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Friday, April 22, 2005

Remembering the Armenian Genocide

I will be going to Ottawa on Sunday, so I will be unable to post something on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Well I don't have much to say on the occasion. My dealings with the issue of the Armenian Genocide have been both personal [indirectly of course] and political/historical. I will talk about both. But first, the personal: The Armenian side of my family originally came from Sasun. Most of them did not survive the genocide. In Sasun: The Turks gathered the Armenian women and children, lined them up, and started killing them one by one. My grandmother's father's mother could not bear to see her son killed in front of her eyes; she begged a Kurdish man to take him and do whatever he wanted with him; raise him as a Kurd, anything he wanted. The man, after a moment of hesitation, took the boy. No one knows what happened to his mother [most probably murdered]. The Kurdish man took the boy and raised him as his own son. He became a shepherd. Every day he would write the Armenian alphabet on the sand, so as not to forget it. Years later, the man wanted him to get married to a Kurdish girl. He ran away. He made his way to Syria. Meanwhile, his future wife (my grandmother's mother) had made it to Mosul (Iraq), where she remained in hiding for a while. All her children (she was married before) except for one daughter saved by a Kurdish man (whom she paid to have her back), had been massacred or had died of starvation on the long walk. Along with her daughter and sister (who had also survived but had lost all her children) they made their way to Aleppo. There she met my grandmother's father, and they got married. My grandmother was born in 1923. She's still alive and tells me that her father had written a book in Armenian about his experiences. The handwritten book was preserved for a long time, but got lost during the Lebanese war. Sometimes I get angry with my grandmother for having lost such a precious book. But it's of no use now. It's gone, never to be seen again.

The political: One of the things that baffle me is how Jews of all people can deny the Armenian Genocide. I was reading Yair Auron's The Banality of Denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide a while back, and he made the distinction between passive and active denial. A sidenote: I do respect Auron for taking a dissenting stance on the issue, but he is too much of an apologist for the "State of Israel" for my tastes. Later on in this entry I will explain why I accuse him of that. But for now two reasons why I mentioned Auron. The first is the issue of passive vs active denial. The second is the text of a lecture he gave back in February 2003.

On the passive vs active denial, in a recent article on the Jerusalem Post (which seems to be doing its best lately to debunk the claim that most Jews - including individuals as opposed to the myth that the culprits are the "Jewish and/or "Israeli" politicians* and lobbyists* not the Jewish people" - do deny the Armenian Genocide), a Larry Derfner says, "What does the State of Israel and many of its American Jewish lobbyists have to say about it, about this first genocide of the 20th century? If they were merely standing silent, that would be an improvement. Instead, on the subject of the Armenian genocide+, Israel and some US Jewish organizations, notably the American Jewish Committee, have for many years acted aggressively as silencers."

The article starts out strongly but in the end yo-yos between [supposed] criticism of "Israel" and denier Jews, and covering up on the [inevitable and logical but unmentioned] conclusion that if it's an issue of "fair enough" in response to the argument that "it's a matter for historians [not politicians] to decide", "revisionists" [of the Jewish Genocide] should be able to say the same. Thus, the very premise of the author's argument is based on double standards rather than support for a universal method of dealing with this issue, and as such provides further ammo for the war of double standards that the same Jewish deniers he has supposedly set out to criticise have been waging for decades.

The final point I will address is Auron's lecture, which I mentioned above. In it he says, "The headlines of the Turkish Daily News, the influential English daily, on April 10, 2001, were clear: "Peres: Armenian Allegations are Meaningless." The newspaper interviewed Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on the eve of his official visit to Turkey. Peres claimed in it that it is for historians to deal with such historical issues. The claim may seem feasible, and is sometimes used by governments - including the American and the Israeli - who wish to avoid the dilemma. Nevertheless, it is very well known that this denial tactic is practiced manipulatively by the Turks and their supporters."

