The Armenian Weekly; July 12, 2008; Commentary and Analysis

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The Armenian Weekly; Volume 74, No. 27; July 12, 2008

Commentary and Analysis:

1. ‘Research’ as a Cloaking Device
By Tatul Sonentz-Papazian

2. Messing with History
By Garen Yegparian

3. Letters to the Editor
a) ARF Should Quit Coalition
b) Why Haven’t We All Visited Armenia?
c) Gay Rights


1. ‘Research’ as a Cloaking Device
By Tatul Sonentz-Papazian

The July 8 issue of the Boston Globe published a piece by Susan Kinzie of
the Washington Post titled "Genocide dispute unsettles Turkish studies
institute," relating incidents that ".set off a dispute over politics and
academic freedom at an institute housed at Georgetown University." and led
to the resignation, this summer, of several board members of the Institute
of Turkish Studies who protested the ouster of the board chairman,
Binghamton University professor Donald Quataert, "who wrote that scholars
should research, rather than avoid, what he characterized as an Armenian

Apparently, a short time after the publication of this writing, in late
2006, Professor Quataert resigned from the board of governors, stating that
".the Turkish ambassador to the United States told him he had angered some
political leaders in Ankara and that they had threatened to revoke the
institute’s funding." When word got to ". a prominent association of Middle
Eastern scholars," they wrote letters to the institute, the prime minister
and other leaders of Turkey, asking for the reinstatement of Professor
Quataert and-to avoid future political influence and pressures-for the
funding of the institute to be put in an irrevocable trust.

It is truly hard to decide which is more distasteful: The shameless
subversion of U.S. institutions of higher learning by Turkish governments
through bribes and blackmail, or the belated "indignation" of the "prominent
Middle Eastern scholars" who beyond a doubt have been aware of the attitude
of many academic centers-all beneficiaries of the continued Turkish
"largesse"-who have willingly exchanged by now the tattered mantle of
VERITAS for very lucrative deals with Ankara’s desecration program of
recorded history. One is forced to wonder whether these "prominent scholars"
would have reacted at all if it hadn’t been for the ouster of Professor
Quataert, an act that could stand as a potential threat to each and every
academic in the field.

Denial-oriented "research," along with vested interests on the highest
levels of the present-day U.S. establishment, constitute the cloaking device
behind which the genocidal process against Christian minorities, started in
the Ottoman Empire as early as the 19th century, continues to this day in
insidious ways, in the eastern territories of the Turkish Republic against
the remnants of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians-parallel to the ongoing
decimation of the Kurds-through forced conversions to Islam and the denial
of the very basic human and minority rights guaranteed by the impotent
Treaty of Lausanne, which through its innate inequities laid the foundations
for today’s catastrophic state of affairs in the region.

Speaking of this sad affair, Professor Quataert has stated that during his
time at the institute, no one ever applied for grants to finance studies
that could be construed as controversial in Turkey. No kidding!
—————————————– ————————————————-

2. Messing with History
By Garen Yegparian

As those who have tried to change history can attest, it doesn’t work. Check
with Holocaust deniers, ex-Soviet leaders (and their counterparts in Animal
Farm), and even Turkey.

Serge Sarkisian’s statement during his visit to Russia should have been
informed by this knowledge, but was not. Alas. Not only did he come off as
being ready to negotiate away the genocide, but it seemed like he was
brownnosing to the genocidal state. How demeaning! I was going to critique
just this gaffe, but he’s made it worse, as you’ll see below.

As a contrast, take the LATimes’ reporting on the example of Israel’s
Wiesenthal Center (for two consecutive days as of this writing). It has put
up a $450,000 bounty for Aribert Heim, Dr. Death (not to be confused with
the good guy of the same moniker, Jack Kevorkian, of assisted suicide fame).
The guy, if alive (his family says he died in 1993), would be 94. Nazi
hunters have landed in Chile to look for him in Patagonia. It’s 63 years
after World War II and the Holocaust ended, and these guys are intently
pursuing the guilty. That’s dignity.

Interestingly, one of our SpitRain Award winners, Abe Foxman of ADL infamy,
after a visit to Turkey, remarked that he thought the fallout (with Turkey)
from the controversy over his "tantamount to genocide" and related comments
is "behind us." He also reported advising the Turkish leaders he met with to
focus on current issues with Armenia (including opening borders) as a way of
creating relationships that will ease the way to dealing with more sensitive
issues. I read this as "divide and conquer" and nothing else. Is the timing
just coincidence, I wonder?

