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by James Cooke
Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006 at 6:31 AM
It’s interesting to see what issues can infiltrate and corrupt the Left. Usually the offenses are blatant— supporting the ‘war on terror’, electing ‘progressive Democrats’, calling for military intervention into a troubled region (Yugoslavia— and now Sudan). Sometimes though, more subtle topics can confuse and disorientate the Left, the most recent example being the sudden reemergence of the WWI Armenian genocide as a hot-button issue.
On the surface, this appears to be a Left cause — Turkey is guilty of holocaust-denial. Rewriting history is always a dangerous route to take, especially when those doing it are heads of state; the traditional result has been a reactionary turn in policy. Anyone who stands for justice and equality takes a firm stance against such behavior. With that said, one has to wonder why this particular event, which took place a hundred years ago, is suddenly making headlines. To view this emerging topic as a simple case of holocaust-denial is to align oneself with the anti-Islamic wing of Europe who are using the topic to inflame ethnic and religious tensions, consolidate their racist constituency, and shift national issues away from the ever-worsening social reality— much like what is happening in the U.S., not to mention Australia.
The spark that united the debate occurred in France, where Jacques Chirac, the right-wing President, and Nicolas Sarkozy, Chirac’s ultra-right Interior Minister, co-supported a law making denial of the Armenian genocide a crime; earlier in the year France officially recognized the event as genocide. Now Chirac has publicly stated that Turkey, who does not recognize the WWI happenings as genocide, should do so if it wants entrance into the European Union. Once again, taking this move on its face, the usually-callous French leaders appear to be putting humanity ahead of politics. Just the opposite is the case, as it always is.
Before an opinion is formed on the issue, some preliminary details should be pondered. One should first reflect on the fact that the Armenian genocide was the work of Ottoman Turks (Muslims), responsible for killing Armenian Christians. This particular detail should raise an eyebrow, considering the current climate of religious tension in the world.
Additional suspicion is required when one considers the credibility of these suddenly-virtuous French leaders, whose past actions have made them the object of contempt from much of French society. Chirac is the French equivalent of George Bush— he is widely unpopular and considered by many to be a lame duck. The massive protests that took place in response to the First Employment Contract proposed by Chirac had revolutionary potential, forcing the President to make a substantial, albeit temporary retreat in his right-wing policy-making. The convulsive environment of France has forced its leaders into the cellars of society to find political support; religion, racism, and demagoguery are the tactics now relied on to divert attention from the pressing issues of the country. Suddenly, the most prized constituents are the most backward, content with easy answers to complex questions. Immigrants and Muslims have been hardest hit by this shift of strategy.
The subtle anti-Islamic rhetoric that both politicians and the media had been using evolved into the most racist and reactionary state policies. French schools are now under a country-wide ban of Muslim headscarves and other “conspicuous’ religious symbols, a blatant violation of a founding principle of the French republic— the freedom of religion. Chirac’s national address concerning the issue was greeted by the media with fanfare and hysteria as he tried to twist the issue into one of great historical importance: the social problems of France were now the result of a ‘clash of cultures’— the method used by every despotic regime in history facing desperation and crisis. The Muslims of France were painted as foreign entities, unable to acclimate themselves to French society, something that is now blamed for their devastating poverty and consequently, overt rebelliousness.
In October 2005, the culmination of the ‘Muslim question’ took place in riot form, spreading quickly across France and eventually throughout much of Europe, reflecting the continent-wide significance of the issue. Those rioting were mainly Islamic youth of African heritage, unhappy with unemployment, poverty, and state-sponsored racism. The French government responded with ruthless repression, implanting curfews and a three-month long state of emergency. Little was mentioned about the social conditions responsible for the uprising. Nicholas Sarkozy, always in the vanguard of anti-Islamic rhetoric, referred to the rioters as ‘rubble’ and ‘scum’, using the event as a pretext for even harsher laws and a ‘monitoring program’ aimed at the extremely early detection of troublemakers; Muslims will be the overwhelming target in this case.
With the above taken into consideration, the new genocide-denial law cannot be supported; indeed, it must be completely rejected. Not only does it contradict another founding principle of democracy (the freedom of speech), it also insults the memories of those Armenians actually persecuted during WWI; their deaths are being shamelessly exploited by a regime in crisis, looking for any reason to shift the countries problems away from those responsible for making decisions. Chirac and his cohorts are literally incapable of such empathy, responding with genuine emotion only when their corporate masters are threatened.
Fortunately, many Armenians of the region understand the racist intentions of the new measure, and have vowed to travel to France to become criminals for breaking a law that is allegedly meant to protect them. This level of political consciousness is severely lacking on an international level by many of those interested in the subject.
It is enough to know that most governments in the world today are mirrored reflections of an internationally unhealthy business environment; the corporations that have long controlled the mainstream political parties are expressing their desperation through their electoral voice-boxes. The ever-deepening conflict of interests between the needs of corporations and that of average people has created an environment of hostility towards governments across the globe, resulting in the low-brow political maneuvers so familiar to those living in the U.S. At this stage, EVERY policy implemented by 1st world governments should be looked upon with deep suspicion. Scratching the surface will usually reveal the most sickening of intentions.
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