A few paragraphs ago I accused Auron of being an apologist for the Jewish and "Israeli" deniers. I will now (briefly) explain why. Pay special attention to his wording. An eloquent writer no doubt, but that is the point. Eloquent writers are eloquent because they are equipped with the ability to imply things in subtle ways or leave their readers wondering what they really meant. My argument? The American and "Israeli" governments are not examples of "wish[ing] to avoid the dilemma". Both governments - especially the latter - have adopted policies of active denial rather than passive non-recognition. On to the second point: this denial tactic is not practised at all by "the Turks", let alone manipulatively. The Turkish government denies that there is even a "dilemma". Moreover, Auron talks of but does not name "supporters" of the Turks. This is a practise typical of apologists who use vague terms and refrain from bluntly naming those whom they are, according to their claims, criticising.

As a final note, do check out this article (thanks umkahlil). And here are some photos of the Armenian Genocide.

I am afraid this is all I had to say. I could go on for pages about my family's wanderings around the world after the genocide, and how I can barely hold back tears when I think of what I would do if and when I visit the birthplace of my great-grandparents or the tiny country that we have never set foot in (I've visited Armenia, but I was 1.5 years old at the time) but are supposed to love... But that would be getting too personal about it. Hopefully one day I would be posting *my* photos of Sasun on this blog. But that won't happen any time soon.

So I will end this entry on a bitter note.


* And we all know that they are immune to criticism of any sort from any direction, so naturally they would be the ones to take the blame for denying the Armenian Genocide (or to use the more politically correct phrase, "not recognising it"), and the world watches and ... laughs. Note that there is a huge difference between non-recognition (most of the time passive, sometimes active) and outright denial (active). I for one do not care about "Israel's" non-recognition, as I do not recognise "Israel" as a legitimate entity to begin with. But I do take issue with the Jewish denial of the Armenian Genocide.

+ Notice the capitalisation. In contrast, the word "holocaust" is mentioned 8 times in the same article, and an "H" rather than an "h" is used in all 8 mentions.

We will NEVER forget
Dear Dan,

I did not know you had a blog. I visited your links to ANI, saw the pictures and read the site. I have not changed my views. Where are the stories from the other side? Where are the stories of the Kurds, Turks and Jews killed by Armenians? Check this out from a Turk in the Daily Princetonian

Armenian genocide talk was one-sided

Regarding 'Ninety years later, a debate stirred' (Tuesday, April 26):

Monday's Humanity Project address on the alleged Armenian genocide was dangerously biased. Of the three speakers invited, all three presented a misleading and selective account of the events of that time. The keynote speaker, Professor Balakian from Colgate, even insisted that his extraordinarily slanted anti-Turkish version of events was the only true one and that there are no other sides to the story. This is not true. Let me give you the other side of this story. Let me tell you about my grandmother's family.

My grandmother was named after her sister whom she never saw. Her sister was slaughtered with the rest of the Turks in their village, Hacin, while the Turkish men of the village were on the WWI front. The population of Hacin consisted of Turks and Armenians who lived together for centuries. My grandmother's family was especially close to their Armenian neighbors. No Muslim villager who resided in Hacin at the time of the massacre survived. My great uncle, who refused to fight for the Sultan and hid in the mountains, returned to his village after the end of the war. Their Armenian neighbors showed him the bodies of his mother, and the rest of Hacin's Turkish population. They were dumped in a cave near the village. My great uncle asked his neighbors who did this and they replied "The youth, the Armenian youth. We could not control them. We only prevented them from torturing your old mother."

I ask the Humanity Project: don't the hundreds of thousands of Muslim women, children and seniors trapped in mosques and burned by Armenians between 1914- 15 tell you there is another side to this story? Why did the Humanity Project not invite a single person who would mention the atrocities perpetrated by the Armenians on the Ottoman Muslims at this same time? The organizers of this event passed up an opportunity to promote serious dialogue and debate in exchange for promoting slanted and misleading rhetoric. They should be ashamed.