But, back to Sarkisian, who had an op-ed piece in the July 9 Wall Street
Journal (WSJ). Here, he seemingly corrects his gaffe, but really digs the
hole deeper by avoiding calling Turkey’s border closure by its proper name,
a blockade. He focuses instead on the allegedly beneficial economics of open
borders. Think of what NAFTA has done to Mexico’s peasantry and lower
middleclass workers in the U.S. before you buy that pile of hooey.

Then Sarkisian seems to laud the circuitous (via Georgia) trade that is
ongoing between Armenia and Turkey. He seems to miss the point that the
increased cost of this routing enables Armenia’s fledgling economy to
produce some goods. Were trade direct, agriculture and small manufacturing
products wouldn’t stand a chance against Turkey’s industrial/agricultural
juggernaut. By implementing its pan-Turkic policy of assisting Azerbaijan,
Turkey has actually helped Armenia with the blockade. We should be making it
politically more difficult, not easier, for them to relent and open the
border. I have to wonder if, given the pervasive corruption in Armenia, some
fatcats have come to an agreement with their Turkish counterparts that, if
successful, would lead to the further fleecing of Armenia’s people.

Then Sarkisian makes a ridiculous analogy of our situation with the
ping-pong diplomacy of the early 1970’s. How can that pre-Nixon/Mao-meeting
goodwill-building phenomenon be compared to the Armenia/Turkey situation?
Had either China or the U.S. committed genocide against the other and
persisted in denying it? How absurd! He almost seems to beg for normalized
relations with Turkey, once again demeaning his office, our landlocked
country, and our whole world-dispersed nation.

Of course there’s the invitation for Turkish President Abdullah Gul to join
Armenia’s president in watching the Armenia-Turkey soccer match. On its own,
that’s not such a bad idea. It could have been on our turf, on our terms. If
nothing else, it would have provided an opportunity to organize a massive
protest. But in the present context, it’s enough to make even the most
stolid person squirm with unease.

What’s going on? Serge Sarkisian is the guy who stood up to and fought Turks
to our east. Why is Sarkisian being so accommodating of the (even more
directly genocidal) Turks to our west?

By the way, you can, and should send comments to the WSJ. I did, and it was
posted, though I know of at least one person whose submission was not
accepted. This is what mine read, and it has already been criticized as
being too weak, though a foremost concern of mine was appearing in WSJ space
about the genocide while tying Turkey legally to the Ottoman Empire:

"President Sarkisian seems to be back-peddling from his earlier comments
(during a visit to Russia two weeks ago) regarding the matter of a

"Turkey has sought the establishment of such an entity as a means of forever
delaying admission of its culpability for the Armenian Genocide committed
1915-23 by its legal predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire.

"Sarkisian’s more nuanced and broadened approach to this matter is a welcome
correction, though still suspect to most Armenians worldwide."

Is something cooking? It’s very fishy. Sarkisian’s comment in Moscow
followed by Gul saying they’re evaluating the invitation, contemporaneous
with Abe Foxman’s comments and capped with the WSJ piece. If he’s running a
deft ruse, Sarkisian should at least come clean with our leadership.
Similarly if he’s just trying to divert external pressure. Regardless, we
should keep up the public heat on him. This simply enables his game,
strengthening his bargaining position. Conversely, if it’s simply a matter
of poor judgment on his part, our outcry will drive him back to more
appropriate policies. The very possibility that something has been cooked up
to ease pressure on Turkey is proof of the value of the heat we maintain on
Turkey through our genocide recognition and other Turkey-oriented actions in
the Diaspora. Given Matthew Bryza’s recent visit to the area, Foxman’s
Turkey trip, the lame-duck period of Bush’s presidency with its traditional
focus on foreign policy, and the op-ed’s publication in the WSJ (a bastion
of the U.S. establishment’s right wing), makes me suspect intense U.S.

Write the WSJ, Armenia’s consulates and embassies, expressing your dismay
and opposition to the dangerous path Sarkisian has started following.
————————————— ————————————————-

3. Letters to the Editor

a) ARF Should Quit Coalition

Dear Editor,

Further to my June 30 email, President Sarkisian has now officially invited
a denialist to Yerevan and ignored all advice not to do so. He has become a
disgrace in the eyes of millions of Armenians.

I believe the main reason for his foolish and very dangerous step is to
strengthen his very weak position in the eyes of the U.S. and EU, so that
they keep a closed eye to his wrongdoings in Armenia over all these years.

I firmly believe the time has come for the ARF to say goodbye to such a
president, as such a coalition is going nowhere and is doomed for failure.

The ARF must be very firm and honest about this issue as anything else is
tantamount to betrayal of the Armenian nation and what the ARF has stood for
over all these years. Turkey will use this move in her favor by deliberately
misleading and confusing the international community, as she has done in the
past with the famous TARC group financed by the U.S. State Department.

