On 22 October 2007, “The Daily News Egypt” published an article by Ambassador of Armenia to Egypt, Dr. Rouben Karapetian, entitled ?Denial of Genocide is the Final Stage of Genocide.? The article was in response to the earlier published article ?Lacking Moral Tenet to Right the Wrong? by Alon Ben-Meir.
Below is the full text of the article followed by the original writing of Ben-Meir
DENIAL OF GENOCIDE IS THE FINAL STAGE OF GENOCIDE
By Dr. Rouben Karapetian
After the adoption of the resolution 106 on Armenian Genocide at the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US House of Representatives there is much talk about the value or danger of third parties engaging in what are said to be old historic issues. The article “Lacking moral tenet to right the wrong” by Alon Ben-Meir published in distinguished Daily News Egypt (October 20-21, 2007) forced me to respond.
Let me start with a reminder that the post-World War I Turkish government indicted the top leaders involved in the “organization and execution” and in the “massacre and destruction of the Armenians”.
Moreover in a series of court-martials, officials of the Young Turk regime were tried and convicted, as charged, for organizing and executing massacres against the Armenian people. The chief organizers of Armenian massacres, the Ministers of War, Interior and Navy were all condemned to death for their crimes, however the verdicts of the courts were not enforced.
The Armenian Genocide is well documented in the national archives of Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, US (National Archives and Record Administration, Record Group 59 US Department of State, files 867.00 and 867.40), Vatican and many other countries.
The International Association of Genocide Scholars and the International Center for Transitional Justice have established the historical veracity of Armenian Genocide.
Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term “genocide” in 1944 and who was the earliest proponent of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, invoked the Armenian case as the definitive example of genocide in the 20th century.
There Armenian Genocide has been acknowledged by the European Parliament and by the parliaments of more than 25 countries.
The international community not only recognized the already proven fact of genocide against Armenians, but also revealed political common sense. The main message of Armenian Genocide recognitions on the part of foreign countries is that Turkey must view history for what it is ? the product of political and social tensions of the time ? and it must accept its own role in that history, learn from it and move forward.
Turkey ignored that message. When independence came to all the Soviet republics in 1991, including Armenia, Turkey ignored a huge opportunity for a new start. Turkey refused to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia, and two years later closed the border, hoping perhaps that Armenia?s vulnerability and fragile statehood would force it to renounce its past and with it, any possible claims for compensation.
In the mentioned article Mr. Ben-Meir said that labeling the events of 1915 as genocide is an insult to the Turkish people. But as a descendant of genocide survivors, I have the right to ask: is it not an insult to the memories of 1.5 million perished Armenians to question the mere fact of genocide? Is it not an insult to all those who were forced to leave their historical homeland and dispersed all over the world becoming a Diaspora-twice bigger than the very population of the Republic of Armenia? When Turkey instead of confronting its history, putting excuses aside and entering into normal relations with a neighbor, spends untold amounts to deny, dismiss, distort history it is indeed insulting to all those who care about truth and historical justice, who put human dignity and values above all other interests.
The adoption of a resolution in the US came at the very moment of the peak of Turkey's rejectionist activities. One genocide scholar has said that “denial of genocide is the final stage of genocide because it strives to shape history in order to demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators”. That is what Turkey ? not the people, but the government ? is trying to do.
There are no time limits for condemning the crimes against humanity. The international community can indeed carry on its business, develop coalitions, fight off threats and dangers, including the threat of genocide, and none of this should come at the expense of recognizing and condemning genocide anywhere, anytime ? in Darfur in the 21st century, or in the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century.
In that context we, Armenians, are grateful to those who recognized the immense moral and political value of rejecting genocidal behaviors and criminal policies which are not in anyone?s national interest nor in humanity?s international interest.
During the recent debate in the Committee on Foreign Affairs of House of Representatives, its members were not questioning the fact of the Armenian Genocide but the possible repercussions of the adoption of the resolution on US-Turkish relations. This time “strategic” implications of Turkish-American relations and Turkish blackmailing were overmatched by the implications of higher moral values. The US Congress did not do a “political favor to Armenians”, it rather confirmed the continuity of the US?s longstanding proud policy of intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide.
For the country actively participated in rescuing hundreds of thousands of Armenians under the hell of the Turkish “yataghan”, whose ambassador Henry Morghenthau called what he witnessed that days, the “Murder of a Nation”, which gave a refuge to about a million Armenians, the country whose presidents every year on April 24 address the Armenians by “pausing in remembrance of one of the most horrible tragedies of the 20th century, the annihilation of as many as one and a half million Armenians through forced exile and murder”, the adoption of the resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide has come even after “slight” delay.