Yesim Koman '05
"Where are the stories of the Kurds, Turks and Jews killed by Armenians?"

Fallacious reasoning. That there were Kurds and Turks (and jews????!?!) killed by Armenians doesn't mean there was no Armenian Genocide. Nice try.
That is true, it does not mean that Armenians were not killed. What it does do is put the issue into perspective - it was a great tragedy for all concerned. It provides color to a black and white canvas that seeks to particularize the calamity that befell the Armenians by revealing the universal nature of the catastrophe that befell all inhabitants of the region. By leaving out this vital information, the Armenian genocide crowd reveal their dishonesty, and the illegitimacy of their racist position. Victims as racist - separation of the victims. I hope you revise your position, in view of your disillusionment with 'Armenian genocide' propaganda. It is not a matter of denial, but honesty.
It STILL does NOT prove that there was no Genocide.

Genocide is a term that is meant to convey a particular agenda: pre-planned killings of a certain race or ethnicity in part or whole.

YOU'RE the one who's racist. I recommend that you educate yourself on the Armenian Genocide, instead of spewing the same crap issued by the Turkish government, like you're doing now.

That there were Turks who suffered and died in the war is not what we're arguing here. Arguing that there was a Genocide against Armenians is not the same as arguing that no Turks died. I don't even know how you can find such an argument logical. You make no sense. Your "arguments" are full of fallacies that even a 10 year old can point out.
Oh, I see, you are arguing that GENOCIDE is worse than slaughter. We should not mention the Massacre of Turks and others in the same breath as the GENOCIDE of Armenians. Thanks for clearing that up.

Now why do I find this racist? Because it particularizes the slaughter of one group, and seeks to whitewash their crimes, on the basis that victims, once defined as genocidal victims, cannot commit crimes.

But there were crimes committed against others, and it casts the ARMENIAN GENOCIDE in a different light to the Propaganda. There were victims on both sides, we are not supposed to understand this.

That is my charge; not that the Armenian genocide did not happen, but that it was part of a reciprocal slaughter that saw more than 3.5 million people killed (the numbers vary, but that is entirely irrelevant).

So, my Armenian friend, why do you feel that the slaughter of Armenians exceeds the slaughter of non-Armenians? Why do you feel that the Turks must acknowledge the Genocide of Armenians, in the absence of any acknowledgement by Armenians of their role in the slaughter on non-Armenians?

The question is asked answer it.

Now as for the Turkish government propaganda, I find the Turkish Socio/political system to be an abomination - but that is another matter. But I have read their literature, mainly because I was being bombarded by Armenian genocide propaganda at the time, and found their position to be reasonable and well articulated, as well as being backed by substantiated reason - Something entirely absent from Armenian Genocide discourse, which is characterized by emotive dishonesty.

I was always accepting of the widely scattered story of the Armenian Holocaust, but considered it to be of historical importance only. Then I saw the movie 'Ararat', and my suspicion that it was largely a constructed discourse was aroused. So I did a little background, and it immediately became clear that the discourse was simply not as black and white as implied by the propaganda. And that is what it is – illegitimate propaganda.

Genocide propaganda has consequences - as evidenced by the ongoing massive slaughter in the Congo - fueled in large part by Rwandan Tutsi genocide propaganda. A large and significant number of Tutsis were slaughtered (in the order of 700,000 - 900,000); but less well known, unknown actually, is that a similar number of Hutus were slaughtered as well. Today it forms the basis of significant slaughter in the Congo.

Far from preventing future genocides, the memory of atrocity serves to justify future atrocities.
"Oh, I see, you are arguing that GENOCIDE is worse than slaughter."

Where did I say that? Quit putting words into my mouth. I never said such a thing. You were denying it was a Genocide, and I only said that Genocide is a pre-planned act against a particular race/ethnicity, and this applies to the Armenians. Now you can argue that it can also apply to the Turks, but that is not the point. The point is, there was an Armenian Genocide, and you are denying that.