This president has sadly lost all credibility. Time to move on.

Mihran Keheyian
London, England


b) Why Haven’t We All Visited Armenia?

Dear Editor,

I am amazed at the number of American-Armenians that have yet to visit
Armenia. I am talking about people that are active in our
cultural/youth/church groups, who take cruises, travel to Europe, visit Dude
Ranches, and drop $2,000 or more on a 4-day kef weekend at the Cape. Why
have ye not visited the homeland?

The Marriot in Republic Square has the same amenities as the Marriot in
Manhattan and the Ani Hotel is exquisite. Many of you have known the names
of all the sites since your first visit to camp and although I could list
them here as a reminder I won’t.

Some of you have said, "What would I do there? I feel if I go to Armenia I
would have to do something." When you travel to Italy do you think, What
will I do for this country? No, you go as a tourist to see the country, eat
the food, and feel the culture. Why not go to Armenia and see the country,
hear the language, eat those apricots you have been hearing about, and see
if they are as large or as sweet as you have been told? Check out the
pomegranates. Did you know that all pomegranates, regardless of size, are
said to have 365 seeds in them, one for each day of the year to bring us
good luck? I heard that story in Yerevan and recall it with a smile each
time I see one.

You should see the country through your own eyes, feel it, meet and talk to
the people, go into their homes, see how they really live, form your own

Every place you visit has its down side. If you came to Boston I would stay
clear of Roxbury/Dorchester. Do you know over this past July 4th weekend
there were five shootings that led to death in those neighborhoods? Downtown
Crossing is a ghost town with the closing of several stores and it’s scary
to walk there. There have always been beggars downtown because of the Arch
Street Chapel that might have a food kitchen, and with the lack of shoppers
it’s all you see. I might not take you to the Franklin Park Zoo because it
is located in Roxbury; the fabulous Arnold Arboretum is in Jamaica Plain but
borders Dorchester and the Emerald Necklace; a park system designed by
Olmstead travels through Boston, the South End, Roxbury, and Dorchester
ending at the Arboretum. Outside of the city in upscale Belmont Hill you
have to dodge the pot holes else you would lose a tire on a daily basis and
our bridges are in disrepair.

But ya know, the sun was out this weekend, I went to the beach, picked derev
and made yalanchi for my son, spent an afternoon with my new hars, and all
is fabulous.

On the next to last day of my most recent trip to Yerevan, I was alone in
the afternoon walking towards the Cascade, wanting to sit, look out at the
park, have a coffee, and just sort of veg. As I was having a senior moment
and was not sure if I was walking in the right direction, I stopped a young
lady and said "Kourig jan, Cascada ice gomneh?" She pointed and replied

Now when I hear our African-Americans refer to each other as brother and
sister I smile instead of becoming fearful. This past weekend I watched a
foreign film about India called "DOR." Every time they said "Ha" the word
"yes" appeared in the subtitles and they ate goat meat with pilov. How
different are we really from each other?

To our young adults: You have so many advantages. You could spend summers
volunteering through one of the hundreds of agencies. Birthright Armenia
reimburses fees for volunteers that meet certain criteria. How about a
semester in Yerevan instead of a semester in Paris? And for those that can
no longer take the summer off, one could certainly do a tour through their
church/fraternal organization or a travel agency.

Some might think it’s an adventure that is more than they can handle. Every
day is an adventure and it’s time to pack your bags and take the journey.

Barbara Najarian
Lexington, Mass.


c) Gay Rights

Dear Editor,

Mr. Gerami brings to light an important issue for the Armenian-American
community (Armenian Weekly, "Letter to the Editor," July 5, 2008). The
debate over whether the U.S. should recognize gay marriage is an issue that
will gauge how far the U.S. has come since the Civil Rights movement.

Nevertheless, countless right-wing politicians staunchly oppose any measure
that aims to grant equal marital rights to the gay and lesbian community. In
2004, San Francisco legalized same sex marriages, to which President Bush
angrily responded: "I’m troubled by what I’ve seen. I have consistently
stated that I’ll support [a] law to protect marriage between a man and a
woman. And, obviously, these events are influencing my decision."

This leaves me wondering: What exactly are the decisions being influenced by
same sex marriages? Perhaps it’s his decision to abandon any genuine attempt
to kill or even capture Osama bin Laden while diverting his resources to
finding Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps it’s his
decision to turn a blind eye to the treatment of our soldiers at Walter Reed
Hospital. Perhaps it’s his consistent and vehement denial of the Armenian

No, but allowing homosexuals to get married? That calls for drastic action.
It seems as though the President has drawn the line in the sand. As
Armenians, we have an obligation to stand with Mr. Gerami and fight for

Garo Youssoufian
Princeton, N.J.