Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nothing Personal / Among the deniers

Nothing Personal / Among the deniers

By Thomas O'Dwyer

If the victims of genocides cannot depend on the support of the descendants of the Holocaust - where on earth will anyone ever find truth and justice?

When this column started around three years ago, one of the first people I went to meet and write about was Prof. Deborah Lipstadt. She's the historian who had just won a place for herself in Jewish legend by demolishing once and for all - with the aid of the splendid British justice Charles Gray - the lies of Holocaust denier David Irving, who had sued her for libel and lost.

Lipstadt was full of praise for the way she had been sustained during the long court ordeal by a staunchly supportive media - after all, fighting neo-Nazi lies is for all human dignity and safety as well as for Jewish justice. How sickening therefore is it to watch the disgusting machinations of the Jewish state when it comes to its cowardly refusal to speak out stridently against the deniers of the Armenian genocide. If the victims of genocides cannot depend on the support of the descendants of the Holocaust - when on earth will anyone ever find truth and justice anywhere?

After a newspaper item appeared on Sunday saying that a government brochure mentioned that a "third generation survivor of the Armenian holocaust in 1915" would light a torch at the Independence Day ceremony, Turkish embassy hysteria went into its customary overdrive in protest.

In a remarkable act of craven capitulation to denial, the Knesset and government caved in and actually printed 2,000 new brochures for the ceremony. The revisionist version of history expunged the truth and replaced it with a description of the torch-lighter Naomi Nalbandian as a "daughter of the long-suffering Armenian people" and her grandparents as "survivors of historical Armenia, 1915."

The Ottoman Empire ethnically cleansed and murdered 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1918. The Turkish army drove hundreds of thousands of Armenians through the Der Zor desert where they died from hunger and thirst. What is more, the government sanctioned raids by Turkish soldiers, who destroyed whole Armenian villages, not sparing even the women or the children. The Armenian population was completely wiped out in Western Armenia. About 600,000 survived and now live in various countries of the world (including modern Armenia).

Modern Turkey continues to vehemently deny these crimes against humanity and fights ferociously around the globe to bury the historical facts. And again this week - and not for the first time - we have witnessed the State of Israel's complicity in the lie, because it is scared of upsetting its only friend in the Muslim states. This is political expediency at its most morally bankrupt. Tripping over itself in its stupid defense of the untenable Turkish position, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has again and again played an active role in suppressing even discussion of the issue.

"Outrageous," is how Deborah Lipstadt, the defeater of deniers, has described the Turkish denial. "The Turks have managed to structure this debate so that people question whether this really happened." Now shouldn't that sound familiar to any Jewish ear? A few months before she smashed Irving, Lipstadt was one of 150 scholars and writers who signed a Washington Post ad condemning Turkey's persistent denial of the Armenian genocide. Among the others signing was no less a person than Prof. Yehuda Bauer, the academic director of Yad Vashem. "We and many others have accepted the United Nations definition of genocide and there can be no argument about [the Armenian case] being genocide," he said at the time.

"I am an Armenian and I have no right to say what is my identity," said Nalbandian after the government and the Turks told her what she had really meant to say - and would say. She added: "They don't say to second and third generations of Holocaust survivors `don't say that,' do they?" What if the rest of the world behaved as cravenly in the face of Holocaust deniers as Israeli officials do in the face of the Turks?

During a similar row several years ago the then Armenian foreign minister said in an interview: "There is some discrepancy between Israel's words and their deeds on genocide. Israel has to show a moral authority since we have gone through a similar history and experience. What is shocking is that there should be any question whatsoever of Israel denying the murder of a nation. The sooner the Turks come clean, admit the crimes of their great-grandparents, and get it over with, the better for all humanity.

The British for many decades denied responsibility for the Irish potato famine that killed an estimated two million people and sent another two million into exile - because it was a natural disaster - although history recorded full well that the British were taking convoys of food out of Ireland under armed guard. It took Tony Blair to admit responsibility 150 years later, and apologize, to lay the shame to rest.

