Turks and Armenians

Over at The Daily Dish, Jamie Kirchick follows Mark and makes the sensible point that the Anti-Defamation League, which claims to be a humanitarian organization, should not be censoring its own officials for pointing out that the Armenian genocide was, in fact,a genocide. The origin of this is the Turkish government’s pressuring Israel to pressure American Jewish groups not to take a stand on the issue.

All this much is straightforward. But the underlying issue seems murkier: why, in fact, do the Turks care about this issue so much?

You might think that the answer is obvious: the Turks care because no one likes to be accused of genocide. But the regime that committed it is not that of the current Turkish Republic: it was the Ottoman Empire, which was overthrown by Kemal Ataturk because of, among other reasons, its moral corruption. Moreover, it was nearly 100 years ago; no one alive today can be considered a perpetrator of the original crime.

Michael Crowley, in a good article about the issue in TNR, suggests that acknowledgement of the genocide would force huge financial and perhaps territorial reparations on the Turks–or at least that’s what Ankara fears. But his evidence for this is pretty thin: one nationalist Armenian blogger. And for precisely the reasons that I just mentioned, massive financial and territorial reparations would be less likely in this case.

Something else is going on here, probably with a Kurdish connection. I’ll see what I can find out, and if readers have ideas or evidence, please send them along.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.