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It is fair to say that Britons have grown more familiar than they'd like with the real estate habits of ultra-Orthodox Jews in east Jerusalem.  Judging by the coverage this hyperactive sectarian element garners in the British press, Israeli settler development is apparently better disposed to determine the course of events in today's Middle East than are the nuclear ambitions of Iran's mullahs, the parliamentary intrigues of Iraqi Shia, or the Turkish prime minister's threat of forced population transfers.

You'd be forgiven for not knowing about that last development-that is, if you're a regular reader of Britain's left-wing press, which has been eerily silent about the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent threat to expel 100,000 Armenians from Turkey. The threat was made in response to U.S. and Swedish resolutions recognizing as a genocide the Ottoman Empire's mass murder of over 1 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923.  In an interview with the BBC's Turkish Service on March 17, Erdogan said that in light of international pressure to get his country to face up to the history of its last Islamic caliphate, out of whose ruins the modern Kemalist nation was born, he could turn very angry indeed. "In my country there are 170,000 Armenians; 70,000 of them are citizens," Erdogan said. "We tolerate 100,000 more. So, what am I going to do tomorrow? If necessary I will tell the 100,000: okay, time to go back to your country. Why? They are not my citizens. I am not obliged to keep them in my country." 

There are three things to note about this thuggish statement. The first is that Erdogan's demographics are in dispute: a new study conducted last year suggest that only 10,000 Armenians reside in Turkey illegally, half of them having fled after a devastating 1988 earthquake hit Armenia; the other half having slowly trickled over the years as migrant workers seeking respite from the anemic post-Soviet Armenian economy.

The second thing to note is that Ankara not only denies that the atrocities committed by the Ottomans against the Armenians in the midst of World War I amount to a genocide-this, despite historical consensus to the contrary and the fact that the term "genocide" itself was coined in 1943 by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish scholar who had examined the Armenian example in depth-but it has also made it illegal to acknowledge or debate these events publicly.  The 2005 penal code proscribing such action equates it with "insulting Turkishness," an offense Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk found himself guilty of retroactively after he gave an interview acknowledging the genocide four months prior to the law's implementation. He was prosecuted in 2005 and although the charges were eventually dropped, Pamuk's books were burned in the streets.

Finally, Erdogan issued this demarche-which would arguably amount to ethnic cleansing if realized-while visiting the United Kingdom. However, the British government's only response to it was to treat historical truth as a semantic distraction from the fine art of national reconciliation: "[T]he main concern of this Government is not what we call such horrific events but ensuring that the lessons are learnt, and relationships are re-built to ensure a peaceful and secure future for everyone living the region."

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April 30th, 2010
9:04 AM
I wouldn't pick fault with the Armenians' measly lobbying spend, were I you. For very many years AIPAC was spending considerably more, in terms of time and effort, lobbying AGAINST recognition of the Armenian genocide. Thankfully, a situation that no longer persists.

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