Turkey's denials of the Armenian massacre will not endure - but the memory of Israel's refusal to speak out against the denial just might. "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" asked Adolf Hitler when persuading his fellow thugs that a Jewish extermination would be tolerated by the West.

Of course there is one Turk you can quote who still commands almost reverential respect from his fellow countryman - Kemal Ataturk, the legendary founder of the modern nation. In an interview published on August 1, 1926 in The Los Angeles Examiner, Ataturk talked about the former Young Turks in his country: "These left-overs from the former Young Turk Party, who should have been made to account for the millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse from their homes and massacred, have been restive under the Republican rule." When we have the word of Ataturk himself, we don't need to be accused of "pandering to the views of the enemies and haters of Turks" as one Turkish diplomat once wrote to me for daring to question the lie. I assume he meant the Kurds - who for decades "didn't exist" either in Turkish myth except as "mountain Turks."

The three rulers of Turkey as a triumvirate during the time of the genocide were Cemal Pasha, Enver Pasha and Talat Pasha. Of them, British Viscount James Bryce said in a speech on October 6, 1915: "The massacres are the result of a policy which, as far as can be ascertained, has been entertained for some considerable time by the gang of unscrupulous adventurers who are now in possession of the government of the Turkish Empire."

After the German ambassador persistently brought up the Armenian question in 1918, Talat Pasha said "with a smile": "What on earth do you want? The question is settled. There are no more Armenians."

Later, Prince Abdul Mecid, the heir apparent to the Ottoman Throne, said during an interview: "I refer to those awful massacres. They are the greatest stain that has ever disgraced our nation and race. They were entirely the work of Talat and Enver. I heard some days before they began that they were intended. I went to Istanbul and insisted on seeing Enver. I asked him if it was true that they intended to recommence the massacres that had been our shame and disgrace under Abdul Hamid. The only reply I could get from him was: `It is decided. It is the program.'"

Keep on denying, folks. But remember, the dead won't let you forget.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dead Reckoning; Holocausts vs holocausts

Dead Reckoning; Holocausts vs holocausts

The Independent (London)
August 5, 2000, Saturday


by Robert Fisk

In the spring of 1993, with my car keys, I slowly unearthed a set of skulls
from the clay wall of a hill in northern Syria. I had been looking for the
evidence of a mass murder - the world's first genocide - for the previous
two days but it took a 101-year-old Armenian woman to locate the river bed
where her family were murdered in the First World War. The more I dug into
the hillside next to the Habur river, the more skulls
slid from the earth,
bright white at first then, gradually, collapsing into paste as the cold,
wet air reached the calcium for the first time since their mass murder. The
teeth were unblemished - these were mostly young people - and the bones I
later found stretched behind them were strong. Backbones, femurs, joints, a
few of them laced with the remains of some kind of cord. There were dozens
of skeletons here. The more I dug away with my car keys, the more eye
sockets peered at me out of the clay. It was a place of horror.

In 1915, the world reacted with equal horror as news emerged from the dying
Ottoman Empire of the deliberate destruction of at least a million and a
half Christian Armenians. Their fate - the ethnic cleansing of this ancient
race from the lands of Turkey, the razing of their towns and churches, the
mass slaughter of their menfolk, the massacre of their women and children -
was denounced in Paris, London and
Washington as a war crime. Tens of
thousands of Armenian women - often after mass rape by their Turkish guards
- were left to die of starvation with their children along the banks of the
Habur river near Deir ez-Zour, in what is today northern Syria. The few men
who survived were tied together and thrown into the river. Turkish
gendarmes would fire a bullet into one of them and his body would drag the
rest to their deaths. Their skulls - a few of them - were among the bones I
unearthed on that terrible afternoon seven years ago.

