2007.09.02 -- Boston Globe: Letters to the Editor

The Armenian genocide debate, settled and unsettled

AS THE person who initiated the campaign for Watertown's No Place for Hate to sever ties with its sponsor, the Anti-Defamation League, I am gratified by the international support received, especially from many Jewish Americans. However, the ADL still opposes Armenian genocide resolutions in Congress. In addition, the national ADL's Aug. 21 statement is hardly a forthright acknowledgment of the genocide. It said, "the consequences of those actions [by Turkey] were indeed tantamount to genocide. If the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide." Who are "they?" Genocide experts, or just Armenians?

More important, the United Nations in 1948 defined genocide as acts committed "with intent to destroy." Genocide lawyers and scholars know that the word "intent" is crucial. ADL used the word "consequences" instead. If you cut down a leafy branch about to fall on your house, the "consequence" is that people have less oxygen to breathe, but that is hardly your "intention." Even Turkey admits that Armenians died or were killed between 1915 and '23. However, Turkey says that was not its "intent" but rather the "consequence" of wartime conditions. As the ADL's so-called acknowledgment is as disingenuous as Turkey's, I must reject it.


YOU FALL short of your standards of thoroughness and fairness in reporting on the Armenian genocide question ("ADL chief bows to critics," Page A1, Aug. 22). You consistently ignore reputable scholars such as Bernard Lewis and Heath Lowry at Princeton and Guenter Lewy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who dispute the genocide characterization of the gruesome mutual killings during and before World War I. You overlook that Armenians have attempted to intimidate and deride as a "Holocaust denier" anyone who disagrees with their view of history.

Genocide requires proof of killings "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such." Most of the Armenian casualties took place during wretchedly executed deportations undertaken by the Ottoman government for war purposes. No proof has been unearthed that the Ottoman government sponsored the massacres.

Turkey has opened its archives for further research on the Armenian genocide question, while Armenians have not reciprocated. Turkey has urged more debate and scholarship on both sides of the issue, which should ultimately be decided by an impartial international tribunal.

The suspicion lingers that American media are predisposed to shortchange the credible contra-genocide arguments because Armenians are largely Christian and Turks largely Muslim.

The writer is a resident scholar at the Turkish Coalition of America.

THANK YOU , Jeff Jacoby, for your excellent column of Aug. 22 ("No room to deny genocide"). As the grandson of genocide survivors, I find it quite insulting and painful to witness the continued denials, the downplaying, and unbelievably the recriminations against any Armenians who resisted slaughter.

My grandfather came to North America in 1912 to work as a sojourner, planning to return to his native Armenian village after making some money. In 1915 his village was wiped out and along with it more than 80 of his relatives, including his wife and children.

Your op-ed touches on much of the major evidence of genocide and squarely calls upon those who continue to deny it, in the face of incontestable evidence, to reconfigure their moral compasses and leave politics aside. Bravo.


THE PHRASE "there is much scholarly debate on the issue," recently articulated by the first counselor of the Turkish embassy in Washington, has found its way into print over and over as this unhappy discussion has unfolded. As the director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, I write to say that while there may be political debate coming out of Ankara, there is no scholarly debate.

Once again, for those who missed this history lesson: The genocide of the Armenian people by the Turks under cover of World War I is a settled matter among historians and genocide scholars. The jury has long been in on this question.

Like the Holocaust, the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians is not a matter of debate. It is established history.