"Then I saw the movie 'Ararat', and my suspicion that it was largely a constructed discourse was aroused."

Wow, very academic of you; some dumb movie (which I never liked and thought to be a stupid one) aroused suspicions in you... well done, my truth-seeking friend, well done...

"So I did a little background"

Such as?

"Far from preventing future genocides, the memory of atrocity serves to justify future atrocities."

So what do you suggest? That we stop talking about it? By the same token you think we should also stop talking about the U.S and "Israeli" war crimes? Or are you advocating the use of double standards?

As I said before, one wrong does not make another one right, and remembering one wrong does not in any way mean that the other wrong is meant to be forgotten, and that as a result we should forget both, in order to encourage "racial equality". Why doesn't the Turkish government focus its efforts on bringing to light the slaughter of Turks by Armenians? They would've been received far better by academics and historians than they are at the moment with their daily claims of 500,000 Turks slaughtered by Armenians (and a simultaneous denial that 1 to 1.5 million Armenians were slaughted by Turks).. Frankly, the Turkish position is getting more and more ridiculous every day. Every day there are new claims of new numbers of Turks slaughtered. The Turkish government has not, so far, produced one photo, one document that shows that there was a Genocide against its people by the Armenians. The same cannot be said of the Armenians.

Maybe the Turkish case is not documented that well, but must the Armenians pay for that with denial of the Genocide, so that the Turks can feel better, "equal"?
Boy, you really can dance, I didn’t deny the Armenian Genocide, I called the remembrance of it ‘crap’. I deny the validity of all ‘holocaust’ and atrocity remembrance, including the Armenian genocide, the holocaust and the Palestinian nakbha. I deny the validity of their use to anyone, precisely because one chooses to remember, or not, based on an ability to enforce remembrance.

It is no accident that the Armenian Genocide is ignored, or that memory of Deir Yasin is marginalized; it is because such memories are only used to serve an agenda, and more often than not, the agenda is unrelated to, or works against the interests, of the victim or the victimized group. Seldom are they in a position to drive the agenda.

It is apparent that Western Political government is driven by exceptionalism; it is in a state of constant emergency. It constantly needs emergencies to generate enemies. Knowledge of atrocities is very much part of the political culture and governments publicly appeal to them to justify their actions. To date the ONLY people, I repeat, the ONLY people to benefit from atrocity propaganda has been those with the wherewithal to utilize it to further their agenda. Atrocity against Kurds was propagandized in order to bomb Iraqis. Atrocity against Kosovars was used to inflict atrocities against Serbs. The Armenian genocide will be used to justify bombing Turks, when the time comes, as it surely will.

The selectivity with which knowledge of atrocity is used is the best evidence that its use is a deliberate action to promote an agenda. Western Countries seldom embark on a war without citing some atrocity or another to justify it. No moral duty arises to remember an atrocity, if it results in harm to innocent third parties. Usually the victims, or victim group has no control over how it will be used. Our duty is to forget it, or deny it if necessary.

I would probably agree with people like you, prof Asa’ad Abu Khalil, and many others on probably 90% of issues, but your atrocity ideology blinds you to relationships between cause and effect. I am African, and Africans are the foremost current victims of slaughter. This atrocity propaganda and the anomy it engenders in western thought bedevils any effort to untangle the mess. Atrocity stories in Africa are used to create an image of a continent beyond redemption, an image that is used to cover for agenda driven interventions that fuel the chaos. It is unacceptable that consciousness amongst politically driven progressive has fallen so far; that they can allow their tenets to erode to point where it is indistinguishable from the values of those they call their opposition. It is a sure sign that form has replaced substance. That you can believe that a charge of racism against me can be sustained for opposing your holocaust remembrance is another sign of mental atrophy.

This is the last I have to say on the subject here, you have the final word.
Go get a life! The photos you showed are useless.
No matter how you slice it, there are always two sides to everything.
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