The deliberate nature of this slaughter was admitted by the then Turkish
leader, Enver Pasha, in a conversation with Henry Morgenthau, the US
ambassador in Constantinople, a Jewish-American diplomat whose vivid
reports to Washington in 1915 form an indictment of the greatest war crime
the modern world had ever known. Enver denounced the Armenians for siding
with Russia in its war with the Turks. But even
the Germans, Ottoman
Turkey's ally in the First World War, condemned the atrocities; for it was
the Armenian civilian population which was cut down by the Turks. The
historian Arnold Toynbee, who worked for the Foreign Office during the war,
was to record the "atmosphere of horror" which lay over the abandoned
Armenian lands in the aftermath of the savagery. Men had been lined up on
bridges to have their throats cut and be thrown into rivers; in orchards
and fields, women and children had been knifed. Armenians had been shot by
the thousand, sometimes beaten to death with clubs. Earlier Turkish pogroms
against the Armenians of Asia Minor had been denounced by Lord Gladstone.
In the aftermath of the 1914-18 war, Winston Churchill was the most
eloquent in reminding the world of the Armenian Holocaust.

"In 1915 the Turkish Government began and ruthlessly carried out the
infamous general massacre and deportation of Armenians in Asia
Churchill wrote in his magisterial volume four of The Great War. "... the
clearance of the race from Asia Minor was about as complete as such an act,
on a scale so great, could well be ... There is no reasonable doubt that
this crime was planned and executed for political reasons." Churchill
referred to the Turks as "war criminals" and wrote of their "massacring
uncounted thousands of helpless Armenians - men, women and children
together; whole districts blotted out in one administrative holocaust -
these were beyond human redress."

So Churchill himself, writing 80 years ago, used the word "holocaust" about
the Armenian massacres. I am not surprised. A few miles north of the site
where I had dug up those skulls, I found a complex of underground caves
beneath the Syrian desert. Thousands of Armenians had been driven into this
subterranean world in 1915 and Turkish gendarmes lit bonfires at the mouths
of the caves. The
smoke was blown into the caves and the men were
asphyxiated. The caves were the world's first gas chambers. No wonder,
then, that Hitler is recorded as asking his generals - as he planned his
own numerically far more terrible holocaust - "Who does now remember the

Could such a crime be denied? Could such an act of mass wickedness be
covered up? Or could it, as Hitler suggested, be forgotten? Could the
world's first holocaust - a painful irony, this - be half-acknowledged but
downgraded in the list of human bestiality as the dreadful 20th century
produced further acts of mass barbarity?

Alas, all this has come to pass. When I wrote about the Armenian massacres
in The Independent in 1993, the Turks denounced my article - as they have
countless books and investigations before and since - as a lie. Turkish
readers wrote to the editor to demand my dismissal from the paper. If
Armenian civilians had been killed,
they wrote, this was a result of the
anarchy that existed in Ottoman Turkey in the First World War, civil chaos
in which countless Turks had died and in which Armenian paramilitaries had
deliberately taken the side of Tsarist Russia. The evidence of European
commissions into the massacres, the eye-witness accounts of Western
journalists at the later slaughter of Armenians at Smyrna - the present-day
holiday resort of Izmir where British sunbathers today have no idea of the
bloodbath that took place around their beaches - the denunciations of
Morgenthau and Churchill, are all dismissed as propaganda.

When a Holocaust conference was to be held in Israel, the Turkish
government objected to the inclusion of material on the Armenian slaughter.
Incredibly, Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel withdrew from the conference
after the Israeli foreign ministry said that it might damage
Israeli-Turkish relations. The conference went ahead, but
only in miniature
form. In the United States, Turkey's powerful lobby groups attack
journalists or academics who suggest the Armenian genocide was fact.
Turkish ambassadors regularly write letters - which have appeared in all
British newspapers, even in the Israeli press - denying the truth of the
Armenian Holocaust. No one - save the Armenians - objects to this denial.
Scarcely a whimper comes from those who would, rightly, condemn any denial
of the Jewish Holocaust.

For Turkey - no longer the "sick man of Europe" - is courted by the Western
powers which so angrily condemned its cruelty in the last century. It is a
valued member of the Nato alliance - our ally in bombing Serbia last year -
the closest regional ally of Israel and a major buyer of US and French
weaponry. Just as we remained largely silent at the persecution of the
Kurds, so we prefer to ignore the world's first holocaust. While Britain's
massive contribution
to the proposed Euphrates dam project in south-eastern
Turkey was in the balance, Tony Blair was not going to mention the Armenian
atrocities. Indeed, when this year he announced that Britain was to honour
an annual Holocaust Day, he made no mention of the Armenians. Holocaust
Day, it seems, was to be a Jewish-only affair. And it was to take a capital
"H" when it applied to the Jews.

