5.2.15

On the Road of Denial You Only Find Darkness

Vartan Matiossian
 
The Australian Turkish Advocacy-Alliance (ATAA) is pretty busy these days doing what its American namesake, the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), does: denying that Armenians were victims of genocide in the Ottoman Empire. To that end, in November 2014 it invited to Austrialia a rising star of the new generation of non-Turkish revisionists, a Ph.D. student called Tal Buenos, who addressed a group of parliamentarians at the New South Wales Parliament during lunch on November 24, 2014. (There is no such thing as a free lunch, they say, but the luncheon was hosted by the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Turkey, so they ate what they wanted: a warmed-up meal.)
Mr. Buenos is an Israeli Ph.D. student in Political Science whose signature has appeared here and there in the last couple of years, both in Israeli and Turkish newspapers, and who comes from the University of Utah, that hotbed of Turkish "academic" denial these days. His speech, a veritable tour de force in character assassination of many people from James Bryce to Raphael Lemkin to Samantha Power and her husband Cass Sunstein, is available at the ATAA website. The following passage is worthy of quote (emphasis added):
"Those who study the facts full-time, are the very opposite of deniers of facts. Justin McCarthy was here in Australia and he was accused of terrible things. This Dr. McCarthy, whom I have had the pleasure to meet once at a conference in Sarajevo, is not a denier of facts. He is dedicated, as a scholar, to knowing more about what happened. This impressive man, a walking encyclopedia of a man, has spent a lifetime of studying the facts of the events and surrounding the events. I sit and study facts all day. This is what I do. I am not a big-time barrister in London, I am not even a recording artist. This is not a gig for me. I am committed to studying facts. I am finding them. Give me time, and these facts will become known. Give me a platform, and these facts will become known."
Mr. Buenos is not a denier of facts, he says, the same as Justin McCarthy, whose work, according to genocide scholar Donald Bloxham, "[serves] to muddy the waters for external observers, conflating war and one-sided murder with various discrete episodes of ethnic conflict... [A] series of easy get-out clauses for Western politicians and non-specialist historians keen not to offend Turkish opinion." Here is a paragraph from a recent article of Buenos in the Turkish pro-governmental newspaper Daily Sabah (August 1, 2014):
"In the 1950s, during a time of personal desperation marked by an unpublished autobiography, Lemkin became isolated from the government in his efforts to apply "genocide" around the world - such as calling the potato famine in Ireland a genocide - and reportedly became obsessed with its promotion as it became attached to his own name and reputation. It was during this time that he received interest and support from Christian groups. In return, he began to condemn as genocide the past treatment of Christian Armenians by the Ottoman state and Christian Koreans by Japan in order to find favor with nongovernment Christian lobbies of missionary agendas and enhance his legacy in this manner. In this state of mind, he claimed that he always had the Armenians in mind."
Buenos, indeed, has an ax to grind in the best McCarthy style: he claims that Lemkin did not write his Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, but someone at the Carnegie Endowment Fund did, since he could not have known enough English by 1944 and there is no acknowledgement of anyone helping him with the language. By 1944 people barely made the kind of acknowledgement authors did in the 1960s, when they thanked their typists, or these days, when they may even say a thank-you word to their cat.
Lemkin had learned enough Swedish in 1940-41 as to lecture at the University of Stockholm and to put together a Swedish book, published in 1941.He had shifted from philology to law in his university years. He knew nine languages before coming to the United States. Was it impossible for him to learn a tenth and to write a book? 
Of course, someone in the U.S. Government should have been idiotic enough as to translate German law decrees in 1942 and to graciously withhold his name to the benefit of Lemkin, so the latter could take the credit for the translation of the following work:
"Key laws, decrees and regulations issued by the Axis in occupied Europe. Washington: Board of Economic Warfare, Blockade and Supply Branch, Reoccupation Division, December 1942. 170pp." (*)
And someone else, therefore, wrote the introduction.
Buenos adds that Lemkin could not have the Armenian case in mind, because there is no mention of Armenians in Axis Rule. The book, indeed, does not contain any historical background to the concept of genocide, so there was no way that the word "Armenian" would have found room there.
Afterwards, Lemkin published an article in Free World (April 1945) that condensed the ideas of chapter IX of Axis Rule for non-specialized public. Again, it did not contain any historical backgrounds, since its original source did not either.
For the benefit of this full-time student of facts, here is a paragraph from Lemkin, taken from his article "Genocide," published in American Scholar exactly an year later, in April 1946, on the 31st anniversary of the extermination that inspired him (emphasis added):
"In this way a mass obliteration of nationhoods had been planned throughout occupied Europe. The Nazi leaders had stated very bluntly their intent to wipe out the Poles, the Russians; to destroy demographically and culturally the French element in Alsace-Lorraine, the Slavonians in Carniola and Carinthia. They almost achieved their goal in exterminating the Jews and Gypsies in Europe. Obviously, the German experience is the most striking and the most deliberate and thorough, but history has provided us with other examples of the destruction of entire nations, and ethnic and religious groups. There are, for example, the destruction of Carthage; that of religious groups in the wars of Islam and the Crusades; the massacres of the Albigenses and the Waldenses; and more recently, the massacre of the Armenians.
Therefore, not in the 1950s, but in 1946, in the first article where he pieced together cases of genocide, more than six months before the General Assembly of the U.N. recognized genocide as a crime, more than two years before the U.N. Convention was approved, Raphael Lemkin cited the Armenian case as an example of the "destruction of entire nations," a.k.a. genocide.
Mr. Buenos' whole argument becomes just... a hole in a house of cards.
He may consider himself the opposite of a denier, but the author of a piece presumptuously entitled "The Lemkin Hole in the Swiss Case" definitely seems to need 25 hours a day to study the most basic facts, because twenty-four are not enough for him to find even a dim light on the only path he knows: the cavernous road of denial. 
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(*)  Some of the bibliographic data on Lemkin have been taken from the comprehensive bibliography compiled by Jim Fussell from Prevent Genocide International.

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