Take That Back

John Hanratty

Georgian (St. George Bay), Canada
Oct 18 2006

We live in strange times.

The National Assembly of France has just passed a controversial
new law. They’re making it illegal to say that the Turkish
expulsion/massacre of Armenians in the early 1900s was not genocide.

Let’s repeat that: the new law says you can’t deny that the Armenian
deaths constituted genocide.

It’s always weird when a government tries to tell you what to believe
or what you can say. With a few exceptions, democratic societies
allow their citizens to believe or say whatever they want to.

In Canada, even when people want to deny that the Holocaust happened,
they’re allowed to. But Canadians are not allowed to incite hatred
against identifiable groups.

Perhaps the French politicians would argue that any denial of the
Turkish genocide against the Armenians is automatically inciting
hatred against Armenians, but that’s a stretch.

The Turks did execute or starve over a million Armenians around the
time of World War I. The Turkish government makes a counter-claim
that the Armenians killed over 500,000 Turks around the same time.

But it will soon be illegal in France to debate or discuss this
question, or use the wrong terminology to do so.

The point is: where will this stop? What statement or belief will
they outlaw next?

A somewhat similar kind of controversy erupted in Canada last week.

Federal Liberal leadership hopeful Michael Ignatieff set off a
firestorm when he accused Israel of war crimes in its recent attacks
in Lebanon.

After a couple of clumsy efforts to clarify his remarks, Mr.

Ignatieff finally made the point that there were crimes on both sides
of the recent Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.

What’s striking about both the French and Canadian controversies
is the degree of passion that has been aroused. Large protests and
threats in Turkey against the French law, versus strong lobbying
by Armenians.A huge uproar in Europe outside of France, because of
Turkey’s application to enter the European Union.

By the way, the new Canadian government says that it was indeed
genocide against the Armenians, but they won’t jail any of us who
choose to deny or doubt it.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ignatieff has lost some key supporters from his
front-running campaign for the Liberal leadership because of his
poorly-chosen remarks about Israel. (He had previously gotten himself
into trouble over other opinions about Ukraine, I believe it was.)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper quickly jumped in and tried to label
all of the Liberal leadership candidates as anti-Israeli.

Who says politics is boring these days, anyway?