I've always agreed with this. Mass ethnic slaughter on such a scale -
Hitler's murder of six million Jews - deserves a capital "H". But I also
believe that the genocide of other races merits a capital "H". Millions of
Jews - despite Wiesel's gutlessness and the shameful reaction of the
Israeli government - have shown common cause with the Armenians in their
suffering, acknowledging the 1915 massacres as the precursor of the "Shoah"
or Jewish Holocaust. Norman Finkelstein in his angry new book on the
"Holocaust industry" makes a similar point, adding
that the Jewish
experience - both his parents were extermination camp survivors - should
not be allowed to diminish the genocide committed against other ethnic
groups in modern history. Indeed, the very word "genocide" was invented for
the Armenians in 1944 - by a Polish-born Jew, Raphael Lemkin.

Nor can I myself forget the Armenian Holocaust. The very last survivors of
that genocide are still - just - alive, and several of them live in Beirut
where I am based as Middle East correspondent of The Independent. I have
read extensively about and, occasionally, researched the Jewish Holocaust -
my own book about the Lebanese war, Pity the Nation, begins in Auschwitz,
where I found frozen lakes filled with the powdered bones of the dead from
the ashpits of Birkenau. But the Armenian Holocaust has been "my" story
because it is part of the Middle East's history as well as the world's.
Only this year, I interviewed Hartun, a 101-year-old
blind Armenian in an
old people's home in East Beirut who remembered how, in the Syrian desert
in 1915, his mother pleaded with Turks not to rape her 18-year-old daughter
- Hartun's sister. "As she begged them not to take my sister, they beat her
to death," Hartun recalled. "I remember her dying, shouting 'Hartun,
Hartun, Hartun' over and over. When she was dead, they took my sister away
on a horse. I never saw her again." Hartun - after years of bitterness and
longing for revenge - was overcome with what he called "my Christian
belief" and decided to abandon the notion of vengeance. "When the Turkish
earthquake killed so many people last year," he told me, "I prayed for the
poor Turkish people."

It was a deeply moving example of compassion from a man whose suffering
those Turks will not admit and whose Holocaust we prefer to ignore. Stirred
partly by Hartun's story, I wrote an article for The Independent in January
of this
year on the "sublimation" of the Armenian genocide, its wilful
denial by US academics who hold American university professorships funded
by the Turkish government, and the absence of any reference to the
Armenians in the British Government's announcement of Holocaust Day. And,
yes, I referred to the Armenian Holocaust - as I did to the Jewish
Holocaust - with a capital "H". Chatting to an Armenian acquaintance, I
mentioned that I had given the Armenian genocide the same capital "H" which
I believe should be attached to all acts of genocide.

Little could I have guessed how quickly the dead would rise from their
graves. When the article appeared in The Independent - a paper which has
never failed to dig into human wickedness visited upon every race and creed
- my references to the Jewish Holocaust remained with a capital "H". But
the Armenian Holocaust had been downgraded to a lower case "h". "Tell me,
Robert," my Armenian friend
asked me in suppressed fury, "how do we
Armenians qualify for a capital 'H'? Didn't the Turks kill enough of us? Or
is it because we're not Jewish?"

There are no conspiracies on The Independent's subs desk; just a tough, no
-nonsense rule that our articles follow a grammatical "house style" and
conform to what is called "common usage". And the Jewish Holocaust, through
common usage, takes a capital "H". Other holocausts don't. No one is quite
sure why - the same practice is followed in newspapers and books all over
the world, although it has been the subject of debate in the United States,
not least by Finkelstein. Harvard turned down a professorial "Chair of
Holocaust and Cognate Studies" because academics objected to the genocide
of other groups (including the Armenians) being lumped together as
"cognate". But none of this answered the questions of my Armenian friend.
To have told him his people didn't qualify for a capital
"H" would have
been shameful and insulting.

