Michael Totten

Claire Berlinski’s Voltaire Project

While the Turkish government admits that huge numbers of Armenians were massacred during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, it has long denied the killings constitute genocide. It’s actually a crime to use the word genocide in that context. Turks who do so face prison.

Now France has just decided to criminalize its denial. French people who promote the Turkish position face prison.

I trust that my American readers understand instinctively why this is no way to end debates about history. Not only would neither of these laws pass constitutional muster in the United States, hardly anyone would even consider trying to pass one or the other. Unlike some countries in Europe, we have no law criminalizing Holocaust denial, yet the number of Americans who believe the Holocaust is a lie approaches the vanishing point. And it wouldn’t even occur to us to ban discussion of the darkest episodes in American history because doing so besmirches our “honor.”

Claire Berlinski at Ricochet decided to break both laws this week because she’s an American, because she feels that she must, and because she can. She lives in Istanbul and spent Christmas with her family in Paris. So she denied the Armenian genocide while she was in France, and she affirms it now that she’s back in Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government is charting a middle course and considering a legal recognition that the genocide happened, but eschewing a ban on its verbal or written denial. Israelis have been reluctant to antagonize their allies in Ankara by doing so, but the Turkish prime minister is so hell-bent on sabotaging the relationship that Jerusalem figures it has nothing to lose.