Rene — Thoughts About Armenian Genocide Bill in France

Topic(s): Armenian Genocide | Comments Off on Rene — Thoughts About Armenian Genocide Bill in France

I have yet to find an article that captures the ironies and contradictions of this current situation in France. I find it absolutely self-serving to speak about free speech, when it is mostly about money and business with Turkey; however, I do find these laws, in the case of the holocaust and the armenian genocide, strange.
On the surface, I understand the necessity or desire to force Turkey to recognize the Genocide (this itself has many philosophical dimensions) and I find it ridiculous and criminal that their own laws attempt to criminalize discussion of their own past and these murders. Turkey has been pacified for strategic and economic reasons by the West for far too long, and their policies against the Kurds continue to be abysmal, despite the improvements in recent years.
So from an Armenian perspective from the diapora and from the perspective of historical validation of these crimes, this (and any) law that applies pressure on Turkey is good. And in this sense of the laws against denying the holocaust stand, why not include other Genocides as well?
I have not pinpointed my own discomforts. but most have to do with the incredible amount of hypocrisy these laws reinforce. So this is the major point of contradiction. That, for example, we live in a time when genocides are committed in our midst, and yet we struggle to live out these dramas in (allbeit important) history.
The selectivity of these laws and more importantly their exclusions of many other genocides raises problems and questions. Is it necessary to forget the Armenian Genocide of 1915 or the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from historic Palestine (see Elan Pappe) to remember the Holocaust of the Jews? What is our relation to history? And how far our desire to rectify the past? What of our desire to rectify the present? Do they have a relationship and what is the nature of this relationship? How is history used within politics and for what purpose?
What I find interesting about this article is its position in relation to the holocaust (which btw from Agamben’s perspective is a disastrous and incorrect term, see remnants of auschwitz) and the absurd contradictions of these EU officials, who speaks as if this law was such a great anomaly.
Of course, one interesting note not mentioned here is that Swiss anti-racism laws actually generalize this question of denial and make it illegal to deny any crime against humanity. More to be said about that, but these are just some quick thoughts. -rg
Paris Link, France
Oct 13 2006
Armenian genocide: The EU is picking the wrong battle
Thu, 12 Oct 2006 22:40:00
Gareth Cartman
A law, proposed by the Socialist party, has been voted through the
Assemblée Nationale today. Turkey is furious, as is the EU. However,
they forget one thing – the holocaust is banned in many countries
across Europe. Time to be less selective with our memories.
A little perspective. Holocaust denial is illegal in the following
Austria (6 month to 20 years prison sentence),
Belgium (maximum one year sentence or a fine),
Czech Republic (6 month to 2 years prison sentence),
France (maximum two year sentence or a fine),
Germany (maximum five year sentence or a fine),
Israel (maximum five year sentence),
Lithuania (maximum ten year sentence),
Poland (maximum three year sentence),
Romania (6 month to 2 year sentence),
Slovakia (maximum three year sentence)
Switzerland (maximum 15 month sentence or fine)
Today, French socialists have voted through a law that will make
denial of the Armenian holocaust illegal as well, with a one year
jail sentence and a fine. Not wishing to take part in a debate that
they morally could not win, the UMP refused to take part, making the
actual vote (106-19) something of a cakewalk for the Socialists.
The reaction has been hostile. Firstly, the Turks have taken to the
streets in protest outside the French embassy in Ankara. There has
been talk of a boycott of French products, which the government moved
to deny quickly – stressing that the people would make that choice.
The government then went on to mention that French companies would be
viewed unfavourably when seeking to enter markets in Istanbul.
France has reconfirmed its commitment to dialogue with Turkey and has
stressed that the passing of this law will in no way hinder talks
regarding accession to the EU, to which France has always been
relatively favourable.
EU spokesmen have spoken furiously against the law today. Quoted in
Libération, British Lib-Dem vice-president for the Turkish
delegation, Andrew Duff, said that it was a sad day for liberal ideas
in France, and that the Assemblée Nationale had rejected the
fundamental rights of freedom of speech. Voltaire must be turning in
his grave, he said.
While the EU is attempting to force Turkey to overturn its own laws
which “offend the Turkish identity” (and mentioning the Armenian
Genocide is a possible method of offending this identity), it feels
that the French law will hinder negotiations. Indeed, if Turkey is to
promote freedom of speech by overturning their own law, this law in
France hardly gives the Turks the best example of how to do so.
Jacques Chirac – the man who started the debate by declaring in
Yerevan that the Turks must acknowledge the genocide – has been
strangely quiet on the issue. Chirac has been strongly against
historic laws, throwing France’s colonial glorification out of the
law books, acknowledging the role the Harkis played for France in the
Algerian war and revising the pensions of colonial-origin soldiers
The majority of historians agree that the genocide of the Armenians
did indeed take place. Not just the majority, but almost every single
historian. To its credit, even Turkey has welcomed a debate on the
subject and university professors have acknowledged that the genocide
did take place. Between 1915 and 1917, over 1.5 million Armenians
were massacred as the Ottoman Empire drew to a bloody close.
The genocide took place. Of that there can be no doubt. Today’s law
may not be the most necessary law in the world, and it may not be the
most popular, but the EU are picking the wrong battle. While voices
against this law claim that it will hinder negotiations, it should
indeed help negotiations. Concerned only with its own negotiations
and business, the EU ignores the fact that holocaust denial is
illegal in most countries across Europe – why should denial of the
Armenian genocide cause such a problem?
This is not about freedom of speech – holocaust deniers or
revisionists frequently take their claims to the European Court using
the Freedom of Speech Law as the basis of their ultimate defence.
They are thrown out of court each time. Besides, what use is freedom
of speech when it is to deny the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians?
If Turkey has pretentions to EU accession, then the EU will be all
the better for its eventual inclusion. But the EU cannot and must not
accept Turkey unless it acknowledges the genocide. The law passed
today is not foolish, useless or even vain. It is necessary – and not
without precedent. Remember.