A debate then opened within The Independent. I wrote in a memo that the
word "holocaust" could be cheapened by over-use and exaggeration - take the
agency report last year which referred to the "holocaust" of wildlife after
an oil -spill on the French coast. But I said that I still had no answer
worthy of the question posed by my Armenian friend.

One of the paper's top wordsmiths was asked to comment - a grammatical
expert who regularly teases out the horrors of definition in an imperfect
and savage world. He cited Chambers Dictionary, which stated that the
Jewish Holocaust was "usually" capitalised. And, said our expert on the
paper, "It is in the nature of a proper noun to apply to only one thing."
Thus there may be many crusades but only one Crusade (the Middle Ages one).
There may be many cities but the City is London. Similarly the Renaissance.

"There can be only one
Holocaust," he wrote. "Is the Holocaust really
unique? Yes. It was perpetrated by modern Europeans. Its purported
justification was a perversion of Darwin, one of the great thinkers of
modern Europe. Above all, in the gas chambers and crematoria it
manufactured death by modern industrial methods. The Holocaust says to
modern Western man that his technological mastery will not save him from
sin, but rather magnify the results of his sins. There have been acts of
genocide throughout history and some of them have killed more people than
the Nazis did, but we call the Nazi holocaust 'the Holocaust' because it is
our holocaust."

Must we, our grammarian asked, "commit grammatical faux pas and overturn an
accepted usage for which there is ample justification? Finally, where does
it end? Are, for instance, the crimes of Stalin against minority
nationalities in the Soviet Union not just as bad as the Armenian
slaughters? What of the
Khmer Rouge? Rwanda? The Roman destruction of
Carthage? Are these also to be 'Holocausts'? If not, why not?"

Powerful arguments, but ones with which I disagreed. The Jewish Holocaust,
I wrote back, should be capitalised not because its victims were European
Jews, or those of any other race, but because its victims were human
beings. Human values, the right to life, the struggle against evil, are
universal - "not confined to Europeans or one ethnic or religious group, or
involving those who distorted Darwin's theories of biological evolution".
It was, after all, The Independent's editorial policy that the world must
fight against all atrocities - a belief which underlay our demand for
humanitarian action in East Timor and Kosovo. This did not mean that I
regarded Timor and Kosovo as holocausts, but that we should never accept
the idea that one group of victims had special status over others. I spend
hours telling Arabs that they
must accept and acknowledge the facts of the
Jewish Holocaust, but if we are now to regard this as a specifically
European crime, as "our" crime, I have few arguments left. The Arabs can
say it is none of their business.

As for the question, "Where does it end?" Yes, what about Armenia? And
Rwanda? If Armenians are disqualified from a capital "H" because they only
lost one and a half million, what is Rwanda's sin of exclusion? Religion?
Race? Colour? When Armenians in Israel speak of their people's suffering,
they use the Hebrew word Shoah - which means Holocaust.

The Independent's editor suggested that we should debate these questions in
an article in the paper - this is the article - but the issues, of course,
remain unresolved. "Common usage" is a bane to all us journalists but it is
not sacred. It doesn't have to stand still. My father fought in what he
called the Great War - common usage which was later amended, after
1945, to
the First World War. Similarly, I believe, the Holocaust. In the aftermath
of my January remarks on the Armenian genocide, The Independent published a
denial of that same genocide by a Turkish Cypriot academic, in which we
printed the word Holocaust with a capital "H". The world did not end. The
Turks did not complain. Nor did any members of the Jewish community.
Indeed, only last year, a prominent academic at the Hebrew University's
Armenian studies programme in Israel talked of the Armenians and Jews
having "suffered holocaust".

