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I plan to collect historical documents and articles by various authors in this blog, usually without comments. Opinions expressed within the articles belong to the authors and do not always coincide with those of mine.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On Scholars/Historians Bullied by Armenian Nationalists

"Nationalist apologists first decide that the Turks are guilty, then look for evidence that will show they are correct. They are like a man in a closed room fighting against a stronger enemy. As the enemy advances the man picks up a book, a lamp, an ashtray, a chair-whatever he can find- and throws it in the vain hope of stopping the enemy's advance. But the enemy continues on. Eventually the man runs out of things to throw, and he is beaten. The enemy of the nationalist apologists is the truth.
They have thrown false telegrams, spurious statistics, sham courts, and anything else they could find, but the truth has advanced.
Some tactics have been all too successful in reducing the number of scholars who study the Armenian Question. When the fabrications and distortions failed, there were outright threats. When the historians could not be convinced, the next best thing was to silence them. One professor's house was bombed. Other's were threatened with similar violence.
Campaigns were organized to silence historians. One professor was mercilessly attacked in the press because he advised the Turkish ambassador on responding to questions about the Ottoman Armenians. It is worth nothing that no one questioned the probity of the American Armenian scholar who became the chief advisor of the president of the Armenian Republic or doubted the veracity of the American Armenian professor whose son became the Armenian Foreign Minister. No one questioned the objectivity of these scholars or attacked them, nor should they. The only proper question is, "What is the truth?" No matter who pays the bills, no matter the nationality of the author, no matter if he writes to ambassadors, no matter his religion, his voting record, his credit status, or his personal life, his views on history should be closely analyzed and, if true, accepted. The only question is the truth.
Such attacks have had their intended effect. Fewer and fewer historians are willing to write on this history. A very senior and respected scholar of Ottoman history, Bernand Lewis was brought to court in France for his denial of the Armenian genocide. After a long and successful career. Professor Lewis could afford to confront those who accused him. He also could afford to hire the lawyers who defended him. Could a junior scholar afford to do the same? Could someone who depended on university rectors, who worry about funding, afford to take up such a dangerous topic? Could someone without Professor Lewis's financial resources afford the lawyers who defended both his free speech and his good name?
I myself was the target of a campaign, instigated by an Armenian newspaper, that attempted to have me fired from my university. Letters and telephone calls from all over the United States come to the president of my university, demanding my dismissal because I denied the "Armenian Genocide". We have the tenure system in the United States, a system that guarantees that senior professors cannot be fired for what they teach and write, and my university president defended my rights. But a younger professor might understandably be afraid to write on Armenians if he knew he faced the sort of ordeal that has been faced by others.
To me, the worst of all is being accused of being the kind of politicized nationalist scholar I so detest. False reasons are invented to explain why I say what I say. My mother is a Turk, my wife is a Turk, I am paid large sums by the Turkish Government. None of these things is true, but it would not affect my writings one bit if they were. The way to challenge a scholar's work is to read his writings and respond to them with your scholarship, not to attack his character.
When, despite the best efforts of the nationalist apologists, some still speak out against the distortion of history, the final answer is political: Politicians are enlisted to rewrite history. Parliaments are enlisted to convince their people that there was a genocide. In America, the Armenian nationalists lobby a Congress which refuses to even consider an apology for slavery to demand an apology from Turks for something the Turks did not do. In France, the Armenian nationalists lobby a Parliament which will not address the horrors perpetrated by the French in Algeria, which they know well took place, to declare there were horrors in Turkey, about which they know almost nothing. The people of many nations are then told that the genocide must have taken place, because their representatives have recognized it.
The Turks are accused of Genocide, but what does that appalling word mean? The most quoted definition is that of the United Nations: actions "committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group as such." Raphael Lemkin, who invented the word genocide, included cultural, social, economic, and political destruction of groups as genocide. Leo Kuper included as genocide attacks on sub-groups that are not ethnic, such as economic classes, collective groups, and various social categories. By these standards, Turks were indeed guilty of genocide. So were Armenians, Russians, Greeks, Americans, British, and almost every people that has ever existed. In World War I in Anatolia there were many such "genocides". So many groups attacked other groups that the use of the word genocide is meaningless."
Source: Presentation by Prof. Justin McCarthy at the Seminar on Turkish-Armenian Relations organized by the Democratic Principles Association on March 15, 2001

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