Parliaments and congresses must continue to insist that there be morality at the starting line and the goal line of all our foreign policies and foreign relations. It is essential that administrations and executive bodies not bend the rules, nor turn a blind eye or lower standards. Instead, let the international community consistently extend its hand, its example, its own history of transcendence, in order for all of us to move on to making new history.
Dr. Rouben Karapetian is the Ambassador of Armenia to Egypt, as well as author of four books and many articles on the modern history of the Middle East. He is also a Member of the Scientific Council of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Academy of Sciences of Armenia.
Lacking moral tenet to right the wrong
By Alon Ben-Meir
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs which adopted a resolution calling the Armenian mass killing by Ottoman Turks genocide, has basically sat in judgment on an event that occurred 92 years ago. The question here is whether the mass killing of Armenians during the World War I era was genocide committed by the Ottoman's military, as many contend ? or was it the result of world war during which millions were killed on all sides, including the Armenians, as the Turkish government insists.
I believe the resolution is misguided not because there is any doubt about the hundreds of thousands of Armenians that were killed, but because of the inclination to dismiss this most abhorrent act by labeling it as genocide, call it a day, and expect to resume normal relations with Turkey as if nothing happened. Why have so many congressional leaders been taken aback by Turkey's swift admonishment of the United States over the committee's vote? Is it because they miss-assessed the Turkish government's sensitivity or because they have really never given this important matter the serious consideration it deserves. Either way, the committee members have failed in discharging their due diligence and will fail again, even more acutely, if they support the resolution should it come to the House floor. They must first examine their own motivation and the dire implications, both moral and practical, of its passage.
Sadly, this resolution was politicized at the outset, thereby diminishing much of its moral tenet, although not its repercussions. It was sponsored by many members of Congress, especially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Representatives from New Jersey and Michigan, who have especially large Armenian constituencies. However large the political benefit these members may gain by pushing this resolution, it will quickly fade in the face of the moral erosion the House will suffer by acknowledging the damage they will inflict on Turkish-U.S. relations. As was once observed by Nehru: “Political surrender leads almost inevitably to moral surrender also.” Such a serious resolution requires the application of the highest moral review and conduct, not a politically convenient act which is considered an insult to Turkish identity. If genocide was in fact committed, it should be left to an international investigative tribunal, not politicians who need to be reelected every two years.
Turkey has been a loyal friend of the United States for more than a half century. It is a modern secular state, and has made great strides in remaining democratic and progressive. Should the United States Congress hold the great grandchildren of the Ottomans responsible for sins of their fathers which might have been perpetrated 92 years ago? Since Turkey vehemently rejects the term genocide, what judgment should then be passed, and by whom, that will not tarnish the present generation of Turks? A generation that had nothing to do with past events and, in fact, condemns the atrocities committed during that heinous war, regardless of who the perpetrators were. As one high Turkish official dismayed by what is happening told me: “The importance of the issue requires more than a cursory review by some member of the House?” By way of example he said, “It was not enough to accuse the Germans of the Third Reich with genocide. The Nuremberg Trials were set up to prosecute the executers of Hitler's madness, but also established beyond a shadow of a doubt Germany's acts of genocide.” “There was never a review by an international judiciary of the alleged Turkish genocide and no such determination was ever made.”
Regardless of the importance of the U.S.-Turkish strategic partnership, it would be a mistake to try to persuade members of the House to reject the resolution, as many have withdrawn their support, solely on the ground that it would seriously undermine such relations or the United States efforts in the Middle East. The argument against the resolution by the full House should be based on moral grounds and the members must not act as judges and jurors. Before the House establishes, for the record, an official U.S. version of what actually happened, a thorough and exhaustive investigation of the events by an international judiciary must first take place.
Yes, America must speak out against genocide. But at a time when America suffers from a sagging global image and a loss of much of its moral authority due to the events in Iraq, the United States Congress must redouble its efforts to build its case on a strong moral tenet. Turkey deserves the judgment of an independent and impartial international tribunal and the Armenians deserve justice and not political favors.
Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. [email protected]
Published in “The Daily News Egypt” on 19 October 2007
(The article originally appeared on the website of Prof. Alon Ben-Meir on 17 October 2007 and on other online sources such as “The American Chronicle“)
Website of the Embassy of Armenia in Egypt
Biography of Ambassador Rouben Karapetian