In the meantime, Holocaust - or holocaust - denial continues. President
Chirac has declined to endorse the French parliament's acknowledgement of
the Armenian genocide and forthcoming Holocaust conferences have not
invited Armenians to participate. Mr Blair doesn't mention the destruction
of the Armenians. They don't count, literally. Common usage - and our
concern for Turkish
sensitivities - has seen to that, even though genocide
is anything but normal. Germany dutifully acknowledges its historical guilt
for the wickedness of the Jewish Holocaust. Not so the Turks. Armenians
accept that a few Turks - courageous, outstanding men - risked their lives
in 1915 to shelter their Armenian friends and neighbours, just as
"righteous gentiles" did for the Jews of Europe. But Turkey cannot honour
these brave men. Since the Armenian Holocaust supposedly did not exist, nor
did they. A holocaust rather than a Holocaust helps to diminish the
suffering of the Armenians. What's in a name? What's in a capital letter?
How many other skulls lie beneath the sands of northern Syria? Did the
Turks not kill enough Armenians?

Saturday, September 23, 2006


San Francisco Chronicle, CA
Dec 15 2003

by Ruth Rosen

IMAGINE IF a producer from National Public Radio invited a scholar to
speak about his new book on the Jewish Holocaust and then, to provide
"balance," included another guest known for denying that the Nazis
murdered 6 million Jews.

Inconceivable, right?

Yet this is analogous to what happened to Peter Balakian, a professor
of American Studies at Colgate University and author of "The Burning
Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response" (HarperCollins,
2003) -- a gripping and evocative account of the 1915 genocide of
more than a million Armenian people at the hands of the Ottoman

As soon as his book appeared on the New York Times bestseller list,
Balakian received a flood of invitations to speak about what some
have called "the hidden holocaust."

producer, however, insisted on inviting another guest to
present the Turkish "perspective" that no genocide ever occurred.
Balakian declined the invitation.

Unfortunately,much of the American media still thinks that the
Armenian genocide is subject to debate. Until recently, many American
newspapers wrote about the "alleged" Armenian genocide or felt
obliged to give equal weight to Turkey's denial of this grotesque

To counter such historical inaccuracy, in June 1998 the Association
of Genocide Scholars unanimously defined this event as the 20th
century's first genocide. Two years later, 126 Holocaust scholars,
including Elie Wiesel -- awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his
lifelong effort to bear witness to genocide -- published a petition
in the New York Times affirming "the incontestable fact of the
Armenian genocide."

Denial of the Armenian genocide didn't always exist in this country.
Before World War I,
Americans knew exactly what had occurred. During
the 1890s, American reformers launched a human-rights campaign to
protest repeated massacres of the Armenian people. In September 1895,
the New York Times headlined a story as "Another Armenian Holocaust."
During 1915, that paper published 145 articles about the mass murder
of the Armenian people, describing the massacre as "systematic,
"authorized" and "organized by the government." In 1918, Theodore
Roosevelt called it "the greatest crime of the war."

The rest of the world also knew what had happened. In May 1915, the
Allies conceived of the term "crimes against humanity" to describe
the Ottoman government's massacres of the Armenian people. When the
Polish jurist Raphael Lemkin coined the term genocide in the 1940s,
he said that his definition was based on what the Armenian people had

So what cast such a cloud of uncertainty over the Armenian genocide?

The short
answer is: oil and military bases.

After World War I, the United States' drive for oil in the Middle
East resulted in an alliance with the new Turkish republic. Even
though post-war Ottoman military confessions and American eyewitness
accounts provided indisputable proof of the genocide, Turkey waged a
systematic campaign to erase the Armenian genocide from historical

During the Cold War, Turkey gained even greater leverage to promote
its denial when it became a strategic site for American and NATO
military bases.

As Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz recently wrote in the Jerusalem Post, "The
government of Turkey has been waging a campaign of denial involving
threats [to close military bases], political bullying, coercion and
an unabashed assault on truth. Successive administrations of the
United States have succumbed to pressure, preventing the passage of
legislation referring explicitly to the Armenian genocide and
on Turkey to take responsibility for this blemish on humanity."

Such denial is deadly. Deborah Lipstadt, a distinguished scholar on
Holocaust denial, calls such intentional amnesia the "final stage of
genocide, " because it "strives to reshape history in order to
demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators." Wiesel
describes such denial as a "double killing" because it also murders
the memory of the crime. "To remain silent or indifferent" Wiesel
reminds us, "is the greatest sin."

