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.

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