To the Hellenic Parliament:
Let us not capitulate to pressure from the Turkish regime and support their efforts to whitewash their bloody past. As a Hellenic American, who has extensively studied the history of the Hellenic diaspora and formation of modern nation states, I can appreciate what Turkey is trying to accomplish. However, we cannnot let her perpetrate this myth. To admit privately that we KNOW that Kemal Attaturk and his military committed GENOCIDE against Turkey's Christian minorities while to acquiesce to pressures to remove public references to the systematic extermination of peoples is to endorse such policies.
More is to be gained by pressuring Turkey to ADMIT her barbarous past - so that we can move forward on a platform of mutual respect. Consider that in April 1998, over 150 of the world's most respected thinkers, scholars and authors --including Yehuda Bauer, Israel Charny, Seamus Heaney, Deborah Lipstadt, Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller, John Updike and Kurt Vonnegut -- took a stand against Turkey's multi-million-dollar campaign of genocide denial by signing a petition that affirmed:
"The Denial of Genocide is a form of aggression. It continues the process of genocide. It strives to reshape history in order to rehabilitate the perpetrators and demonize the victims. It prevents healing of the wounds inflicted by genocide. Denying genocide is the final stage of genocide-it murders the dignity of the survivors and destroys the remembrance of the crime."
As with the Armenian Genocide, those opposing the recognition of the Greek Genocide of Asia Minor attempt to shift focus away from the unfathomable reality of the historical event itself by portraying the issue as one of nationalism and ethnic conflict rather than of healing and remembrance. Yet, as noted by Professor Peter Balakian, prominent U.S. scholar and author of "Black Dog of Fate", the driving force behind the renewed awareness of Turkey's Greek holocaust transcends nationality and ideology: "this is not about ethnic conflict, Greek vs. Turk or Armenian vs. Turk, this is about universal moral issues and universal human rights issues . . . Clearly, denying genocide paves the way for future genocide, for it suggests to the world that governments can commit mass murder with impunity."
This chilling postulate was already put into practice just twenty years after Turkey's eradication of its Christian minorities. Eight days before unleashing his exterminationist campaign in Europe, on August 22, 1939 Hitler defended his orders "to kill without pity or mercy all men, women and children" by declaring "who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
By yielding to Turkey's efforts to deny the Greek Genocide of Asia Minor, the Greek government becomes an accomplice to the systematic pattern of violence and intimidation that the Turkish government has used to silence those who have spoken up against genocide.
Hebrew University professor Stanley Cohen's statement regarding the Turkish government's aggressive campaign of denial vis- -vis the Armenian Genocide applies equally to its denial of the genocide of Asia Minor's Greeks:
"The nearest successful example [of 'collective denial'] in the modern era is the 80 years of official denial by successive Turkish governments of the 1915-17 genocide against the Armenians in which some 1.5 million people lost their lives. This denial has been sustained by deliberate propaganda, lying and coverups, forging documents, suppression of archives, and bribing scholars. The West, especially the United States, has colluded by not referring to the massacres in the United Nations, ignoring memorial ceremonies, and surrendering to Turkish pressure in NATO and other strategic arenas of cooperation" (Law and Social Inquiry, Winter 1995).
The Greek government now has the opportunity to rehabilitate its past enabling of the denial of genocide by unequivocally recognizing that what befell the Greek populations of Asia Minor was genocide as defined by the 1948 United Nations Convention on The Prevention And Punishment of The Crime of Genocide.
Hellas must forge a destiny that embraces progress and civilization, not regression and repression. Despite their ongoing victimization by Turkey in places like Cyprus and Istanbul, in fact because of it, Greeks must meet this destiny and become a major democratizing force for Turkey itself.
By surrendering to Turkish and related pressures on vital moral issues, the Greek government is ensuring the perpetuation of a morally damaged neighbor with an outmoded nationalist ideology who will continue to threaten territorial conquest and sap Greece's full economic and human potential. Moreover, Greece's policy of appeasement will not only lock Turkey in an anachronistic holding pattern while the rest of developing Europe busies itself with genuine reform and democratization, but will also perpetuate the cycle of fear that lies at the heart of regressive elements within Greece itself.
People of good conscience implore the government of the Hellenic Republic not to remove the word "genocide" from a law recognizing the Genocide of Hellenism in Asia Minor.
With great concern,
Los Angeles, California
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