L.A. Times Errs by Providing Platform to Turkish Denialists
Just when The Los Angeles Times -- after a series of misjudgments by previous editors -- had developed an improved sensitivity on the Armenian Genocide, a new editor comes along and offends the Armenian community once again -- and of all months, in the month of April!
The Times posted on April 2 on its website -- but thankfully did not include it in its printed edition – “a partial transcript of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations’ meeting with The Times editorial board.” The introductory note further stated: “Leaders of an umbrella group for Turkish-American groups stopped by The Times recently to discuss the debate over the Armenian genocide, Turkey's membership in the European Union and quashing Kurdish separatism in northern Iraq. Below are highlights from that meeting.”
The transcript listed the participants as Tim Cavanaugh, the Web editor of The Times opinion page, Nurten Ural, President of Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), Ahmet Atahan, President of Association of Turkish Americans of Southern California, and Allison Block, Advocacy Director of ATAA.
It is extremely disappointing and disturbing that the editorial board of The Times would welcome a group of genocide denialists to its headquarters, particularly since the newspaper has an unequivocal policy of recognizing the indisputable facts of the Armenian Genocide. To make matters worse, the newspaper posted the Turkish denials on its website, thereby giving them a platform to disseminate their lies worldwide. This is akin to inviting a group of neo-Nazis for a meeting with the editorial board of The Times “to discuss the debate over the Jewish Holocaust” and then post their revisionist statements on the newspaper’s website!
The only explanation -- which can not be misconstrued as a justification for such an irresponsible behavior -- could be that one of the highly paid American public relations firms hired by the Turkish government arranged this editorial board meeting. David Hiller, the Publisher of The Times, should investigate this scandalous episode and provide an explanation along with an apology to the Armenian community.
Mr. Cavanaugh opened the meeting with the following statement: “The L.A. Times is on record as supporting the term genocide to describe whatever it is that happened in the early part of the 20th century.” Mr. Cavanaugh displayed his total insensitivity to the Armenian Genocide by describing it as “whatever it is that happened.” Would he have described the Holocaust as “whatever it is that happened to the Jews?” He then asked the Turkish group for their views on the Armenian Genocide.
Mr. Ural, after repeating the standard Turkish distortions of the Armenian Genocide, made the following ridiculous statement: “Some of my best friends are Armenians. Secretly, they come to us, openly, publicly, they refuse to come to us.”
Mr. Cavanaugh was then quoted as making the following very strange statement to the Turkish group: “They [Armenians] can come in and make their own case.” If The Times wanted to invite an Armenian-American group for an editorial board meeting, the editors know how to contact the community leaders. They should not have to hear of such an invitation from reading the transcript of a meeting with a contingent of Turkish denialists.
Mr. Cavanaugh seemed quite well-informed on Armenian issues, however, when he told the Turkish group: “What you hear from Armenian groups is, you know, when you say debate, the response to that is, ‘Well, we don't ask Jewish groups to come in and debate German groups about whether the Holocaust happened. And why should we be subject to that … sort of self justification?’” That is an accurate observation about the Armenian position on this issue.
Mr. Cavanaugh then resorted to the standard trick of trying to divide the Diaspora from Armenia on the Genocide issue when he told the Turks: “We had the Armenian prime minister in a few months back, and he suggested… we're talking about Armenian Americans, right? Because … the prime minister discussed the idea that this is something that gets people exercised more in the Diaspora than it does in Armenia itself ….” In reality, according to the transcript of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan’s October 19, 2007 meeting with the L.A. Times editorial board, when he was asked, “Why does this issue [genocide] matter more to Armenian-Americans than to Armenians?” he answered: “I wouldn't say it is more important for the Armenian Americans than for the Armenian Armenians -- I think for all the Armenians in the world this issue is very important. But for one part of our people this problem was more important because it concerned themselves immediately.” Mr. Cavanaugh was present at that meeting.
Allison Block, the rookie advocacy director of ATAA, responded to Mr. Cavanaugh by contradicting herself. While agreeing with the claim that the genocide is a Diaspora issue, she made the illogical assertion that should the U.S. Congress recognize the Armenian Genocide at the urging of Armenian-Americans, Turkey will punish Armenia by keeping its border closed.
Finally, Mr. Cavanaugh asked “Why would [Armenian Americans] push the [genocide] issue?” Mr. Ural interestingly answered: “Land. Money.” Mr. Ural is correct. Armenians demand just compensation for their losses. Why shouldn’t Armenians ask for what is rightfully theirs? The descendants of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust properly received billions of dollars for their horrible losses. Armenians deserve no less.