Never forget that Adolf Hitler relied on that silence when he said on
Aug. 22, 1939, "Who after all speaks today of the annihilation of the


The Independent (London)
January 28, 2000, Friday

by Robert Fisk

"WHO NOW remembers the Armenians?" Hitler asked, just before he embarked on
the destruction of European Jewry. Precious few, it seems. As the memorial
day for the Nazi genocide against the Jews was proclaimed by Mr Blair this
week, there was not a single reference to the slaughter of one and a half
million Armenian Christians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915. The world's first
holocaust - and Hitler's inspiration for the slaughter of the Jews - was

Why, I wonder? Mr Blair did not mention it. President Chirac is frightened
of the very subject, refusing even to condemn the slaughter when he last
visited Beirut, where the grandchildren of the victims live in their tens of
thousands. The United States government prefers to forget the
holocaust of
Armenians, while the Turks - the inheritors of the empire that committed the
worst atrocities of the First World War - are studiously denying the
genocide. And we let them get away with it.

Who, I wonder, chooses which holocaust we should remember and which we
should not? The six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis must always
have a place in our history, our memory, our fears. Never again. But alas,
the Armenians who perished in the rivers of southern Turkey, who were
slaughtered in their tens of thousands in the deserts of northern Syria,
whose wives and daughters were gang-raped and knifed to death by the
gendarmerie and their Kurdish militiamen - they have no place in our memory
or our history. Turkey is our friend. Turkey might one day join the European
Union. Turkey is an ally of Israel.

History, of course, is a hard taskmaster, veined with inconvenient facts and
corrupted heroes as well as the massacre of
innocents. The Armenian
community in Turkey had its Allied sympathisers when the Ottoman army was
fighting the British and French in the First World War, and Armenians also
fought in the tsarist Russian army against Turkey. But the proof of genocide
is intact. The Young Turk movement - once a liberal organisation which the
Armenians had supported - had taken control of the dying empire and adopted
a "pan-Turkism" which espoused a Turkish-speaking Muslim nation from
Constantinople to Baku. Within weeks of their victory over the Allies at the
Dardanelles in 1915, they fell upon the Armenians. Churchill was to refer to
the "merciless fury" unleashed upon the Christian minority. The US
ambassador in Constantinople - himself a Jew - wrote heart-wrenching reports
back to Washington of mass slaughter. Near the Turkish village of Mus,
hundreds of men were lined up on bridges and shot into the rivers,

Behind the Auschwitz-Birkenau
camp in Poland, I was once taken by a camp
guide to a series of small lakes in which the Nazis dumped the ash of the
crematoria. Beneath the water and ice lay the powdered white bones of whole
cities of people. Yet in the north Syrian desert there are still skulls and
bones in caves and in the clay of river banks. This place of martyrdom is
visited once a year by the local Armenian community to commemorate their
holocaust. They even have a holocaust memorial day. Yet I wonder if a single
non-Armenian reader of The Independent knows what the date is?

Denial of the holocaust is in some countries a crime. I'm talking, of
course, about the Jewish Holocaust - because denial of the Armenian
holocaust is not only perfectly legal, it is big business. No American
company selling weapons to Turkey will discuss the holocaust of 1915. Chairs
of Ottoman studies are being funded by the Turkish government at American
universities in which US academics -
who have to prove they have used
Ottoman archives to get their jobs and thus must never have condemned the
1915 slaughters - propagate the lie that the Armenians were merely victims
of "civil war" and that Turks also died in the chaos of 1915.

Turks did. But not on the Armenian scale. Anyone who was to write that the
Jews were victims of a European civil war and that, anyway, "Germans also
died" would be regarded as cracked or a neo-Nazi. Not so if you deny the
Armenian holocaust.

Take the following letter, for example: "The myth of the 'Armenian
Holocaust' was created immediately after World War I with the hope that the
Armenians could be rewarded for their 'sufferings' with a piece of the
disintegrating Ottoman state. As such, the main aims of the inventors were
political and territorial." Now substitute the word Armenian with the word
Jew. Who would ever get away with a letter about the "myth of the Jewish
Holocaust" as an
invention of Jews who wanted to be rewarded for
"sufferings" (the quotation marks suggesting their falsity)? Who would ever
publish such lies?

