By Selcuk Gultasli, Brussels

Zaman, Turkey
May 10 2006

Famous American and European historians have sided against the bill,
which would make denial of the so-called Armenian genocide a punishable
offence, to be discussed in the French Parliament on May 18.

Historians say if the bill is passed, freedom of speech will be harmed
and history will have been "censored."

Lobbies in Brussels make jokes that the French parliament is being
influenced by the 301st clause in the Turkish criminal code which is
frequently criticized by the European Union (EU).

Professor Eric Zurcher, a famous Dutch professor and an expert on
Turkey, considers getting stuck on the word "genocide" is unfortunate.

Emeritus Professor of Political Science Guenter Lewy, who became
the target of Armenians because of his recently published book
"The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide,"
wants history to be left to the historians.

Britain's Dr. Andrew Mango says it is "an insult to pass such a
ridiculous bill." The three important academics responded to questions
posed by Zaman.

Jewish origin American scholar Lewy says he also opposes the laws
that suggest criminalizing the denial of the Jewish Holocaust.

"Parliaments should discuss the laws, not history. The Armenian
"genocide" bill in France is not as logical as the Holocaust oriented
laws. The freedom of speech in democratic societies should also be
applied to fools speaking unwisely. I oppose the existence of such
laws wherever they are - in France, in Germany, in Switzerland or
in Turkey. Such laws could have functioned in Germany after the Nazi
defeat in 1945; however, they are not needed anymore."

Lewy says he is not concerned about being arrested in France over
his book. "If French judges want to censor history, including all the
history books published all over the world," he said, "they will be
insulted by everyone siding with the academic world, and with free
and uncensored researches.

Algeria and Congo are forgotten

Professor Zurcher considers the French bill is objectionable in two
aspects: Primarily historians should avoid writing history; and the use
of the word "genocide" is a hindrance to any research being conducted
on the events in 1915. He also believes Armenians were exposed to
ethnic cleansing and if it is to be compared to any other event, it
can be more likened to the Serbian massacres in Bosnia and Kosovo,
not to the Jewish holocaust.

Zurcher points out that the French law could be spread throughout
Europe, but the issue, he says, cannot be made a condition for
Turkey's entry to the European Union. "What France did in Algeria;
Belgium in the Congo and in my country, The Netherlands, as well as in
the Far-East, have never been discussed by the EU; so then why Turkey?"

British scholar Andrew Mango puts the so-called Armenian genocide
allegations aside and considers that freedom of speech will be
restricted after the bill becomes law.

Mango says, "Such a law is unlikely to be exercised in my country,
Britain. Britain even allows you to deny the Jewish Holocaust because
we highly appreciate the speech freedom." He says defending such a
law is an "insult against freedom."

When asked whether he will hesitate about traveling to France if the
bill becomes law, Mango replied: "I was asked the same question in my
previous France visit. I said, 'I will not talk about the Armenian
case here because there is no freedom of speech in your country.' I
will probably not talk about these issues in France anymore." The
British historian says enemies of Turkey consider the EU bid as an
"opportunity." Don't the Greek Cypriots do the same thing? Turkey
portrays itself as if it is ready to accept everything for EU

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress