The Ottoman Armenian Tragedy is a Genuine Historic Controversy
Arend Jan Boekestijn
Feroz Ahmad
Arend Jan Boekestijn
Brendon J. Cannon
Mary Schaeffer Conroy
Youssef Courbage
Paul Dumont
Bertil Duner
Gwynne Dyer
Edward J. Erickson
Philippe Fargues
Michael M. Gunter
Paul Henze
Eberhard Jäckel
Firuz Kazemzadeh
Yitzchak Kerem
William L. Langer
Bernard Lewis
Guenter Lewy
Heath W. Lowry
Andrew Mango
Robert Mantran
Justin McCarthy
Michael E. Meeker
Hikmet Ozdemir
Stephen Pope
Michael Radu
Jeremy Salt
Stanford Shaw
Norman Stone
Hew Strachan
Elizabeth-Anne Wheal
Brian G. Williams
Gilles Veinstein
Malcolm Yapp
Thierry Zarcone
Robert F. Zeidner

Lecturer in history of international relations, History Department at Utrecht University, Netherlands.

major publications

Economic integration and the preservation of post-war consensus in the Benelux countries, (1993)
Other articles (not in English):

Source: Excerpted from Turkey, the World and the Armenian Question [CLICK TO READ], Turkish Policy Quarterly, Winter 2005, Vol.4, No.4. Full Article

"Citizens and politicians living in Western Europe tend to take the high moral ground on issues where they are not themselves directly involved. This is a strategy that runs the risk of applying double standards. It is all very nice to condemn the so-called Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the last century; but what about the national sins of one’s own country? In addition to the holocaust, Germany committed genocide against the Herero tribe in then Southwest Africa; France slaughtered 200.000 Muslims in Algeria during 1954-1962, and what about King Leopold’s Ghost in the Belgian Congo? The list is much longer. Turks do not have a monopoly on human deficit."

"A number of governments and national parliaments ask Turkey that it recognize Armenia’s claims of genocide. These governments include France, Belgium, Russia, Lebanon, Uruguay, Switzerland, Greece, and Canada. The European Parliament and a number of U.S. states have also recognized the slaughtering of Ottoman Armenians as stemming from a systematic policy of extermination. Turkey fears that the U.S. Congress may soon follow. Recently, the German Parliament adopted a resolution in which the word genocide was not used but still called on the Turks to confront their past."

"Did the Ottoman Turks really commit genocide? And, is the Turkish government handling this sensitive issue well?

In article 2 of the present United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (adopted 9 December 1948); genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The problem in identifying whether genocide was committed is the clause: in whole or in part. In part, implies that most wars involve an element of genocide. Genocide only has realmeaning if a government intends to destroy an entire group of human beings. The Armenianside claims that the Ottoman government at the highest level had the intention to kill Armenians. So far, there is no such proof in the Ottoman Archives."

"Today, the German Holocaust of the Jewish population is widely compared to that of the Armenian massacre. However there are important differences between the two.

First, Jews had done nothing wrong. They were just there and formed the basis of Hitler’s blatant racism. There is little doubt that the Turks overreacted to the Armenian challenge, but some Armenians did collaborate with the Russian enemy and some of them were involved in guerrilla like activities behind Ottoman defensive lines. This does not justify the Turkish position, but it is wrong to portray the Armenians as completely innocent.

Second, in Hitler’s Germany, those in power knew what the Nazi’s were doing with the Jews. Most of them chose to support his policies. In Turkey, not all the members of the Turkish government were aware that some of them were using the deportations as an instrument of ethnic cleansing. When they discovered this, they tried to punish the perpetrators. Unfortunately, some of the perpetrators remained in power or acquired even higher positions.

Third, there was no pre-planned genocide in Turkey, as in the case with the holocaust. No pre-1914 Ottoman government could have had foreknowledge of the outbreak of the First World War or the circumstances under which the deportations would be accomplished. Mainstream Ottoman politics included normal Armenian participation until war began. There is not only no evidence that the CUP government deliberately planned for genocide before 1914, it is also highly unlikely. It would suggest that it intended to carry out the mass murder of an ethnic group something for which there was no precedent in modern history. Moreover, if there had been plans and these were leaked out, intense international opposition possibly leading to an invasion of the Ottoman Empire by other European Powers would have been the result. Viewed in this light, it seems most implausible that the genocide of the Armenians was preplanned.

Fourth, the historians who question the intention of the Turks to commit genocide are often excellent historians like Bernard Lewis and Gilles Veinstein with some documentary evidence on their side. They are not mendacious anti-Semitic crackpots who enunciate Holocaust denial. And lastly, the CUP never adopted an all-embracing secular, universalistic, quasi-messianic ideology in the style of Nazism and Communism. It remained rooted in traditional (although modernizing) nationalism and a vision of an Islamified Turkey. The events can be read as a botched, wartime panic, overreaction, with premeditation most unlikely and the scale of killings arguably exaggerated.

Let us try to put these qualifications into perspective. Even if the Armenian massacre cannot be compared to the German Holocaust, even if not all members of the CUP government knew that some of their colleagues were bent on solving the Eastern question once and for all, the fact remains that between 600.000 and 900.000 Armenians died of murder, starvation, and exhaustion."


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