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      Armenians Worldwide Proudly Proclaim: "Vive La France!"

Armenians Worldwide Proudly Proclaim: "Vive La France!"   19/10/2006

Armenians Worldwide Proudly Proclaim: "Vive La France!"

  By Harut Sassounian
  Publisher, The California Courier

  The bill adopted by the French Parliament last week with a vote of 106
in favor and 19 against, making it a crime to deny the Armenian
Genocide, has more to do with a political tug of war between the
denialist Turkish government and French Armenian activists, than with
freedom of expression.

  The score in France is now: Armenians 4, Turkey 0
The three goals were scored when President Chirac in 2001 signed into law a bill
recognizing the Armenian Genocide, after it was approved by the
Parliament and the Senate.

  Back then, Turkey tried to block that law by threatening France with
economic and political reprisals. The Turks withdrew their Ambassador,
only to send him back meekly in a few of weeks. They also said they were
going to boycott French products, but Turkish imports from France
actually jumped from $2.3 billion in 2001 to $5.9 billion in 2005. The
French politicians were right not to take the Turkish threats seriously.
The Turkish bark was worse than its bite!

  Last week, the same scenario played itself out. The Turks made the
same threats and the French Parliament ignored them once again.

  This David and Goliath battle pitted a powerful country that marshals
unlimited resources to propagate lies, against Armenian activists who
are armed with nothing more than the truth.

  It is simply amazing that the Turks, of all people, are accusing the
French of repressing freedom of speech when they themselves have been
prosecuting for years anyone who dares to even utter the words "Armenian
Genocide!"

  Various Turkish leaders and journalists tried to deceive world public
opinion last week by stating that France has lost all credibility after
the passage of this bill. None of these statesmen and journalists,
including the pro-Turkish European Union officials who so readily
condemned the French Parliament's action, had the decency of
acknowledging the following basic facts:
  1) France and a score of other European countries have for years
banned the denial of the Jewish Holocaust.
  2) The European Court on Human Rights has repeatedly ruled that such a
prohibition is not a repression of the freedom of speech.

  Those who criticize the French bill on the Armenian Genocide do not
seem to have the minimal courage to criticize the similar law banning
the denial of the Holocaust adopted in 1990. They have no explanation as
to why the victims of the Armenian Genocide do not deserve equal
protection under French law as the Jewish victims of the Holocaust?

  Furthermore, many Turkish leaders and EU officials have shamelessly
proclaimed that the French ban of the denial of the Armenian Genocide
would prevent reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia and delay the
recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey. In other words, they are
opposed to this bill out of their deep concern for Armenia's interests!
They are simply trying to trick the Armenians into giving up their
historic rights for dubious economic and political relations with
Turkey! As prominent British journalist Robert Fisk pointed out in his
October 14 column in The Independent, such statements are akin to
telling the Jews, "no more talk of the Jewish Holocaust lest we
hinder 'reconciliation' between Germany and the Jews of Europe."

  It is the height of hypocrisy for the leaders of Turkey, a country
that has violated the most basic rights of its citizens for years, to be
screaming about lack of freedom in France! As the Bible quotes Jesus
saying: "You see the sliver in your friend's eye, but you don't see the
timber in your own eye!"

  Once again the Turkish government has a serious credibility problem.
If it does not carry out its announced threats against France, it will
be the laughing stock of the entire world. Unfortunately for the Turkish
government, all of its contemplated measures have serious drawbacks:

  -- Withdrawing its Ambassador from France. Problem: When the
ambassador is eventually returned to Paris, Turkey would look foolish,
as his withdrawal would look like an empty gesture that did not
accomplish anything.
  -- Boycotting French products. Problem: Boycotting the products of
French companies operating in Turkey would result in tens of thousands
of Turkish workers losing their jobs.
  -- Canceling all French tenders for Turkish military contracts.
Problem: To win such bids, the French companies must have offered a
better product at a lower price than that of their competitors. If their
offer were to be rejected for political reasons, Turkey would then be
forced to accept the bid from a non-French company, paying a higher
price for an inferior product. Furthermore, rather than isolating France
by such boycotts, Turkey would be isolating itself from a powerful
country that has a major influence over Turkey's application for EU
membership. The more irrational the reaction is to this bill, the more
Turkey risks antagonizing the French public which would eventually
decide in a referendum whether Turkey is qualified to join the ranks of
civilized European nations!
  -- Threatening to pass a resolution accusing France of committing
genocide in Algeria. Problem: This would backfire on Turkey by
validating all of the resolutions on the Armenian Genocide adopted by
two-dozen countries and undermine the Turkish claim that parliaments
should not legislate history. Another problem is that Turkey would look
foolish by doing so, as the Algerian Parliament itself has not passed a
resolution accusing France of genocide.
  -- Pulling out of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon in
order to avoid bringing Turkish troops under French control. A Turkish
dilemma: How to score diplomatic points for participating in the UN
effort to "bring peace to Lebanon," without putting Turkish soldiers
under French command?

  The only thing the Turks are doing successfully is continuing to
repress their own Armenian citizens, who, as hostages, are forced to
make statements against the French law and even deny that their own
family members had been the victims of genocide.

  The Turks are simply 5 years too late in fighting the battle that they
lost when the French government first adopted the law recognizing the
Armenian Genocide. This new bill basically assigns a punishment (one
year in jail and up to $56,000 in fines) for those breaking that law.
Disobeying every law must have a consequence. Why shouldn't this one?

  The Armenian-Turkish political match is not yet over. In the coming
months, Armenians will hopefully score a couple of more goals when the
French Senate would consider this bill and then send it to the President
for his signature.

  In the meantime, sit back and watch Turkey humiliate itself with each
passing day. You can counter the Turkish boycott by buying a lot of
French bread, drinking a lot of French wine, and engaging in a lot of
French kissing!


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