But that letter was written about the Armenians. And it was written by a
Turkish ambassador. In fact - heaven spare us - it was written by Barlas
Ozener, the Turkish ambassador to Israel. And it was printed, in full, in
the Jerusalem Post.

But we Europeans are just as mendacious, if more discreetly so. Take Mr
Chirac in Beirut. The French Assembly had just condemned the Armenian
holocaust of 1915 - there are men of principle in French politics. But not
Chirac. When asked less than two years ago for his views on the resolution,
he replied: "I do not comment on a matter of domestic (sic) politics when
I'm abroad." Would that have been his response if the Assembly had just
denounced the Jewish Holocaust?

Mr Blair said this week that as the Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust
"age and
become fewer in number, it becomes more and more our duty to take
up the mantle and tell each new generation what happened and what could
happen again".

But there are a few very Armenian survivors left. Why weren't they asked
this week about their memories? At Musa Dagh and later at Smyrna in 1920,
British, French and American warships rescued a few of the pitiful Armenian
survivors of that earlier Holocaust. But Mr Blair was silent this week. And
silence gives consent.

I am all for memorial days. Especially one that marks the Jewish Holocaust.
And especially memorial days for other holocausts. Armenians too. But
Hitler's ghost can have a little laugh this week. After all, who now
remembers the Armenians?

GRAPHIC: An Armenian priest hung in a street in Constantinople in 1915;

Excerpt from Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past by Peter Balakian

Excerpt from Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past by Peter Balakian:

    Scholars have noted that the Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide is singular. No other nation in the modern age has engaged in such a massive cover-up campaign about such a crime. Richard Falk, Milbank Professor of International Law at Princeton, writes that the Turkish denial is "a major, proactive, deliberate government effort to use every possible instrument of persuasion at its disposal to keep the truth about the Armenian genocide from general acknowledgment, especially by elites in the United States and Western Europe."

    Criminal behavior always is defined by the perpetrator's compulsion to "promote forgetting," writes Judith Herman in Trauma and Recovery. "Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator's first line of defense." If that fails, "the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim." And if he cannot silence his victim, "he tries to make sure that no one listens," by either blatantly denying or rationalizing his crime.

    After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself; and in any case it is time to forget the past and move on. The more powerful the perpetrator, the greater is his prerogative to name and define reality, and the more completely his arguments prevail.

    Bound up in the pathology of denial is the blaming of the victim. In denying the crime of genocide and blaming the victim, the perpetrator culture continues to create a false reality through which it attempts to rehabilitate itself. As Charrey and Lipstadt have written, the denial of genocide is the final stage of genocide; the first killing followed by a killing of the memory of the killing. The perpetrator's quest for impunity by denying continues to abuse the victim group by preventing the process of healing for the survivors and the inheritors of the survivors. In denying the crime, the perpetrator seeks to rob the victim of a moral order. Clearly, denying genocide paves the way for future genocide, for it suggests to the world that governments can commit mass murder with impunity. Hitler in 1939 was inspired by the collective absence of memory of the Armenian Genocide.

    Commemoration is an essential process for the bereaved and for the inheritors of the legacy of genocide. It is a process of making meaning out of unthinkable horror and loss. Because the dead have not been literally or emotionally buried in the wake of genocide, commemoration is also a ritual of burying the deadthat first act of civilization. Because genocide seeks to negate all meaning, to unmake the world, the survivors and their children must find a way back to civilization. Commemoration, then, publicly legitimizes the victim culture's grief. The burden of bereavement can be alleviated if shared and witnessed by a larger community. Only then can redemption, hope, and community be achieved.

    What then, if you are Armenian? True forgiveness can be granted only after the perpetrator has sought and earned it through confession, repentance, and restitution. If the perpetrator government stalks the victims in an effort to prevent the victims' acts of commemoration, there can be no full healing. The victim culture is held hostage in a wilderness of grief and rage, and is shut out of its moral place in history.