Armenians Demand Justice, Not Recognition

By Harut Sassounian, Publisher of  The California Courier, 6 Dec. 2007

The National Herald, a Greek-American weekly, published a lengthy interview with this writer last week on the issue of genocide recognition. This column was prompted by the ideas expressed in that interview.

By Harut Sassounian, Publisher of  The California Courier, 6 Dec. 2007

The National Herald, a Greek-American weekly, published a lengthy interview with this writer last week on the issue of genocide recognition. This column was prompted by the ideas expressed in that interview.

 
The Armenian Cause is not about genocide recognition, but the pursuit of justice which entails that the Armenian victims receive reparations.
 
Remembering the Genocide is also about keeping the hope and dream alive for succeeding generations of Armenians — that some day, they will regain their historic lands.
 
Armenians need to rethink their approach to the pursuit of their cause and present their demands in a more effective manner. The House of Representatives has already adopted an Armenian Genocide resolution twice in 1975 and 1984. Pres. Reagan issued a Presidential Proclamation in 1981 that refers to the Armenian Genocide. More than 20 countries, the European Parliament, a U.N. human rights panel and many genocide and Holocaust scholars have acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. Therefore, continuing attempts to seek genocide recognition from the international community is no longer necessary and distracts from the pursuit of more significant Armenian political objectives.
 
Armenians have been saying for decades that they have three demands: “Recognition” of the genocide, “Reparations” for losses, and “Return” of their territories — in that sequence. They have repeated these three R’s so often that even Turkey’s leaders, who closely monitor Armenian statements, have learned them by heart.
 
Consequently, Armenians and Turks now have the same distorted view of what the Armenian Cause is all about. Both sides mistakenly believe that once the Genocide is recognized by Turks and others, Armenians will proceed to make demands for reparations and lands. This is the main reason why Turks so adamantly refuse to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. They fear that acceptance of the Genocide would obligate them to pay reparations and return the usurped Armenian lands. And knowing well the sequence of the three R’s, Turks cleverly refuse to acknowledge the Genocide — the first demand — thus preempting the remaining two Armenian demands.
 
Armenians should not fall in the Turkish trap of getting stuck on demand number one. Since genocide recognition has already been accomplished, they should immediately proceed to the second and third demands. There is no prerequisite that the Turks — or the U.S. or anybody else, for that matter — first acknowledge the Genocide before Armenians can take legal action. Armenians should present their demands to appropriate national and international courts, regardless of whether the Turks recognize the Genocide.
Is justice served when someone murders your family, and the criminal’s descendants who still live on your property simply admit 100 years later that such a crime actually occurred? Would you just thank the murderer’s descendants for acknowledging the crime or would you press to get your family’s stolen property back?
 
The acknowledgment of the Genocide by Turks or others is not an occasion for Armenians to jump for joy. Genocide is an undeniable fact. Armenians know it happened. The civilized world knows it happened. Many Turks also know it happened. The acknowledgment of a historical fact cannot be viewed as a demand. Justice requires that the criminal be punished, reparations paid, and the ill-gotten fruits gained through genocide returned to their rightful owners.
 
Obviously, the Turks are not going to voluntarily return the Armenian lands even though Armenians have a just claim to those territories. Nobody gives an inch of land to anyone unless forced to do so. So how does such a claim become reality? It can be done by keeping the hope and dream alive and passing them on to the next generation, the way the Jews did by proclaiming "Next year in Jerusalem" for two thousand years. The just demand for the recovery of their historic lands can disappear once Armenians lose all hope and unilaterally give up their dream.
 
There is no country in recorded history whose borders have remained unchanged. Mighty empires have come and gone. Likewise, the Republic of Turkey will not have the same borders forever. No one knows what can happen in the next 30 years or 300 years, but if Armenians relinquish their claims now, they would have lost the chance of recovering anything forever. Armenians must continue to remind their offspring for generations to come that those lands which were unjustly stolen from them will eventually return to their rightful owners.
 
Rather than demanding genocide recognition, Armenians should seek justice. 
1 comment
  1. Polish Perspective

    Looking from a Polish perspective, it seems that some Jewish human rights activists, such as the ADL or the SWC, have problems with recognizing genocides other than the Holocaust. The Armenian Genocide is only one example; the argument about Auschwitz (the crosses, the Carmel) is another.

    Only uniqueness guarantees the top position in victim ranking. A problem arises in countries with Holocaust denial laws, when non-Jewish human rights activists, such as Africans, Ukrainians, Native Americans, and last but not least Armenians, dispute the uniqueness of the Holocaust, paralleling it to the genocides perpetrated against their people. German as well as French law makes "trivializing the Holocaust" punishable, and courts in both countries have decided that violation of the uniqueness axiom is such an offense. France has found a way out. Law No.2001-70 from January 29, 2001, which already stated that "France publicly recognizes the Armenian genocide of 1915," was amended in October 2006 by two articles: #2 making "disputing the existence of the Armenian genocide of 1915" punishable with fines up to 45,000 euro and/or one year of imprisonment (like Holocaust denial), and #3 defining which groups, in a case of a trial, can appear as civilian parties (and demand damages). So the Holocaust, which is punishable according to the Gayssot Law of 1990, is separated legally from the Armenian genocide. On the continent, France and Germany, are the vanguards not only in persecuting Holocaust deniers by penal law as well. France also has the greatest number of laws that deal with history (critics say: that define history), about the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes, slavery, colonialism, and now the Armenian genocide. Mr. Foxman can be happy that he doesn't live in France. His half-hearted retraction would not help him in court.

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