, DGFP, Vol. VII, p. 559: Aim: Annihilation of Poland ñ elimination of its vital forces. It is not a matter of gaining a specific line or new frontier, but rather the annihilation of an enemy, which constantly must be attempted by new always.
Solution: Means immaterial. The victor is never called on to vindicate his actions. We are not concerned with having justice on our side, but solely with having justice on our side, but solely with victory.
Execution: Harsh and remorseless. Be steeled against all signs of compassion!
Speed: Faith in the German soldier, even if reverses occur.
Of paramount importance are the wedges [which must be driven] from the southeast to the Vistula, and from the north to the Narev and the Vistula.
Promptness in meeting new situations; new means must be devised to deal with them quickly.
New Frontiers: New Reich territory. Outlying protectorate territory. Military operations must not be affected by regard for the future frontiers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Israel, Turkey and the politics of genocide

Globe and Mail online
January 23, 2009 at 1:34 PM EST

President Obama - I love saying those words - has momentarily united the world. Almost. Among the exceptions, though barely noticed by the mainstream media, is the estrangement of Turkey and Israel, previously staunch allies in the turbulent Middle East.
At first blush, this alliance may seem counterintuitive, but in fact it makes good strategic sense for both countries. Israel gets a warm working relationship with one of the largest Muslim countries in the world, while enriching Israel's all-important industrial-military complex. Less than two months ago, for instance, came the news of a deal worth $140-million to Israeli firms to upgrade Turkey's air force. In the hard-boiled, realpolitik terms that determine Israel's strategies, it's a no-brainer. Almost.

In return, Turkey gets military, economic and diplomatic benefits. But it also gets something less tangible, something that matters deeply for reasons hard for outsiders to grasp. As part of the Faustian bargain between the two countries, a succession of Israeli governments of all stripes has adamantly refused to recognize that in 1915 the Turkish government was responsible for launching a genocide against its Armenian minority. Some 1.5-million Armenian women, men and children were successfully killed.

I should make clear that this Israeli position is not held casually. On the contrary. Over the years Israelis, with a few notably courageous exceptions, have actually worked against attempts to safeguard the memory of the Armenian genocide. (The bible on this issue is the excellent book by an Israeli, Yair Auron, called The Banality of Denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide, 2003.)
For many, this may well be a pretty esoteric sidebar to the world's many crises. But readers need to understand that every Turkish government for almost a century now has passionately denied that a genocide took place at all. Yet the vast majority of disinterested scholars of genocide have publicly affirmed that it was indeed a genocide, one of the small number in the 20th century (with the Holocaust and Rwanda) that have incontestably met the definition set down in the UN's 1948 Genocide Convention.
For Armenians in the Western world, even after 94 years, nothing is more important than persuading other governments to recognize this. For Turkish authorities, even after 94 years, nothing is more important than preventing that recognition. In that pursuit, Israel has been perhaps Turkey's most powerful ally. After all, if the keepers of the memory of the Holocaust don't acknowledge 1915, why should anyone else?
But the Israeli-Turkish bargain goes well beyond Israel. Not only is Israel, of all the unlikely states in the world, a genocide denier, but also many established Jewish organizations in other countries, especially the United States, have followed suit. In the United States, those who argue that denying the Holocaust is psychologically tantamount to a second holocaust have taken the lead in pressuring presidents and Congress against recognizing the reality of 1915. Resolutions calling for recognition are regularly pushed by American-Armenians and their many supporters. Jewish groups regularly lead the opposition. Some believe that members of these groups in fact understand perfectly well the rights and wrongs of the case. But a mindset that backs any and all Israeli government initiatives trumps all else. And successfully. Repeated attempts in Congress to pass this resolution has failed, even though the list of nations that now recognizes the Armenian genocide has grown steadily and, thanks to Stephen Harper, now includes Canada.
It is this rather unseemly, if not unholy, Israeli-Turkish deal that has been among the many victims of the latest Israeli attack on Gaza. Whether the Israelis anticipated it or not, the Turkish government turned against its erstwhile ally with a vengeance, pulling few punches. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan accused Israel of "perpetrating inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction. Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents." Mr. Erdogan described Israel's attack on Gaza as "savagery" and a "crime against humanity."
Israel formally described this language as "unacceptable" and certain Israeli media outlets have raised the stakes. The Jerusalem Post editorialized that given Turkey's record of killing tens of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq, "we're not convinced that Turkey has earned the right to lecture Israelis about human rights." Israel's deputy foreign minister was even more pointed: "Erdogan says that genocide is taking place in Gaza. We [Israel] will then recognize the Armenian-related events as genocide." Suddenly, genocide turns into a geopolitical pawn.
It isn't easy to choose a winner in the cynicism stakes here. Here's what one Turkish columnist, Barcin Yinanc, shrewdly wrote: "When April comes, I can imagine the [Turkish] government instructing its Ambassador to Israel to mobilize the Israeli government to stop the Armenian initiatives in the U.S. Congress. I can hear some Israelis telling the Turkish Ambassador to go talk to Hamas to lobby the Congress."
I'm guessing some readers work on the naïve assumption that an event is deemed genocidal based on the facts of the case. Silly you. In the real world, you call it genocide if it bolsters your interests. If it doesn't, it's not. It's actually the same story as with preventing genocide.
What happens now? Candidate Obama twice pledged that he would recognize the Armenian claim of genocide. But so had candidate George W. Bush eight years earlier, until he was elected and faced the Turkish/Jewish lobby. Armenian-Americans and their backers are already pressing Mr. Obama to fulfill his pledge. With the Turkish-Israeli alliance deeply strained, the position of the leading Jewish organizations is very much in question this time. Whatever the outcome, be sure that politics, not genocide, will be the decisive factor.

Gerald Caplan, author of The Betrayal of Africa, writes frequently on issues related to genocide.