VP of PBS Should Be Dismissed For Insulting Armenians

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VP of PBS Should Be Dismissed For Insulting Armenians

By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier

March 3, 2006

Up until now, I had refrained from blaming any one individual at PBS for the unwise decision to air a debate with deniers of the Armenian Genocide, immediately after the broadcast of Andrew Goldberg's documentary, The Armenian Genocide, on April 17.

Regrettably, I must now single out Jacoba Atlas, the Senior Vice President of PBS programming, not only for being responsible for this misguided decision, but also for insulting Armenians worldwide by stating that the Armenian Genocide "is not entirely analogous" to the Jewish Holocaust.

In response to a letter from Steve Dadaian, the Chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, Western Region, Atlas wrote: "You and others have likened our decision to following a documentary on the genocide of Jews during WW II with a panel of Holocaust deniers. With all due respect, the comparison is not entirely analogous. Germany has fully accepted responsibility for the Holocaust, paid reparations, made apologies, met with survivors and teaches about it in its schools. As you know, this is not the case with the Armenian genocide. Turkey’s official position on this chapter of history is a key part of the controversy that the documentary and the panel discussion seek to examine."

Since when does PBS take its programming cues from oppressive governments? In terms of Turkish acknowledgement, Ms. Atlas is probably not aware that in an interview published in the August 1, 1926 issue of the Los Angeles Examiner, Kemal Ataturk admitted that the Young Turks had massacred "millions of [their] Christian subjects." She may not also know that the Turkish Military Tribunal in 1919 sentenced to death in absentia the masterminds of the Armenian Genocide. How many times Turkish leaders and Turkish courts must acknowledge the Armenian Genocide before Ms. Atlas is satisfied that the Armenian Genocide and the Jewish Holocaust are "analogous?"

Ms. Atlas owes an apology to the Armenian American community for providing a national platform to genocide deniers and stating that the Armenian Genocide is not "analogous" to the Holocaust. Should she fail to apologize and cancel the offensive panel questioning the Armenian Genocide, PBS management should then dismiss her from her position. American taxpayers should not pay the salary of someone who besmirches the memory of the victims of genocide and insults their descendants.

Notably, while Ms. Atlas is stubbornly clinging to her anti-Armenian Genocide stance, another Jewish American, Cong. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), was joining Armenian demonstrators outside the studios of WNET/13 (the PBS affiliate in New York City) last Saturday to protest the station’s planned airing of the genocide debate. The Associated Press and Newsday (NY) quoted Cong. Weiner as saying that the inclusion of genocide-deniers on the panel "is an insult to the history of that time." This is the first such demonstration held against a PBS station on this issue.

In other major developments on the PBS controversy since last week:

-- The New York Times published on Feb. 25 a lengthy article titled: "Armenian Furor over PBS Plan for Debate." The article referred to this writer as the "first [to] spread word of the petitions and protests against the panel."

-- Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA), George Radanovich (R-CA), Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) asked all members of the House of Representatives to sign a joint letter expressing their opposition to the PBS panel discussion. It is expected that many of the 150 members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues would sign this letter. The Caucus makes up more than one-third of the entire House, a significant number when the time comes to allocate funding to PBS. "A commitment to balance does not mandate the inclusion of opinions that are objectively false," the congressional letter said. "Doing so only promotes the propagation of false and misleading views and undermines the credibility of PBS."

-- The Glendale News Press published an article on Feb. 22 titled: "Armenian Genocide Panel Protested."

-- Two Turkish newspapers (Turkish Daily News and Zaman) and an Azeri newspaper (Echo) published articles on this controversy last week.

-- During the daily press briefing at the State Department on Feb. 24, a journalist asked Adam Ereli, the Deputy Spokesman of the State Department, about "the position of the U.S. Government" on the PBS controversy. Mr. Ereli’s response was: "You can watch whatever you want to watch."

-- Several PBS stations announced last week that they would not air the offensive panel discussion, following the broadcast of the Goldberg documentary.

-- The world famous rock band System of a Down supported the campaign against the PBS panel by posting a link to the ANCA’s online Webmail on its website, www.systemofadown.com and placed a link to the online petition on a second website: http://www.axisofjustice.org/feature_022106.htm.

-- KCET, the PBS station in the Los Angeles area, decided to air in April two genocide documentaries: The U.S. premiere of French filmmaker Laurence Jourdan’s "Le Genocide Armenien" and Canadian-Armenian Hagop Goudsouzian’s "My Son Shall be Armenian." KCET designated the month of April as "Armenian Remembrance Month."

-- Nearly 15,000 individuals have so far signed the online petition asking PBS not to broadcast the panel discussion. Meanwhile, the copycat Turkish petition is full of thousands of anti-Armenian hate messages, profanities, fake and unauthorized names, including those of people long dead, such as Ataturk and Talaat.

-- More than 3,500 protest e-mails have been sent to Ms. Atlas through the ANCA’s online Webmail.

-- Several Armenian organizations and web groups have placed the link to the online petition on their websites and have sent e-mails to their members urging them to sign the petition.

I suggest the following actions in order to continue the pressure on PBS to do the right thing:

1. Sign the online petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/pbspanel and forward the link to others.

2. Send an e-mail to Jacoba Atlas at Jatlas@pbs.org urging her not to provide airtime to genocide deniers. Forward her e-mail address to others asking them to write to her also.

3. Ask Armenian organizations post the link to the online petition on their websites and to send an e-mail to their members urging them to sign the petition and to e-mail Ms. Atlas.

4. Ask your Member of Congress to sign the joint congressional letter to PBS.

5. Contact your local PBS station and urge them not to broadcast the panel discussion. Go to www.pbs.org/stationfinder, enter your zip code and click next. When you see the logo of your local station, click next again.

6. Contact the PBS stations in Chicago and New York City (WNET) urging them to cancel their decision to air the panel discussion.

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